Ecobank Asks Court to Order Sale of Obat’s Abuja Hotel to Offset N5bn Debt
Ecobank Plc has asked the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja, to authorise it to sell an Abuja hotel belonging to Obat Oil and Petroleum Limited to offset a N5billion debt its being owed by the firm.
The bank noted in its motion on notice filed on October 18, 2019, that it and Obat Oil, owned by a well-known monarch, the Olugbo of Ugboland in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State, Oba Fedrick Akinruntan, had entered into an agreement that N5 billion debt was to be realised from the sale of the hotel.
It said the agreement to sell the property, Febson Hotels & Malls, said to be located at Plot 2425, Herbert Macaulay Way, Abuja, to liquidate the debt was adopted as a consent judgment of the High Court of Lagos State on March 15, 2017.
The bank, through its lead counsel, Mr. Kunle Ogunba (SAN), noted that the consent judgment obtained from the Lagos State High Court had been registered before the FCT High Court on February 7, 2019, in order for the judgment to be enforceable in Abuja where the property meant for sale is located.
It said despite the consent judgment and the registration of the judgment, Obat Oil had prevented potential buyers from paying for the said property by demanding unrealistic amounts for the sale of the property.
An affidavit filed in support of the bank’s application stated, “That since March 15, 2017 when the consent judgment was entered, wherein the parties agreed to sell the said property towards repaying the judgment debt, the judgment debtor has remained in exclusive control/possession of the property, the debtor has continued to collect rents and various revenues being generated on the property.
“That due to the benefits it is reaping from the said property, the judgment debtor has refused and/or shown any serious interest in the sale of the property, contrary to the agreement of the parties as contained as contained in the consent judgment.
“That the property known as Febson Hotels & Malls, at Plot 2425, Herbert Macaulay Way, Abuja, belongs to the judgment debtor, prompting the agreement of the parties to sell the said property towards liquidating the judgment sum.”
But Obat Oil, has through its lead counsel, Mr. Olalekan Ojo (SAN), asked the court to dismiss the bank’s application.
The firm’s counter-affidavit was anchored on a letter dated April 5, 2017, in which it contended that the bank had assigned its rights and interest in the N5 billion judgment debt to ETI Specialised Finance Company Limited.
“That the applicant did not disclose to the honourable court the fact that it had assigned the judgment debt to ETI Specialised Finance Company Limited and informed the respondent of the said assignment,” the firm stated in a counter-affidavit to Ecobank’s application.
It said by virtue of the alleged concealment of the assignment of its rights to the judgment debt to ETI Specialised Finance Company Limited, the bank, “no longer had any right or interest in the judgment debt sought to be enforced before the honourable court”.
The matter came up before Justice H.B Babangida on Tuesday, when Ogunba, the applicant’s lawyer insisted that both ETI Specialised Finance Company and Ecobank were one and the same.
The matter was adjourned till November 18, for hearing after Obat Oil’s lawyer, Ojo, insisted that Ogunba should not be allowed to reference his counter-affidavit and written address since the bank’s lawyer had chosen not to file a reaction to them.
Ogunba informed the court that he would file a reply on points of law before the next date.
By Davidson Iriekpen