The Federal Government, under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, since 2015 till date, has been notoriously known for its penchant for disobeying court orders.
The Executives, alongside Security agencies, who are meant to uphold and execute the laws, occasionally neglect to obey or disregard judicial orders made by a court of competent jurisdiction.
The Rule of Law advocates for the supremacy of the law and the equality of persons before the law, as contained in the Sections 1 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Therefore, the exercise of governmental power ought to be conditioned by the law.
But, on the contrary, the executives and law enforcement agencies act as though they are above the law.
An obvious perversion of justice could be seen in Federal Government’s noncompliance to obey bail orders made by the court for the release of a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky; his wife, Zeenat.
While Dasuki has been held by the State Security Service, since December 2015, when he was arrested over allegations of diverting $2.1 billion funds meant for the war against terrorism.
Despite several court orders, at least seven, made for his release since his arraignment before the Federal High Court, Abuja, the Federal government has refused to comply.
Also, the Court of Appeal, in a recent development, granted another bail in July 2019 and awarded a cost of N15 million as damages that the federal government should pay Dasuki, including cost of litigation. But no compliance has been made till date, as the government has also refused to obey the Appellant court.
Like Dauski, El-Zakzaky was arrested and detained since 2015 after a clampdown by the army that resulted in the death of over 300 Shiite members.
In 2016, when Mr El-Zakzaky was still being held without trial, a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the SSS to release him and his wife on bail within 45 days.
The judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, also ordered the SSS to pay N50 million as damages to El-Zakzaky, but no compliance was ever made till date.
Notably, all these infamous attitudes of court disobedience by the FG are been practiced at the Federal High courts in Nigeria.
Again, same is happening now at a Federal High Court, Abuja, after the court faulted the decision of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to freeze the accounts of Blaid Construction Limited and its director, Mrs. Ochuko Momoh.
ICPC had directed banks, including Union Bank Plc to freeze accounts and property belonging to Blaid and Mrs. Momoh, while claiming to be investigating their sources of income.
In a suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/132/2019 filed by the plaintiff against its actions, Justice Binta Nyako frowned on ICPC’s conduct of failing to comply with an order made on March 5, 2019 directing them to unfreeze the accounts and property of both Blaid construction and Mrs Momoh.
The judge consequently ordered the commission to reverse its actions with regard to the plaintiffs’ assets and accounts. In her ruling on 2nd May, Justice Nyako insisted that ICPC must obey the court’s order, saying: “What I want ICPC to do is to first obey the court order and come back to seek any other prayers
“The defendant is to undo what it has done on February 6, 2019 when the defendant became aware that this matter is before this court, failing which you will be in contempt of court”.
However, sometime in April 2017, in suit No. FCT/HC/M/5388/17, the ICPC had approached the FCT High Court, Abuja, with a motion exparte seeking an interim order of forfeiture of sums of money belonging to the said company and its director.
In the suit, Mrs Ochuku Momoh and Blaid construction limited were both served as 1st and 2nd respondents, respectively. While the Federal Republic of Nigeria was named applicant.
Justice Olukayode A. Adeniyi, pursuant to the motion, granted an order of forfeiture of the sums of N2.9 billion and $1.6 million in the account No. 1692006432 belonging to Blaid Construction Limited domicile with Eco Bank on June 14, 2017.
The court also ordered the ICPC to take out paid adverts in two National Newspapers requesting on persons interested to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal government.
The ICPC had alleged that, based on an intelligent report, the funds, which are subject-matter of the proceedings, were acquired illegally. The commission also said that efforts to trace the 2nd Respondent (Blaid construction), the owners of the account to come forward to explain the source of the funds proved abortive, as address of the company registered with the corporate affairs commission (CAC) was untraceable.
Hence, its actions to seize the funds in accordance with Sections 45 of the ICPC Act.
Also, as consequence, the 1st respondent (Mrs Momoh) deposed an affidavit to show cause on August 2, 2017 and a further affidavit to show cause on October 9, 2017.
Subsequently, five months later, after hearing arguments of both the Applicant and the Respondents, Justice Adeniyi delivered a ruling in favour of the Respondents and discharged the interim orders of forfeiture made on June 14 against the funds of the Respondents.
In the subsequent ruling, which was delivered on November 6, 2017, the judge said, “It has been clearly established that the exparte application for interim forfeiture order was filed outside the time prescribed by law; that the order was obtained by misrepresentation and concealment of facts on the part of the applicant.
“Part of the established facts is that the applicant concealed facts in obtaining from this court the interim forfeiture order made on June 14, 2017 against the funds in the company’s account at Eco Bank.
” Prior to the filing of the motion, the Respondents satisfactorily explained to the Applicant details of her business activities to which funds in her account at Eco bank are related, including the provision of a bond as requested by the Applicant.
