N38.5bn debt: Access Bank seeks Supreme Court’s reversal of Appeal Court’s ruling on Seplat 

Access Bank Plc said it has filed a Notice of Appeal at the Supreme Court challenging the suspension of the interim order made by a Lagos Federal High Court sealing the corporate offices of Seplat Petroleum Development Company and freezing its accounts, in respect of loan obtained by Cardinal Drilling Services Limited and utilized by Seplat, by a Lagos division of Court of Appeal.

Access Bank, through its Solicitors, Kunle Ogunba and Associates, approached the highest court in Nigeria, after been dissatisfied with the decision delivered by the Lagos division of the Court of Appeal, indicating that the learned Justices of the court erred in law when they suspended the interlocutory orders made by the trial Judge at the Federal High Court, thereby treating the substantive appeal at an interlocutory stage. 

It would be recalled that Justice Joseph Shagbaor Ikyegh, who led three-man panel, while delivering a ruling on an application by Seplat petroleum Development Company for order suspending the interim order made by Justice Rilwan Aikawa of Federal High Court, pending the determination of the appeal filed by Seplat, held that the balance of convenience favoured the petroleum company. 

Justice Ikyegh also held that Access Bank had nothing to lose if Seplat continued to discharge its obligation to its numerous clients, even as it lifted the order stopping banks from fulfilling their obligations to Seplat under banks-customers relationship. 

But Access Bank in a affidavit in support of the application before Supreme Court, stated that “by discharging the said interlocutory orders, the Appeal Court judge and other members of the panel, wittingly (via a motion) determined the main Appeal which seeks to also discharge the interlocutory orders made by the trial court”.

The Bank also stated that the learned justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they failed to dismiss the said application, same being an abuse of court process filed to interfere with the due administration of justice. 

Access Bank in its appeal to the Supreme Court is therefore seeking an order setting aside the Appeal Court s ruling delivered on January 22, 2021, as well as reinstating the interlocutory orders made by Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court on December 24, 2020. 

The Bank has also filed a Motion on Notice for an Order of Injunction pending Appeal at the Court of Appeal, for an order restraining the Seplat Petroleum Develompment Company and others in the suit, which includes; Cardinal Drilling Services Limited; Mr. Orjiako Ambrose Bryant, Kalu Nwosu, the baliffs, sheriffs and/or any other person acting through them from taking further step towards enforcing, executing or giving any effect to the ruling/order of the Court of Appeal delivered on January 22, 2021, pending the hearing and final determination of the appeal it has filed at the Supreme Court.  

Recall that Justice Rilwan Aikawa, of a Lagos Federal High Court, while delivering a ruling on December 24, 2020 in Access Bank Plc’s suit against Seplat Petroleum Development Company Limited and others, granted injunctions that, among others, resulted in the sealing of Seplat’s corporate offices in Lagos over a N38.5bn loan that Cardinal Drilling Services Limited allegedly owed Access Bank. 

The judge declined to discharge the orders of interim injunction made ex-parte against Seplat on November 23, 2020 as amended by the order made on November 30, 2020. 

He proceeded to determine the Bank’s application for interlocutory injunction and held that the court’s ruling on the said application had rendered Seplat’s application to discharge the Injunctions academic and struck out same.

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