Alleged N511.3m debt: Senator Bamidele fails to stop AMCON’s prosecution

This is not the best time for Mr. Bamidele Opeymi Michael, popular called MOB, as all judicial steps taken to stop Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) from prosecuting a debt recovery suit against him had failed both at Federal High Court and Court of Appeal.

This was sequel to the struck out of his appeal by a Lagos Division of Court of Appeal, challenging an exparte order granted by Justice Saliu Saidu led-court, which in the interim, forfeited some of his shares to AMCON and freezing of his bank accounts pending the determination of debt recovery suit against him .

The Senator’s appeal, according to C. J. Onah, AMCON counsel, was struck out on April 30, 2020.

While the appeal was pending, Senator Bamidele filed a stay of proceedings before Justice Saidu’s court against AMCON’s debt recovery suit against him.

However, Justice Saidu, on Tuesday, equally dismissed Bamidele’s stay of proceedings application, on the ground that the appeal was ‘antithecal to speedy hearing of a case’.

“A Stay of Proceedings is of a very serious nature that a lower Court does not grant as a matter of course. This is because it delays the trial process of the main matter, at times inordinately. Stay of Proceedings is antithecal to the speedy hearing of a case. Before it can be granted. there must be a compelling and inevitable circumstance. Stay of Proceedings cannot be granted to give a recess to the lower Court and Counsel. It is not granted to enable one of the parties put right the deficiencies of his case or plan strategies to overreach the adverse party. See the case of Caribbean Trading and Fidelity Corporation VS. NNPC (1991) 6 NWLR (Pt. 197) 350 at 360, Paras. F-H. 

“I have taken a cursory took at the Notice of Appeal against the Interlocutory Ruling of this Court delivered on the 3rd of April, 2019. The subject matter of the Substantive Suit herein is the recovery of debt owed the Claimant by the Defendant, the Interlocutory Appeal at the Defendant concerns the refusal of the Court to vacate the Interim Order made by the Court freezing the bank accounts of the Defendant and granting possession of some Shares of the defendant to the Claimant. 

“This Court will not allow the interruption of this case by the 1st Defendant’s Interlocutory Appeal. Consequently, I refuse to Stay Proceedings in this Case and the Motion on Notice filed on the 7th of May 2019 is hereby struck out”, Justice Saidu ruled.

Further hearing of the suit has been adjourned till September 29, 2020. 

AMCON had sometimes in 2018, dragged Bamidele, an All Progressive Congress (APC) senator, representing Ekiti Central Senatorial district, before Justice Saliu Saidu, due to his failure to liquidate loan sum of N201 million which had increased to N511. 3 million, obtained from the defunct Oceanic Bank Plc and bought over by Nigeria’s debt recovery agency (AMCON).

In the debt recovery suit, AMCON in its statement of claimed in suit number FHC/L/CS/588/2018, filed before the Court, through its lawyer stated that upon request by the Senator, the defunct Oceanic Bank International Plc through a document headed ‘offer of margin facility’, granted the Senator and overdraft of N210 million on October 10, 2007, at the interest rate of 18 percent par annum, for the purpose of buying shares, and the tenor was 12 months.

AMCON stated upon maturity of the loan facility, the Ekiti born Senator, refused, failed and neglected to liquidate the loan leading to the accumulation of interest over times of interest and that as at January 1, 2011, the principal facility and interest stood at N307, 779, 998.80 million.

AMCON further averred that due to continuous accumulation of interest, the defendant’s indebtedness to it as at November, 2017, stood at N478, 170,566.62 million. While adding it instructed its counsel, Godwin N. Chigbu, to write the Senator a demand letter through the addresses he provided with the bank.

It stated that despite the demand letter been delivered to the defendant, he still refused and neglected to pay the demanded sum. Adding that as at March 31, 2018, the Senator’s debt stood at the sum of N511, 311, 895. 80 million.

Due to the alleged failure of the Senator to pay back the indebtedness, AMCON consequently, asked the Court for an order directing MOB to pay it the sum of N511. 311, 895. 62 million being the debt owed since March 31, 2018.

It also asked the court for a court order directing the Senator to pay interest on the claimed sum accessed at 15 percent par annum from April 1, 2018, till the date of judgment. And an order directing the defendant to pay 15 percent par annum from the date of judgment until the judgment is fully liquidated.

However, in Senator Bamidele in his statement of defence and counterclaimed filed before the court by one of his counsel, Precious Orotma (Miss) said the alleged debt arose because of banker-customer relationship between him and the defunct Oceanic Bank. Adding that the bank sometimes in 2007, through its team of investment bankers and asset managers approached and invited him to partner with bank for the purchase of stocks and shares.

The lawyer turned politician, also stated that the as The Defendant states that the Bank and its subsidiary company now explained to him that the Bank would provide the s m of N 210, 000, 000.00 (Two Hundred and Ten Million Naira Only) inform of margin facility while the Defendant would provide an equity contribution of 30% plus security in the sum of N90, 000, 000.00 (Ninety Million Nair Only) worth of shares and cash. 

The former Commissioner in Lagos State, states that the Bank and its subsidiary company had represented to him that his contribution would be merged with that of the Bank to finance the purchase of shares and stocks in which the purchased shares would remain in the custody of the Bank which shall also manage the investments through its asset management, this known as Oceanic Capital Limited and Oceanic Asset Management (OAM).