“Contrary to the dispositions of Viscon W. Enyindah, the officer of the ICPC, that efforts to trace the directors proved abortive, the 2nd respondent, Mrs Momoh, in the capacity as the Director of the company, averred that she attended various interrogation session with the ICPC, since September 2015, at which she made extensive statements.
“Besides these facts, even though I am mindful that the provision of Section 48 (1) of the ICPC Act allows for property not subject to prosecution or conviction to be attached and forfeited to the Federal government in the certain circumstances, but the established position with this present case is that the Respondents have satisfactorily shown cause why the funds in context should not be forfeited”.
The judge noted that the case was a non-conviction based proceedings and therefore, that the chairman of the commission, before approaching the court with an application, must have ensured the properties for forfeiture was obtained as a result of or in connection with the commission of an offence provided in Section 8 to 19 of the ICPC Act.
” Therefore, I hereby set aside and discharge the interim orders of forfeiture made by this court on June 14, 2017 against the funds the 2nd respondent. The said funds, already forfeited and deposited in the interim in the Federal Government Recovery Account No: 1040480996 domicile with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); shall be returned to the company forthwith. I make no orders as to costs,” Justice Adeniyi ruled.
But instead of awaiting an appeal judgement as an override to the ruling or complying with the ruling, the ICPC, on November 4, 2019 (two years after) published a press statement calming it has obtained an order of forfeiture from the same Justice Binta Nyako of the FCT High Court, Abuja. Refusing to mention the fact that Justice Binta Nyako had issued a restraining order against ICPC never to go near Mrs Momoh anymore.
ICPC, In the statement by the spokesperson for the commission, Rasheedat Okoduwa, said that the amount recovered from a former Managing Director of the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, Haruna Momoh, as well as property illegally acquired and linked to him would be seized by the Federal Government after an interim forfeiture order was secured by the commission
The statement reads: “the ICPC has secured an interim forfeiture order from a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to seize the stipulated amount comprising both local and foreign accounts in four different banks, as well as five landed properties located in different parts of Abuja.
“The commission, before approaching Justice O. A. Adeniyi, for the interim forfeiture order, had found through investigation that the former PPMC boss allegedly abused his position by using cronies and shell companies to divert government funds.
“He allegedly used Multi-Functions Nigeria Limited, Blaid Property Limited and Blaid Construction Limited to carry out several unlawful activities running into billions of naira. Contracts were secured for the companies from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation without any corresponding evidence of execution.
“Investigation revealed that N1.4bn was traced to six accounts in two different banks operated by Momoh’s wife, Eileen Momoh, who is the owner of Blaid Construction as shown by the incorporation details of the company.”
The statement said Momoh’s wife operated four bank accounts with the United Bank for Africa, where a combined exaggerated sum in foreign and local currencies was stashed, and two other accounts with Union Bank, where the commission found money that never existed.
It added, “The ICPC further discovered some amounts in three Stanbic IBTC bank accounts traced to Multi-Functions Nigeria Limited.
“The properties likely to be forfeited are Plot 199, Ebitu Ukiwe Street, Utako, Nos. 21, 22, 23 and 26 Olympia Estate, Kaura District, Plot 1824, Cadastral Zone, BO7, Katampe, plot 1827, Cadastral Zone, BO7, Katampe and No. 6 Casamance Street, Wuse Zone 3, all in Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
The ICPC noted that while granting the order, Justice Adeniyi ruled that the money be placed in an interest-yielding escrow accounts in the name of the commission.
Reacting to the new development and action of the ICPC, the Respondents lawyer, Ade A. Adedeji, SAN, said that the published statement by the commission was purely a calculated scheme to pervert justice.
According to him, “We have read the publications in the newspapers today and for the avoidance of doubt, we confirm that the order obtained by ICPC, which we have since confirmed through a search of the records of court is a calculated scheme by ICPC to pervert justice.
“Indeed, we can confirm that on 4th July, 2019, Blaid Group and Mrs. Momoh obtained judgment at the Federal High Court, which judgement permanently settled issues between parties in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/132/2019. As it is also the right of parties, ICPC had appealed the judgment through filing of Notice of Appeal, etc.
“But rather than prosecute their appeal, they surreptitiously approached the FCT High Court and misled the court as if the appeal never existed and without disclosing to the new court that there was judgment of the Federal High Court against them, they moved the court ex-parte to grant an order of temporary forfeiture.
“The act of ICPC, which has become a pattern to score cheap publicity and enhance their deliberate scheme of boosting their image as hard-working and crime busters where there is none is a shame, a travesty of justice, a gross abuse of process of court and of power granted them under their enabling law which never anticipated it would be used for self-aggrandizement.
