In order to ensure repayment of a huge loan granted to a Nigerian company which has remained unpaid , Ecobank Nigeria Limited has dragged a Lagos businessman, Mr. Victor Osibodu and his company Vigeo Limited before the Federal High Court, Lagos over alleged N8,701,770,328.83 debt.
At the commencement of hearing today, counsel to Ecobank,
Mr. Dapo Akinosun, SAN, from the Law Firm of Simmons Cooper Partners told the trial judge, Justice Yellin Bogoro that the matter is slated for hearing.
He further informed the court that the bank has 111 exhibits attached to the process, adding that he had discussed with the defence counsel, Mr. Oyetola Oshobi SAN, on the need to align all the exhibits in order to agree on which of them to be tender together and those that would be objected to in order to safe the time of the court.
The defence counsel, Oshobi, SAN, aligned himself with Akinosun’s submission.
Consequently, both counsel asked for a short adjournment to enable them reconcile the documents and Justice Bogoro adjourned the matter till March 17th and 30th for commencement of trial.
The crux of the matter was as a result of $15 million credit facility granted by Ecobank to Vigeo Nigeria Limited for the acquisition of a motor tug boat known as ‘Lady Margret’ now ‘Vigeo Olufunke’ from a company in Norway.
Ecobank claimed that by a duly executed offer of Multiple Credit Facilities dated April 10, 2007 the bank approved the grant of $15 million and $1,750,000.00 respectively in favour of Vigeo Nigeria Limited.
The bank stated that by another duly executed offer of Multiple Credit Facility dated April 10, 2007, the bank in three tranches granted to Vigeo the sum of N200 million, N750 million and N350 million respectively for the purpose of working capital and import duty payments with a tenor of 12 months (renewable annually) at the interest rate of 16 percent per annum.
According to the bank, the first defendant, Vigeo secured facilities 1,2 & 3 with a lien on shares of blue chips companies estimated at N500 million to be whare-housed with the plaintiff, receipt of irrevocable domiciliation of contract proceeds from Oil majors in favour of the bank and stocks of goods valued at N150 million.
The plaintiff added that in accordance with the security requirement under the credit facility, dated April 10, 2007 (Dollar Facility), the second defendant, Victor Osibodu executed a personal guarantee and a duly notarized statement of Net worth dated August 16, 2007, the statement of Net worth provides particulars of his personal assets worth N2,002,400,000.00 for the security of the loan sums in the event that he defaults in the repayment of the loan.
According to the plaintiff, in fulfilment of the personal guarantee by Osibodu, the Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) by a letter of October 30, 2007 confirmed the placement of lien on 25,083,612 units of GTB shares belonging to Osibodu.
On July 9, 2008 the 2nd defendant resolved at its Board Meeting to request for an additional facility of US$ 2, 000,000.00 to finance the dry dock maintenance of the vessel.
Upon consideration of the 2 Defendant’s request, the Plaintiff made an offer in principle indicating the terms and conditions of the said offer of $2,000,000.00.
The Security of the $ 2,000, 000 loan includes amongst others an irrevocable domiciliation of Charter contract proceeds from Knock Allan Pte or their Norminee, the new chatterers of the vessel as well as domiciliation of Charter contract proceeds from SNEPCO.
The plaintiff added that despite 2nd defendant’s loan obligations, the board of his company at a meeting of May 3, 2009 requested for additional facility of $1million for the purpose of completing the life extension programme of the vessel MV Vigeo Olufunke.
Due to the inability of the defendants to meet their repayment obligations, the bank on several occasions restructured the facilities yet they could not meet up with the prepayment terms.
Consequently, by a letter dated June 27, 2014 the bank informed the defendants that it’s account had remained non-performing as Osibodu had failed to meet the agreed term.
However, after several meetings between the plaintiff and the defendants over the indebtedness, Ecobank by a letter dated September 2, 2014 informed Vigeo that it current indebtedness stood at N798,202,164.28; $13,547,854.4 as at June 25, 2013 and additional $4,263.24.
Consequently, Ecobank is asking for court declaration that the defendants are indebted to the it in the sum of $16,886,665.04 and N862, 061, 492.63 being the sum outstanding as at 1st of December 2016 with interest accruing at the agreed interest rate.
The bank is also asking for an order awarding post-judgement on the sum, at the rate of 20 percent per annum until the final liquidation of the debt.
The plaintiff is also asking the court for an order of forfeiture of Vigeo house, 6 Osborne Road, Ikoyi Lagos valued at N800 million as at August 2007, an order of forfeiture of 16A Milverton Road, Ikoyi worth N700 million.
“An order granting the Plaintiff ownership, control, disposition and/or lien rights (until and to the extent and purpose of full realization of the sums) in the event that the properties identified are still insufficient to liquidate the 1st and 2nd Defendants’ debt.
1.”All shares held in any companies by the 1st and 2nd Defendants within the Federal Republic of Nigeria
2. “Cash at hand or cash held in any Bank and/or financial institutions in Nigeria standing to the credit of the first and second defendants among others and general and exceptional damages in the sum of N100 million.
However, Vigeo in it’s statement of defence stated that Ecobank Transnational Incorporated did not acquire defunct Oceanic Bank International PLC at all, contesting that any purported acquisition is void, illegal and unenforceable in law.
It stated that there was no merger of defunct Oceanic bank with the plaintiff and no valid or legal merger adding that the purported merger is illegal and void in law and did not comply with all requisite statutory requirements and due process of law.
The defendants also stated that Ecobank is not the successor-in-title or successor-in-interest of defunct Oceanic Bank and the rights, assets and liabilities of Oceanic Bank are not vested in Ecobank.