£2.556B Debt : Stop Union Bank From Dissipating Assets, Judgement Creditor Tells Court
Story By Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
An indigenous oil Firm, Petrol Union Oil and Gas Company Limited has asked the Federal High Court, Lagos for an orders restraining Union Bank Plc from dissipating it’s assets, over alleged multi-billion judgment debt, pending the review of Supreme Court judgement sought by the bank.
Petrol Union Oil and Gas and Union Bank PLC have been in a long legal tussle over the sum of £2.556 billion British Pounds.
The oil Firm and some of its officials are currently being tried before a Federal High Court, Lagos, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged fraud to the tune of £2. 556 billion.
Those charged alongside the oil firm for the alleged fraud are: Abayomi Kukoyi (trading under the name and style of Gladstone Kukoyi & Associates); Prince Kingsley Okpala; Prince Chidi Okpalaeze and Emmanuel Okpalaeze.
However, in a new twist to the legal legal battle between the oil Firm and Union Bank, the oil company in a suit brought before the court, is asking the court for a declaration that by virtue of the pending review of the judgment of the Supreme Court on the Union Bank’s application, the bank should be stop from selling its assets to unsuspecting publics pending the determination of the review of the judgment of the Supreme Court in Suit No. SC. 632/2018.
The indigenous oil Firm is also asking for an order of Injunction restraining Union Bank Plc from taking steps, actions and processes related to the intended sale of it’s assets and maintaining the status quo, pending the hearing and determination of the review of the judgment filed at the Supreme Court by Union Bank in Suit No. SC. 632/2018.
The indigenous oil Firm stated that the grounds for seeking the above reliefs against Union Bank is by virtue of the Judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, delivered by Honourable Justice A. Abdu Kafarati delivered on the 11 day of March, 2014.
It also stated that the judgment debt is huge to the tune of over £396, 778, 681.46 million, plus 15 percent interest for 25 years. And that the judgment debtor (Union Bank) has not discharged her liability under the said judgment, and has perfected a plot to surreptitiously sell her assets to unsuspecting financial institutions.
The oil Firm also stated that unless the Court intervenes immediately, the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, will be rendered nugatory.
The oil Firm in an affidavit deposed to by it’s Managing Director, Prince Kingsley Okpala, stated that sometime in 1993, the management of the company had written to the then Head of State of Nigeria, Late General Abacha through the Chairman of the Plaintiff Prince Isaac Okpala (now deceased) introducing the Plaintiff with its foreign Partners and intimating the President and Commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the oil firm’s plan to bring in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the tune of £2. 556 Billion Pound, into Nigeria for the good of the country.
Prince Kingsley averred that in April 1994, the oil Firm applied and obtained approvals for the building of three Petroleum Refineries and Petrochemical plants in Nigeria for export purposes in conjunction with some of its foreign Technical Partners. And that the company further sought and obtained approval from the Federal Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria and other relevant government agencies in other to bring into Nigeria the sum of £2. 556 billion British Pound, for building of three Petroleum Refineries and Petrochemical plants in Nigeria.
The deponent stated that in furtherance of the firm desire to be transparent and ensure accountability of the said funds, contracted a reputable Financial and management Accounting Firm, Gladstone Kukoyi and Associates, to channel the funds for accountability. And that the Accounting Firm used its banker, Union Bank Plc, as the host bank to secure the said £2. 556, billion, on its behalf.
The deponent stated further that Union Bank received the said funds on June 6, 1994 at their Broad Street branch and that without lawful excuse the bank deducted from the said fund the sum of £396, 778, 681.46, the development which made the oil Firm to petitioned the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the unlawful deduction of its funds by the bank.
The deponent stated that upon the conclusion of investigation, the EFCC advised the bank to return the cheque to the oil company vide a letter dated 10th of May, 2005. And that inspire of the EFCC’s advice Union Bank refused, neglected and continued to profit from their wrong doing by continuous trading with the oil firm’s funds.
He further averred that following the refusal of Union Bank tlo return the funds, the Plaintiff instituted a court action against the bank and three others before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/104/2012. And that the Court gave judgment in favour of the Plaintiff on March 12, 2014, and ordered Union Bank to return the said funds to the Plaintiff.
The deponent stated that though, union Bank appealed against the said judgment in Suit No. CA/A/2014 and after about 4 years the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the Federal High Court in a judgment delivered on June 5, 2018. He added that the Bank further appealed to the Supreme Court challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal in Suit No. SC/632/2018 and their appeal was thrown out on December 16, 2019 as being incompetent.
Prince Okpala Eze stated that Union Bank having lost in all attempts at frustrating the his company to recover their funds, further appealed to the Supreme Court for the review of their judgment, and while awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court, the bank has perfected arrangement to sell it’s assets surreptitiously as published on the THISDAY Newspaper online publication of 7th of May, 2021 captioned as “Zenith Bank, Access Bank, others express interest to acquire Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.
The deponent stated that unless Union Bank is restrained by the court from carrying out the proposed sale of its assets, the judgment obtained against it would be rendered nugatory and empty, as the fruit of the judgment would have been disposed of by the intended action of the Defendant.
He stated that the Plaintiff has waited for over twenty-five (25) years to get to the stage at the Supreme Court and could lose out if the defendant sells its assets as published in the media. Adding that the judgment sum is huge and competing creditors of the bank may not allow the Plaintiff to enjoy the fruit of its judgment if the bank goes ahead to sell its assets having waited for such a long time.
He stated that the court’s intervention is needed for the interim preservation of the ‘Res’ pending the determination of the review of the judgment filed by the Defendant at the Supreme Court. And that the review of the judgment of the Supreme Court had initially been Slated for April 14, 2021, but was scuttled by the strike action embarked upon by the Judicial Staff Workers Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, and a new date will be issued soon while Union Bank is making frantic efforts to render nugatory the review of judgment of the Supreme Court when it is finally delivered.
Meanwhile, Union Bank is yet to file any response to the suit but Justice Daniel Osiagor, has fixed July 12, for hearing of the suit, while ordering issuance of hearing notice to the bank.