“This attitude needs to be condemned by every well-meaning Nigerian. It may also be of interest to note that in 2017, they had approached the FCT High Court obtained similar order, went to the press to run down the clients and their businesses.
“In similar pattern, they had concocted facts, misrepresented facts to court. In the ruling of court vacating/setting aside the order, the court in Suit No. FCT/HC/M/5388/17 had castigated ICPC for obtaining order fraudulently.
“We have identified Counsels that are often engaged to commit these atrocities and on clients’ instructions are considering the relevant provisions of Legal Practitioners’ Act as it relates to discipline of counsel in such circumstances.
“Grateful that our laws provide for necessary relief in the face of such reckless abuse and immediate steps are being taken to vacate the order. More importantly, we are also considering filing petitions against Counsel involved in misrepresenting facts to court to obtain ex-parte order which ordinarily would not have been granted.
“It is our responsibility to do everything possible lawfully to ensure this nonsense is abated”.
It is a gross abuse of court processes for ICPC to ignore the Judgement of 4th July and approach the FCT High Court in October, for an order of temporary forfeiture.
Especially in view of the fact that ICPC is already on Appeal, with respect to the 4th of July, Judgment.
And 2017 you got an interim forfeiture order. And upon hearing from both sides, the Judge quashed the order.
In 2019 you repeat the same exercise. Meanwhile the parties have not changed neither has the subject matter changed.
A gross abuse of court processes and disobedience of court orders.
Because, Binta Nyako ruled clearly that Mrs Momoh is not a public servant and never executed any contract in the public service and therefore doesn’t fall within the jurisdiction of ICPC. Justice Adeniyi ruled in similar vein in his Nov 2017 judgment.
In the judgement of 4th July by Binta Nyako, the main issue for determination was whether Mrs Momoh not being a Public officer falls within the contemplation of the ICPC Act.
And Justice Nyako ruling was clear and unambiguous; that ICPC has no jurisdiction over Mrs Momoh and issued an order restraining ICPC from ever investigating her. An order the ICPC has clearly disobeyed.
It is worthy of note that Mrs Momoh has been in business since 1992 and her Blaid Group employs over 500 Nigerians. The most interesting angle to this whole drama is that Mrs Momoh has never done any government contracts. And no government funds have been traced to any of her companies’ accounts by any security agencies. These facts are not in dispute.
It appears therefore that ICPC is merely pursuing Mrs Momoh solely on the basis that she is the wife of the ex-managing director of PPMC. They have not been able to present any evidence of her guilt to the court beside mere suspicious. Unfortunately the court deals with evidence not suspicion.
Are our security agencies now saying that the wives of government officials cannot engage in legitimate private businesses simply because their husbands are public servants? If that is the case, then the issue is better left to women groups to fight this battle themselves.
It is against this backdrop that one must commend the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), for rising to the challenge of abuses by security operatives, by issuing official gazette and guidelines for the implementation of the National Anti-corruption Strategy. Which aims for more transparency and whittles down the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other anti-graft agencies as regards seizure of assets. The directive is contained in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette Vol. 106, No 163, titled, ‘Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulation 2019’, dated October 29, 2019.
The AGF directed in Part 3, Section 5(1) of the gazette that all non-conviction based forfeiture shall be conducted by his office.
He ordered that where a non-conviction based forfeiture procedure arose, the law enforcement agency and anti-corruption agencies should transfer the matter to the office of the AGF.
Section 5 states, “All non-conviction based forfeiture shall be conducted by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
It read, “Where a non-conviction based forfeiture procedure arises, the LEA (Law Enforcement Agency) and ACAs (Anti-Corruption Agencies) shall transfer the matter to the Office of the AGF.”
In the past, the EFCC had the power to initiate non-conviction based forfeiture as was done in the case of the EFCC and the wife of a former President, Patience Jonathan.
The new directive, however, implies that only the AGF can pursue such cases.
The gazette further states that all seized assets shall be registered by all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
It holds that all final forfeited assets recovered by agencies shall be handed over to the AGF within 60 days from the commencement of the regulations of management.
The AGF warned that any agency head who failed to follow the new guidelines would be dealt with.
It adds, “… Non–compliance with the regulations of these provisions and the guidelines and directions made pursuant to these regulations shall be considered insubordination and attract liability under the Public Sevice Rules.”
In another gazette with No 162, titled, ‘Guidelines for the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Stategy 2017-2021, ‘ the AGF said all programmes regarding anti-corruption must be done with the express approval of his office.
