N13.4b debt: First Bank initiates legal offensive against Commonwealth Consortium, others

By Francis IWUCHUKWU, Lagos

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria, has been urged to restrain the six former directors of Commonwealth Consortium Ltd and Agbara Estates Ltd from dissipating the firms’ assets known as No. 21 Milverton Road, Ikoyi, Lagos and 21.222 Hectares in Agbara Estates phase 3, Agbara, Ogun State, over a N13,420,159,607.78 debt pending determination of the suit designated FHC/L/CS//2022.

The request is coming from an old-generation bank, First Bank of Nigeria Limited.

The financial institution is asking the court to grant an injunction ordering the six former directors to yield possession of the assets covered by Mortgage Deeds and deliver to the Receiver/Manager, Oluwakemi Balogun, SAN Statement of accounts, inventory of all Assets, list of debtors and all other documents in their custody.

First Bank, Commonwealth Consortium and Agbara Estates (both in Receivership) are the 1st to third plaintiffs in the suit filed by the applicants’ counsel and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Oluwakemi Balogun.

The first to sixth defendants’ former directors are Kayode Ayeni, Kikelomo Ayeni, former Ecobank Director, Kolapo Lawson, Paulo Cruz, Mr. Tunji Lawson and Babatunde Akindele.

The Bank insisted that in a bid to avoid repayment of depositors’ funds trapped in their custody, the 1st and 2nd defendants are dissipating their assets, which are personal and taking steps to move all other moveable assets outside the jurisdiction of the court.

According to the suit dated May 11, “The 1st to 6th defendants are also taking steps to alienate or transfer the charged assets to unsuspecting third parties. Thus, there is an imminent risk of the 1st to 6th defendants frustrating the realisation of the charged assets and other assets of the 1st and 2nd Defendants.”

The plaintiffs are seeking four main reliefs including an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st to 6th defendants and others including employees of the 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs “from interfering with or otherwise obstructing or frustrating Mr. Balogun, the Receiver/Manager appointed by First Bank in the course of performance of his statutory duties over the whole assets of the 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs.”

“The assets are as covered by the Deed of Legal Mortgage of January 30, 2019, registered as No. 89 at Page 89 in Volume 213 of the Federal Lands Registry Lagos and further registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission on the 15th of November 2019 over the assets known as No. 21 Milverton Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State.

“They also cover the DEED OF TRIPARTITE LEGAL MORTGAGE of August 20, 2014, registered as No. 15 on Page 15 in Volume 1026 of the Lands Registry office at Abeokuta and further CAC over assets located within Agbara Estates phase 3, Agbara, Ogun State, measuring 21.222 Hectares.

“An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants and/or employees of the 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs from challenging, interfering with, tampering and/or removing from the jurisdiction any asset of the 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs covered by the Respective Deeds.

“An order of mareva injunction restraining all licensed Banks and Financial institutions in Nigeria from granting access, releasing or parting with any funds, money, shares, bonds, letters of credit, promissory note, bills of lading and other forms of negotiable instruments in their custody in the name of the 2nd Plaintiff and the 1st and 2nd Defendants and or any other account(s) with Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) 22224472100 and 22152857686 being operated individually or collectively by the 1st and 2nd Defendants up to the sum of N13,420,159,607.78.”

The Bank said the sum is the outstanding liability of the 1st and 2nd Defendants to the 1st Plaintiff as of 9th September 2021.

The matter came up on Thursday, May 16, but couldn’t proceed and Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke adjourned till June 30 for a hearing.

The plaintiffs in their motion on notice listed nine grounds upon which the application was based.

They said the 2nd Plaintiff acting through the 1st and 2nd Defendant obtained several credit facilities from the 1st Plaintiff to finance the purchase of a property at 21, Milverton Road Ikoyi Lagos.

The defendants charged the asset situate at No. 21 Milverton Road, Ikoyi, and those within Agbara Estates Phase 3, Agbara.

They said owing to the failure and inability of the 1st to 6th Defendants to liquidate the 2nd Plaintiff’s indebtedness to the 1st Plaintiff as and when due, the 1st Defendant’s indebtedness to the 1st Plaintiff now stands at N13,420,159,607.78 as of 9 September 2021 despite repeated demands. The 1st Plaintiff appointed Balogun, SAN as Receiver/Manager over the charged assets of the 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs.

They added that by virtue of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 the proprietary interest in the charged assets of the 2nd Plaintiff has become vested in Balogun, SAN upon his appointment as the Receiver/Manager.

“The 1st to 6th Defendants who are the erstwhile directors of the 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs and have refused to yield up possession of the charged assets to the Receiver/Manager.

“The 1st and 2nd Defendants who freely executed a Deed of Personal Guarantee as additional collateral to secure the facilities granted to the 2nd Plaintiff by the 1st Plaintiff have also failed and refused to liquidate the indebtedness of the 2nd Plaintiff which they guaranteed in total disregard for Clauses 10, 13, 15 and 21 of the Deed of Personal Guarantees,” the plaintiffs added.

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