A Federal High Court in Lagos will on February 22 rule on an application by Emirates Airlines seeking to stay execution of a $1.623million and N50million judgment debt owed to a businessman, Orji Prince Ikem.
Justice Muslim Hassan fixed the date yesterday after the airline’s counsel Prof Awa Kalu SAN moved an application seeking to stay execution of the judgment pending appeal.
Ikem’s counsel, Sir Chris Ekemezie, had prayed the court to order the judgment debtor to deposit the $1.623m and N50m in an interest yielding account of the court’s Deputy Chief Registrar.
Ekemezie contended that the airline, a judgement debtor, could not continue to hold on to the sum and be enjoying the benefits thereof while the appeal is pending.
He said: “My lord, a labourer deserves his wages. How can a judgment debtor be holding on to the fruit of a judgment creditor? I urge my Lord to refuse an undertaking to pay after appeal which can still travel up to the Supreme Court.”
On January 11, the court ordered Emirates Airlines to pay Ikem $1.36m, being the amount contained in his hand luggage which went missing in the airline’s custody during a 2007 China trip.
Justice Hassan also ordered the airlines to pay Ikem N50million as damages for the “untold hardship and loss of earning” he suffered by the deprivation of use of his money from 2007 till date.
The judgment followed the plaintiff’s nearly 12 years battle to recover two hand luggage containing personal effects and $700,000, as well as $930,000 in 18 bundles of $50,000 wraps each and $30,000 cash not in wrap.
The court heard that the $930,000 belonged to another businessman, Olisaemeka Ugwunze, who wanted it delivered in China for purchases.
Ikem stated that at the departure lounge of the Murtala Muhammad International Airport Ikeja, Emirates Airlines staff requested that he hand the luggage to them for safe keeping in the cockpit, but he refused and insisted on keeping them himself.
They insisted on keeping the luggage for him considering the huge amount of money contained therein and that on arrival destination, the two bags would be handed over to him.
After a prolonged argument and in order not to miss his flight he yielded and handed over the two hand carry-on bags to them, and they were tagged with tag numbers EK428682 and EK428683 respectively.
That was the last time he saw the bags and the money. On his arrival in Guangzhou, the airline could not account for his four pieces of luggage.