Perhaps this move on the part of AGF would curb the overzealousness on the part of the security agencies. And they will now be compelled to carry out their investigations within the limits of the laws of the land and obey court orders and judgement
Hosa Okunbo Fumes, Slams N4 Billion Suit On Obaseki’s Aides
Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo has dragged Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki’s aides to court.
An Abuja High Court, presided over by Justice Suleiman Belgore, has granted orders of injunction restraining the Edo State Government and its officers from making further defamatory publications about the business mogul.
The defendants to the suit are the Honourable Attorney General of Edo State sued as the 1st defendant, and Crusoe Osagie joined as the 2nd defendant.
Crusoe Osagie, as the Special Adviser, Media and Communication Strategy, Edo State Government, signed the defamatory publications in question.
A statement issued by Media Adviser to the business mogul, Samuel Ajayi, said the orders were given on Monday, August 10, 2020 in Abuja.
Quoting from the court ruling, Ajayi said the court granted, among others, orders “restraining the Edo State Government, whether acting through the first defendant and or 2nd defendant, its agents, representatives, officers, servants, proxies, assigns, trustees or any other person howsoever described, acting directly or indirectly for the Edo State Government, from publishing, causing to be published, circulating, further publishing, reporting or publicising the publication captioned ‘Okunbo, Oshiomhole making plans to disrupt Edo Governorship Elections,’ and or any other related defamatory publication by any means whatsoever, including publications by/on print, electronic and social media platforms.”
In a suit filed by counsel to Captain Hosa, Dr Adedapo Olanipekun, the business mogul and elder citizen of Edo State, had sought an order restraining the defendants, by themselves, agents, representatives, officers, servants, proxies, assigns, trustees or any other person, howsoever described, acting directly or indirectly for them from publishing, causing to be published, circulating, further publishing, reporting or publicising the publication captioned ‘Okunbo, Oshiomhole making plans to disrupt Edo Governorship Elections,’ and or any other related defamatory publication by any means whatsoever, including publications by/on print, electronic and social media platforms including publications in The PUNCH and THISDAY newspapers.
The senior advocate had also sought a declaration that the defendants’ publications of 20 July, 2020, captioned “Okunbo, Oshiomhole making plans to disrupt Edo Governorship Elections,” which appeared on pages 26 and 53 respectively of The PUNCH and THISDAY newspapers, were false, fabricated, misleading, malicious, unfair and defamatory.
He also sought an order compelling the defendants to wholly retract or withdraw the false, fabricated, misleading, malicious, unfair and defamatory publications of 20 July, 2020, captioned “Okunbo, Oshiomhole making plans to disrupt Edo Governorship Elections,” which appeared on pages 26 and 53 respectively of The PUNCH and THISDAY newspapers, from The PUNCH, THISDAY and any other platform/newspaper same was published.
Captain Hosa, through his counsel, is also seeking the sum of N4,000,000,000 (Four Billion Naira), “being aggravated and exemplary damages for the embarrassment, inconvenience, losses and damages done to the claimant’s person, character and interests, as a result of the defendants’ libellous publications of 20 July, 2020; (with) cost of legal representation/action assessed at N50,000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naira).”
See also the court papers below…
- THE CAPITAL
Stallion Groups Boss, Sunil Vaswani In N23.3 Billion Debt Mess
Stallion Groups of Companies’ boss, Sunil Vaswani is in big trouble. Zenith Bank Plc has dragged him before an Igbosere High Court of Lagos State, Nigeria, over alleged unpaid N23,388, 188, 756.049 debt.
Zenith Bank alleged that the suit marked LD/3945GCMW/2020, against Mr. Vaswani, is pursuant to Order 5 Rules 4 of the High Court (Civil Procedure Rules 2009 and under the court’s inherent jurisdiction, was filed due his failure and refusal to pay the alleged debt despite several and repeated demands.
Consequently, the bank through is lawyer, Mr. Kemi Balogun (SAN), who leads Chidozie Ndukwe, Babatunde Olanipekun and five others is asking for an order of the court entering judgment in the sum of N23,388,188, 765. 49, its favour against Vaswani, being his outstanding indebtedness on account of the guarantee given in respect of various sum advanced to Stallion Nigeria Limited which has remained unpaid as at May 12, 2020 in spite of repeated demands.
The bank is also asking the court for a declaration that having regard to the clear and unambiguous provisions of the Deeds of Personal Guarantee and the statement of net-worth executed by Mr. Vaswani in its favour over the huge facilities advanced to Stallion Nigeria Limited, who has failed together with the defendant upon several and repeated demands to liquidate the debt that has arisen therefrom, its entitled to judgment against the Defendant in the sum of N23, 388,188, 765. 049, being Mr. Vaswani’s outstanding indebtedness to it, as May 12, 2020, and interest at the rate awarded by the Court from the date of judgment until final liquidation.
