AIICO Insurance loses appeal against policy holder as court awards N500,000 cost

A Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has dismissed AIICO Insurance Plc’s appeal against a policy holder, Mr. Gboyega Bello, and awarded N500,000 in his favour as a cost of legal process.

The court upheld the judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, given by Justice M.E. Anenih in Suit No. CV/225/20212 delivered on 25 February, 2014, which had ordered AIICO Insurance Plc to refund N1,226,000, being the premium paid for a life insurance policy, plus interest at 10% per annum from March 7, 2014.

Mr. Bello had in February 2007, executed a 15-year life insurance policy with AIICO Insurance Plc in its Abuja Office with the policy No 12025277.

He paid premiums for three years totaling N1,226,000, however, when he surrendered the policy, AIICO Insurance Plc refused to refund his money, claiming he was indebted to the company for an outstanding premium loan of N1,326,389.52.

Bello argued that he never consented to a loan and challenged AIICO in court.

The High Court ruled in Bello’s favor in 2014, stating that under the policy Bello had the right to surrender the said policy by notifying AIICO Insurance Plc in writing and the company was duty bound to refund his money.

Justice Anenih noted that Bello had only failed to pay his premium for 2010 and as such that could not amount to the sum claimed by AIICO Insurance Plc as loan secured on behalf of the plaintiff.

Arriving at this judgment in favour of Bello, Justice Anenih had cited the authority of His lordship Per Musdapher, J.S.C. who she said reiterated in Ogunyade v. Oshunkeye (2007) 15 NWLR (PT.1057) 218 that ‘unchallenged and uncontradicted evidence ought to be accepted by the court as establishing the facts therein contained’.

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“Suffice to say in view of the above, this court has no option but to comply with the provision of Order 21 Rule 4 of the Federal Capital Territory High court (Civil procedure) Rules 2004 and enter Judgement in favour of the plaintiff on the liquidated money sum,” she said.

The Court of Appeal affirmed that judgment, noting that AIICO failed to defend the case or provide evidence to support their claim of a loan, adding that Bello’s evidence was unchallenged:

“It is important to note that at no place in the entire record of appeal did I see where the appellant’s counsel gave a reason for their failure to file the notice of intention to defend and affidavit for over one year after becoming aware of the suit and taking steps therein.”

The court’s decision was unanimous, with Justice Peter Chudi Obiorah delivering the lead judgment.

“Rather than blame the trial court for the alleged denial of fair hearing to the appellant, I praise the learned trial judge for being alive to the hallowed duty to render justice to the parties fairly and keeping faith with the rules of court.

“It is my conclusion that there is no merit in this appeal. It is bound to fail. It has failed and I so order.

“Consequently, I hereby dismiss the appeal. The judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, coram, M. E. Anenih, J. in Suit No. CV/225/2012 delivered on 25th day of February, 2014 is hereby affirmed.

“I award the cost of N500,000.00 in favour of the respondent,” the judgement read.

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Bello welcomed the decision, saying, “It was on this basis of clear injustice that I took AIICO Insurance Plc to court. I am happy I am vindicated.”

AIICO Insurance Plc has been ordered to refund the premium plus interest and pay the costs of the legal process.

In his review of the judgement, Justice Joseph Olubumi Kayode Oyewole stated, “I had the privilege of reading the draft of the leading judgment just delivered herein by my learned brother PETER CHUDI OBIORAH, JCA and I equally find no justifiable basis to disturb the judgment of the lower court.

“I adopt the consequential orders in the leading judgment as mine.”

Similarly, Justice Okon Efreti Abang, also of the Appeal Court in Abuja, stated in his review, “I read in advance a draft copy of the Judgment of my learned brother Peter Chudi Obiorah, JCA, which was made available to me before now. I am in agreement with the reasoning and conclusions made therein and adopt the same as mine.

“I agree that the appeal lacks merit and it is accordingly dismissed by me. I abide by the consequential order made by way of cost.”

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