N85.8 billion debt: Court refuses Seplat Application to access sealed properties

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    The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Monday refused an oral application by an oil drilling firm, Seplat Petroleum Development Company to allow access to its accounts and offices which were under lock by court order.

    Justice Rilwan Aikawa declined the application following opposition by Access Bank through its counsel, Kunle Ogunba, SAN.

    Access Bank, the plaintiff/respondent in the suit, had recently secured an ex-parte order from the court which shut down Seplat’s premises and also froze its accounts in Nigeria and abroad, consequent upon an outstanding loan of about N85.8billion.

    The court granted the interim preservative reliefs to preserve the res, pending the hearing and final determination of the motion on notice filed in the suit.

    Seplat, Cardinal Drilling Services Limited, Ambrosie Bryant Orjiako and Kalu Nwosu are the defendants/applicants in the suit.

    Upon being served with the order of court, the first defendant Seplat filed an application dated December 3, 2020 seeking to discharge the orders.

    The court heard the applications last Thursday, in a proceeding that took more than five hours. It also heard the Plaintiff/Applicant’s application for Interlocutory injunction

    While awaiting the court’s ruling on the applications, Seplat filed another application dated December 12, 2020, seeking to discharge the same interim order.

    However, the application was challenged by Ogunba, who described it as “bizarre, unknown to our laws,

    At Monday’s proceedings, Counsel to SEPLAT Petroleum, Abubakar Mamood, SAN, prayed the court to grant his client access to their offices and it’s accounts that were frozen pursuant to the order of court.

    He averred that Seplat had pledged a bond of $20 million dollars as security, but Ogunba opposed the application . He told Justice Aikawa not to fall for the temptation thrown at him “by the debtor” who, according to him, owed over N85.8bn which was enough to float two banks successfully in Nigeria.

    He contended that in view of the arguments taken last week and ruling reserved, no order can be made before the ruling is delivered in order not to pre-empt the outcome of the ruling.

    Ogunba also prayed the court to refuse the application on the ground that it was not brought properly before the court, adding that the rules of court were meant to be obeyed with respect to making an application which must be filed formally.

    Ruling on the application, Justice Aikawa declined the application and upheld Ogunba’s opposition to it, adding that the ruling on the application earlier argued last week would be delivered on December 24, 2020.

    Seplat’s Assets affected by the order include; 25, Lugard Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos, 6, Agodogba Avenue, Parkview, Ikoyi, Lagos and also number 11, Oba Adeyinika Oyekan Street, Ikoyi, Lagos.

    Energy Frontier recalls that Seplat had last week threatened court action against Access Bank for sealing its office.

    According to the report,  “the building in which SEPLAT Corporate Headquarters is located, at 16A Temple Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, was sealed in connection with a court case by Access Bank against Cardinal Drilling Services Limited (“Cardinal Drilling”), a third party providing drilling services to SEPLAT”.

     

    “We understand that Cardinal Drilling has outstanding loan obligations to Access Bank. However, SEPLAT is neither a shareholder in Cardinal Drilling, nor has outstanding loan obligations or guarantees to Access Bank and did not at any time make any commitments or guarantees in respect of Cardinal Drilling’s loan obligations to Access Bank. SEPLAT strongly believes that there is no merit or justification for this action against it and has taken prompt legal action to vacate the court order pursuant to which the building was sealed. This action was taken by Access Bank without any prior notice to SEPLAT, as required under Nigerian law”, Seplat said.

     

    “SEPLAT will vigorously defend against this improper action to the full extent of the law and will seek all appropriate legal remedies”, added the company.

     

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