The bank also wants a declaration that having regard to the true construction of the Deed of Personal Guarantee executed by Mr. Vaswani as additional security in its favour, in respect of the huge sum advanced to Stallion Nigeria Limited, it is entitled at law to all the rights attached to Vaswani’s assets, landed properties and other forms of real estates no matter wherever located within the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the United States of America, United Arab Emirates, particularly and not limited to the property known as L9, Lailak Street, Emirates Hills, Emirates Living, the United Kingdom, particularly and not limited to the property known as 40, Avenue Road, London, NWH 8 6H8, and all countries of the European Union and all forms of stock of shares in the equity of any company or investment, cash deposits, bonds wholly or jointly held investments in any Financial Scheme, all forms of negotiable instruments in all Commercial Banks, Discount Houses, Mortgage Banks, Merchants Banks. Savings and Loans, and all licensed Financial Institutions located within the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The United States of America. United Arab Emirates. particularly and not limited to sums of money contained in accounts domiciled with Rak Bank of Rak Operations Center, Emirates Road, Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Emirates NBD Bank of Baniyas Road, Doha, Opposite Dubai Creek Tower, Next to Dubai Chamber, the United Kingdom, particularly and not limited to sums of money contained In accounts domiciled with Barclays Bank of 2, Churchill PI, Canary Wharf, London E14 5RB, HSBC Bank of 8, Canada Square in Canary Wharf, London and Standard Chartered Bank 1, Basinghall Avenue, London, ECZV 50D, and all countries of the European Union (EU), and any other jurisdictions worldwide until the sum of N23,388,188,765. 49, owed by him to the bank being the guarantee on the unpaid credit faculties obtained by Stallion Nigeria Limited from the Claimant together With accrued interest thereon as at May 12, 2020 is fully realized.
The bank further asked the court for an order vesting in it, all the rights attached to Vaswani’s assets, landed properties and all other forms of real estate wherever located within the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the United States of America, United Arab Emirates, particularly and not limited to the property known as L9, Lailak Street, Emirates Hills, Emirates Living, the United Kingdom, particularly and not limited to the property known as 40, Avenue Road, London, NWH 8 6H5, and all countries of the European Union (EU), and any other jurisdictions worldwide and all forms of stock of shares in the equity of any company or investment.
Cash deposits, bonds, wholly or jointly held investments in any Financial Scheme; all forms of negotiable instruments in all Commercial Banks, Discount Houses. Mortgage Banks. Merchants Banks, Savings and Loans, and all financial institutions located within the Federal Republic of Nigeria, United States of America, United Arab Emirates, particularly and not limited to sums of money contained in accounts domiciled with Rak Bank of Rak Operations Center, Emirates Road, Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Emirates NBD Bank of Baniyas Road, Deira, Opposite Dubai Creek Tower, Next to Dubai Chamber, the United Kingdom, particularly and not limited to sums of money contained in accounts domiciled with Barclays Bank of 2, Churchill Pl, Canary Wharf, London E14 5R8, HSBC Bank of 8, Canada Square in Canary Wharf, London and Standard Chartered Bank 1, Basinghall Avenue, London, ECZV SOD, and all other countries of the European Union (EU) and any other jurisdictions worldwide until the sum N23,388,188,765. 49, owed by the Mr. Vaswani to the bank, on account of the guarantee on the unpaid credit facilities obtained by Stallion Nigeria Limited from the Claimant together with accrued interest thereon as at of May 12, 2020, is fully realized.
The bank also want the court to declare that being an unsatisfied creditor in the sum of N23,388,188, 765. 49, is entitled to an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendant from selling, alienating, disposing, transferring any interest in all landed properties and other forms of real estate in the name of the Defendant; cash deposits, bonds, all forms of stock of shares in the equity of any company or investment and all forms of investments wholly or partly held in any Financial Scheme in Mr. Vaswani’s name, all forms of negotiable instruments in all Commercial Banks, Discount Houses, Mortgage Banks, Merchant Banks, and all financial institutions acquired in his name wherever located within the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the United States of America, United Arab Emirates, particularly and not limited to sums of money contained in accounts domiciled with Rak Bank of Rak Operations Center, Emirates Road, Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Emirates NBD Bank of Baniyas Road, Deira, Opposite Dubai Creek Tower, Next to Dubai Chamber, the United Kingdom, particularly and not limited to sums of money contained in accounts domiciled with Barclays Bank of 2, Churchill Pl, Canary Wharf, London E14 5R8, HSBC Bank of 8, Canada Square in Canary Wharf, London and Standard Chartered Bank 1, Basinghall Avenue, London, EC2V SDD, and all Countries of the European Union (EU) and other jurisdictions worldwide, until the sum of N23,388,188,765. 49, owed by Mr. Vaswani, as at May 12, 2020 is fully satisfied.