The Defendant stated that as a result of his request, an offer of margin facility was made to him on the 15th October, 2007 o the tune of N210 million, on the fulfillment of certain conditions. The Defendant shall in the (Our e of the hearing of this suit rely on the letter dated 5th October, 2007 as well as the margin facility agreement executed between the Defendant an the Bank on the 15th October, 2007. He added that he provided N90, 000, 000.00 worth of shares and cash in line with the margin trading facility agreement upon the execution of the margin facility and before the disbursement of the margin facility by the Bank. 

The Defendant stated further that Oceanic Bank did not take reasonable care in ensuring the performance of the contract and observe compliance with all terms and conditions of their agreement in relations to the transaction, as it failed to monitor the stock market, advise the him accordingly and even timeously and appropriately sell down as it was obliged by the margin facility agreement. 

He averred further that while the value of the shares continued on a steady decline, the Bank and its subsidiaries utterly left him in the dark regarding the value of the share portfolio in spite of repeated demands for information from the Bank. 

The Senator stated that the defunct Oceanic Bank Nigeria Plc, fraudulently induced him into the margin facility agreement as it misrepresented, concealed and or suppressed fundamental facts as to its requisit knowledge, skills and expertise in managing the investment in a win-wi situation while offering the products to him. Consequentlyrthe breach of the margin trading facility agreement, fraudulent misrepresentations and mismanagement of the Defendant’s account by the Bank occasioned huge losses to him.

The Defendant stated that the last he heard from the Oceanic Bank International Plc, concerning the mismanagement of the joint investment was the visitation of its delegation to his residence before it was taken over by the Eco Bank Plc. on the 25th October, 2011. 

The Defendant states that the Oceanic Bank International Plc. through-out the period of year 2007 up to the time it was acquired by Eco bank Plc, did not approach him for the repayment of the margi facility because it knew that they we were joint investors and that he did not take and could not have taken a single Kobo out of the Bank as it was not like a conventional loan facility where a Borrower could withdraw or draw down from the account. 

The Defendant stated further that the Bank did not and could not approach him because it knew that it had mismanaged the joint investment as a result of its failure to use its professional skills and expertise to manage, control and operate the margin facility.

He stated that it leaves much to be desired that AMCON, who claims it had purchased the purported debt from the defunct Oceanic Bank International Plc. as an asset since 1st January, 2011, could wait for several years before it notified him of the situation. And that he was eventually able to speak with one Mr. Godwin Chigbu (AMCON Counsel) on telephone number: 07035971885. 

The Defendant states that while waiting for e meeting to explore amicable resolution of the issues surrounding he mismanaged margin facility as promised by the Claimant’s Counsel, the Claimant’s Counsel sneaked into this Honourable Court to file a frivolous Suit against him with an ulterior motive to confiscate his fund and properties and with a view to ultimately blackmailing, harassing and forcing him into negotiation. 

The Defendant stated that based on the foregoing facts and circumstances, he is not in any way liable to the AMCON for the reliefs sought and the Claimant is not entitled to any of the reliefs sought against him. 

The defendant/counterclaimer stated that Eco Bank of Nigeria Plc. was taking compounded interest on the the sun of N120 million it provided for the investment under the margin facility agreement at the rate of 18 percent per mum and it factored this compounded interest into the margin facility and that the time this margin facility was sold to AMCON, Eco Bank of Nigeria Plc. had factored compounded interest for 4 years into the margin facility. 

He stated that as a co-investor in the joint investment purchased by the margin facility, he is entitled to the same 18 percent rate of interest for 4 years on his 30percent equity continuation towards the joint investment. And added that he has calculated his own compound interest on the sum of N90 million for 4 years at the rate of 18percent and his interest for that 4 year is the sum of N84, 489, 998.04 million. Adding that his fund in the joint investment as at the time the Eco Bank of Nigeria Plc. was selling the marginal facility to AMCON is the sum of N174, 489, 998.04 million, representing the 30% equi contribution and the compound interest of 4 years between 2007-2011. 

Senator Bamidele further stated that upon the purchase of the margin facility by AMCON, AMCON started charging compound interest on the amount due to Eco Bank of Nigeria Plc. at the rate of 15% per annum for good 7 years. Stressing that as a co-investor, in the joint investment purchased by AMCON, he is entitled to the sam 15percent rate 0‘ interest for 7 years on his 30percent equity contribution towards the joint investment as AMCON has been charging 0n the amount due t Eco Bank of Nigeria Plc. from the joint investment. 

The Senator stated that he has calculated his own compound interest on the sum of N174, 489, 998.04 million. for 7 years at the rate of 15 percent and his interest for that 7 years is the sum of N289, 656, 866.29 million. Adding that his fund in the joint investment as at the end of 31st March, 2018, is the sum of N464, 146, 64.69 million, representing the 30 percent equity contribution and the compound interest of 4 ye between 2007-2011 and compound interest of 7 years between 201231″ arch, 2018. 

Consequently, Senator Bamidele seeks a declaration that Eco Bank of Nigeria Plc. is in breach of the margin facility agreement dated October 10,  2007, as a result of its failure to use its professional skills a d expertise to property disburse, invest, manage, control and create the margin facility which occasioned huge losses to him. 

He also asked the court for an order for the payment of a sum 0 N464, 146, 864.69 million, representing the 30precent equity contribution a d the compound interest of 4 years between 2007-2011 and compound interest of 7 years between 201231St March, 2018. And an order directing Eco Bank of Nigeria Plc to pay  interest claimed sum at the rate of 15 percent per annum from April 1, 2018, until the date of the judgment in this suit. 
 

He further asked for an order directing Eco Bank of Nigeria Plc, to pay post-judgment interest at the rate of 10percent until judgment is liquidated.

Justice Saidu had on February 4, 2020, joined Ecobank of Nigeria Plc, as defendant to counterclaim in the suit.

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