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Alleged N5.5bn bank debt: Otudeko obeys court’s summons, testifies as witness

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The Group Managing Director of Honeywell Plc, Oba Otudeko, on Thursday mounted the witness box of a Federal High Court, Lagos, to give evidence in a N5.5 billion debt allegedly owed Ecobank Plc.

Justice Mohammed Idris had ordered his appearance in court via a subpoena (witness summons) while ruling in a suit brought by Honeywell Flour Mills Plc and its sister company — Anchorage Leisures Ltd — against Ecobank.

The plaintiffs are challenging the alleged indebtedness to the bank to the tune of N5.5 billion.

Justice Idris had ordered that a witness summons be personally served on Otudeko following the insistence of defence counsel, who argued that he (Otudeko) was his first witness.

The court had issued the summons to enable him (Otudeko) to appear and testify before the court.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the witness arrived the courtroom before the commencement of proceedings, and when the case was called, he moved into the witness box.

He took oath on Holy Bible and was permitted by the court to sit.

Before being led in evidence-in-chief, Otudeko urged the court for permission to speak and it was granted.

He told the court that the said witness summons was not served on him personally, but that he was only informed by his legal officers.

Otudeko:“This is a first experience and I am extremely delighted to be here to see all professionals in practice.

“I was away from Lagos, and only got a call from my officers who informed me of the position, and I came back yesterday.

“I have great respect for the institution of the court, and so I have deposed to my witness statement and have filed same.”

After his address to the court, Counsel to Ecobank, Mr O.A. Divine, then began his examination- in-chief and asked the witness to tell the court his name, occupation and address.

In response, the witness said: “My name is Dr Oba Otudeko, I am a businessman, and my place of business is at No. 6, Mekuwen St., Ikoyi, Lagos”.

When asked about his professional qualification, counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Olabode Olanipekun, raised an objection, pointing out that the proper practice in such proceedings was for the defence to lead the witness to adopt his written deposition.

He added that the defence cannot embark on a journey of questions in such proceedings, adding that after adoption, the plaintiff is entitled to cross-examination and then re-examination.

In his response, defence counsel argued that the witness was subpoened and he was entitled to lead his witness in evidence without hindrance.

In a short ruling, the judge held that the witness could only be led to adopt his witness statement.

After the court’s ruling, the defence counsel then declined to lead the witness to adopt his statement.

During cross-examination, Olanipekun asked the witness:“Whether the then Managing Director of Ecobank was in attendance at the plaintiff’s office on July 23, 2013 when it was agreed that N3.5 billion will be full and final settlement of the plaintiff’s debt.”

But before the witness could respond, the defence counsel quickly raised an objection, arguing that having refused to lead the witness in adopting his depositions and since the statement had not been admitted, the witness cannot answer questions on same.

Justice Idris has adjourned the case until Feb. 14 to rule on the objection. (NAN)

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John is a University of Lagos-trained, tech-savvy journalist with an uncanny nose for news. His views are always the end products of a deliberate search for information and knowledge. He has read almost every novel written by Chinua Achebe, Jeffrey Archer and Dan Brown. He is an expert Scrabble and draughts player who is also excellent at swimming. If you know the capitals of 45 African countries by heart, then you are exactly like him.

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