Zenith Bank while asked for cost of instituting the suit, equally urged the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining Mr. Vaswani, his agents, representatives, officers, servants, privies, assigns, proxies, estates, trustees, and/or any person, natural or corporate, acting on his behalf in respect of the Defendant’s assets, landed properties no matter wherever located within the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the United States of America, United Arab Emirates, particularly and not limited to the property known as L9, Lailak Street, Emirates Hills, Emirates Living, the United Kingdom, particularly and not limited to the property known as 40, Avenue Road, London, NWH 8 6H8, and all other countries of the European Union (EU), from dissipating, disposing of, selling, transferring, alienating, any moveable or immovable assets, moneys, shares, and all forms of stock of shares in the equity of any company or investment, bank guarantee, advanced payment guarantee, promissory notes, bill of exchange, letters of credit and other negotiable instruments in the name of the Defendant located within the Federal Republic of Nigeria and in the United States of America, United Arab Emirates, particularly and not limited to sums of money contained in accounts domiciled with Rak Bank of Rak Operations Center, Emirates Road, Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Emirates NBD Bank of Baniyas Road, Diera, Opposite Dubai Creek Tower, Next to Dubai Chamber, the United Kingdom, particularly and not limited to sums of money contained in accounts domiciled with Barclays Bank of 2, Churchill Pl, Canary Wharf, London E14 5R8, HSBC Bank of 8, Canada Square in Canary Wharf, London and Standard Chartered Bank 1, Basinghall Avenue, London, EC2V 500, and all other countries of the European Union(EU).
Any other jurisdictions worldwide until the sum of N23,388,188,765. 49, owed by him to the bank, on account of the guarantee on the unpaid credit facilities obtained by Stallion Nigeria Limited from the Claimant together With accrued interest thereon as of May 12, 2020 is fully realized.
Zenith Bank Plc in an affidavit deposed to by one of its Principal Officers, Tochukwu Amakor, averred that its a banker of value to Stallion Nigeria Limited, located at 270, Ajose Adeogun Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, Mr. Vaswani, is the alter ego and Chief Promoter/Chief Executive Officer and the personal guarantor of all the various facilities availed Stallion Nigeria Limited.
On transactional agreement, Amafor averred that as a result of the banker-customer relationship existing between his bank and Stallion Nigeria Limited (“Stallion”), a company primarily promoted by Mr. Vaswani, the Zenith Bank Plc availed Stallion several credit facilities to support its businesses in different dimensions.
The further states that upon stallion’s further request, Zenith Bank via a duly executed offer letter dated April 30 2014 availed Stallion two types of facilities, namely facility one of a Short term import facility (STIF) in the sum of N14.5 billion (Fourteen Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira) with funding ratio of 100% by the bank.
He added that despite the clear terms of the agreement between Stallion and the Bank and the great latitude which also culminated into several restructured facilities availed Stallion, Mr. Vaswani failed, refused and or neglected to meet its due obligations as they fell due and allowed its account to always be in the negative region. Consequently, on account of the Personal Guarantee executed by Mr. Vaswani, the Bank wrote to him vide letters dated May 24 and 30 2017.
He stated that despite having been sewed with the various demand letters, Mr. Vaswani still failed and neglected to take any step towards the payment of his debt awaiting liquidation. Consequently, Zenith Bank Plc at various times commenced Suit No: FHC/L/CS/571/19 between Zenith Bank Plc. vs. Stallion Nigeria Ltd & Anor. and Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1866/19 between Zenith Bank Plc. vs. Stallion Nigeria Ltd & Anor, respectively at the Federal High Court for the purpose of recovering the indebtedness of Stallion but magnimously discontinued same upon request of Stallion and the Defendant for an out-ofcourt settlement.
The deponent stated that in accordance with his bank’s transparency standard, which is in line with the international best practices, the bank had on several occasions commissioned its internal forensic investigation team to carry out a forensic audit of Stallion’s accounts with it. The team, after the exercise, found out that Stallion is indebted to the Claimant in terms of a colossal sum in excess of N20.25 billon as at January 2020.
And that when it became apparent that Stallion was not willing to make good its default especially having regard to the tone of its letter dated December 31, 2019, the his bank wrote a final demand letter dated January 16, 2020 to Stallion calling for the immediate liquidation of Stallion’s indebtedness which stood in the sum of N20.25 billion as at the said date.
He stated that as a fact, when his bank discovered that Stallion and Mr. Vaswani would stop at nothing to cause economic ruins to its business, and further expose it to regulatory sanctions from the Central Bank of Nigeria, his bank was constrained to call in the securities used as collateral for the huge facilities availed Stallion including the personal guarantee of the Defendant. Adding that the facilities availed Stallion had since expired and become due and payable, but contrary to the terms of the Personal Guarantee consensually executed by Mr. Vaswani in favour of the Bank, he till date failed, refused and or neglected to liquidate the facilities.
He stated further that despite having admitted his indebtedness at different times, Mr. Vaswani still Ignored several demand letters, including the letter dated May 15, 2020, served on him and failed to take any steps to liquidate the long overdue colossal indebtedness of Stallion to the Claimant which stands In the sum of N23,388,188, 765. 49 , as at May 12, 2020. He added that the Respondent’s indebtedness is as shown in its various account numbers 1010033653, 3700226746, 1014854027, 1012868183 and 1010336835 totaling the amount aforesaid and that he had compared the entries in Stallion’s statement of account with his bank’s books being kept in the course of business and found the entries therein to be correct.
He stated that the statement of accounts was regularly made available to Stallion in the ordinary course of transactions without any objection to the entries therein by Stallion. And that Mr. Vaswani’s faiure to liquidate the indebtedness of Stallion, has adversely affected Zenith Bank’s business operation as the funds packaged as facilities to Stallion are third patty depositors/stakeholders’ funds.
He further stated that the facilities availed Stallion upon the guarantee of Mr. Vaswani, were fully utilized to finance the importation of rice, fish, fertilizers, automobiles and raw material but upon profitable sale of those goods, Mr. Vaswani, being the alter ego of Stallion fraudulently diverted the proceeds of sale. Adding that the defendant is not prepared to perform his obligation as contracted by him via his personal guarantee.
He states that he is aware that instead of taking steps to perform his obligation to pay the indebtedness of Stallion which obligation has since crystalized, Mr. Vaswani, being an Indian, a national of another country, the engine room and mind of Stallion, is now making moves to dissipate his assets and the assets he has over time acquired in the name of Stallion here in Nigeria and abroad. This, he stated is in preparation for his planned escape or relocation to another country with the hope of avoiding huge debt awaiting liquidation.
He states that unless the reliefs sought by his employer are grants, Stallion’s indebtedness to the bank, he repayment of which was guaranteed by Mr. Vaswani will not be liquidated.
Mr. Vaswani in a counter affidavit to Zenith Bank Plc’s Suit, deposed to by Stallion Group’s director of Administration, Mr. Tajudeen Olalere and filed and argued by his lawyer, Mr. Uchenna Njoku, denied be indebted to the bank and urged the court to dismiss the suit for been false, unfounded, unsubstantiated, unjust and unwarranted and abuse of court process.
Tajudeen averred that Mr. Vaswani only became aware of the existence of this Suit and the Mareva Order made on June, 17, 2020 upon a search conducted at the Registry of the Court on July 8 2020, by his Counsel pursuant to in incomplete disclosure of the existence of this suit by the Zenith Bank Plc in a counter-affidavit the bank served on Stallion on July 7, 2020 in Suit No FHC/L/CS/113/2020 Between Stallion Nigeria Limited Vs Zenith Bank Plc pending before Hon. Justice Obiozor of the Federal High Court, Lagos Judicial Division.
He stated that Mr. Vaswani was only served the Originating Process and other processes already filed in this matter through service on his counsel made on July 22, 2020, pursuant to an agreement by counsel to both parties reached on July 12, 2020, to the effect that Zenith Bank’s counsel can serve the Originating Process and all other processes tiled in this matter on the Defendant’s Counsel, the latter having undertaken to receive same on behalf of the Defendant. The agreement of counsel to both Parties resulted in the letter issued by Mr. Vaswani’s counsel to Zenith Bank’s counsel on July 13, 2020. Adding that Zenith Bank’s affidavit is false and unsubstantiated.
The deponent averred that all Zenith Bank’s allegations and contentions of being owed the sum of N23, 388, 188, 765.49, as at May 12, 2020 by Stallion are false, unfounded, unsubstantiated, unjust and unwarranted. He added that the entire false package of allegations of indebtedness put together and presented in the Zenith’ Bank’s Affidavit are part of a deliberate stratagy to humiliate Stallion and Mr. Vaswani and terrorize them into backing down from their legitimate request that there should be a reconciliation of all the accounts of Stallion in the Claimant or a third patty audit of the accounts of Stallion in the Claimant.
He further stated that Stallion is not indebted to the Zenith Bank in the said sum of N23,388,188,765.49 or any other sum whatsoever. And that contrary to the false claims by the Bank, Stallion has not only repaid its indebtedness to the Bank but has overpaid the Bank by several billions of naira for which cause Stallion has been calling for account reconciliation or third party auditing of Stallion’s accounts in the bank.
He averred that Zenith Bank’s sinister motive is the more revealed by the fact that prior to filing this action, Zenith Bank has been and remains a defendant in an action filed, by Stallion against the Claimant in Suit No FHC/L/CS/113/2020 Between Stallion Nigeria Limited v. Zenith Bank Plc. And that the action is still pending at the Federal High Court, Lagos.
He stated that in compliance with it its obligations, Stallion made payments in liquidation of the various facilities and enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the bank, adding that a substantial part of the facility advanced by the Zenith Bank was to cover various Letters of Credit, with a covenant to convert the facility which was denominated in dollars to naira within 180 days of the facilities.
The deponent while attributing its predicament to the 2015 economic recession that crippled many businesses in the country, stated that the recession also affected the cash flow of Stallion whereupon the bank resort to applying exorbitant interest rates on the facilities and, to compound the hardship, also stopped supporting the company
He stated that in its spirited efforts at amicable resolution of the situation created by the exploitative and highhanded disposition of the bank, Stallion held discussions with the bank and its solicitors sometime in August 2017, whereat Stallion, without conceding indebtedness as claimed by the Bank, offered to make a good faith payment of N4.6 billion subject to reconciliation of accounts. Adding that following up on the offer referred above, Stallion has since then made lodgments of N4,290, 428, 878, being cash lodgments and proceeds of the sale of its shares in the claimant prior to and as at November 14, 2019.
He stated further that Stallion also made supplies of vehicles to the bank without receiving payment up to the value of N1,544, 159,999.96. And that Stallion also secured a purchaser for its property at Plot No 1114, Adeola Odeku Street, Victoria Island for the sum of N3.5 billion but Zenith Bank failed and neglected to give an approval for the sale until the offer from the buyer lapsed.
He stated that Stallion also requested for account reconciliation exercise or third party audit of its accounts but Zenith Bank refused till date. He added that despite the payments made by Stallion, the Zenith Bank continued to maintain without justification, that Stallion was indebted to it an allegation Stallion has since denied and repeatedly asked for a reconciliation of the accounts.
He averred that seeing the inexplicable refusal of the Zenith Bank to have the account reconciliation exercise, Stallion’s concerns that the bank has been manipulating its accounts became heightened whereupon Stallion decided to undertake an audit of its accounts in the claimant beginning from the year 2012. And that to the Stallion’s utter chagrin, it was discovered that the bank had charged unauthorized and unlawful interests, management fees, COT-VAT fees, finance charges and LC charges to the tune of N18,369,960,000.
He stated that Zenith Bank did not avail Stallion an overdraft facility up to the sum of N500 million. And that the facility offered by the offer letter dated April 30, 2014, was a line facility and the claimant did not at anytime drawdown on the said sum of N500 million.
He stated that the action of the Zenith Bank by moving from one court to the other amounts to forum shopping and an abuse of the court process adding that since Stallion is not indebted to the bank, all the securities pledged for the facility and the Guarantee sought to be enforced herein have been discharged. He added that the allegations of asset stripping is unjustified and unwarranted
The deponent also denied that Mr. Vaswani has in conjunction with other directors of Stallion begun or attempted stripping the assets of “the Respondent” or the personal assets of the Defendant or Stallion. “This allegation is, in all respects, malicious. And that there is no single of evidence that Mr. Vaswani has been privately diverting funds outside Nigeria including but not limited to the United Arab Emirate, in the City of Dubai, United Kingdom, United States, the European Union or anywhere else in the world.”
He stated that Zenith Bank’s allegations and contentions of being owed the sum of N23,388,188,765.49 as at May 12 2020 by Stallion is false, unfounded, unsubstantiated, unjust and unwarranted and that the entire false package of allegations of indebtedness put together and presented in the Zenith Bank’s Affidavit are part of a deliberate strategy to humiliate and end Stallion end and terrorize them into backing down from their legitimate request that there should be a reconciliation.
Justice Oyekan-Abdullahi after hearing various applications filed by the parties said the date for ruling on the objection on marava injunction earlier granted will be communicated to the parties.
She advised counsel to both parties to explore the possibility of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the interest of continuity of business relationship adding that it would serve the interest of both parties better if they can reach a mutual resolution of the dispute and continue with their business relationship.
Obasanjo replies Fayose, Tinubu, others over comment on Kashamu’s death
Nigeria’s former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has responded to criticisms over his condolence message to Late Ogun Senator, Buruji Kashamu.
Obasanjo had on Saturday released a statement on the death of the Senator, saying that the former lawmaker used politics and legal means to escape justice but could not use the same to stop death.
According to the statement, “The life and history of the departed have lessons for those of all us on this side of the veil. Senator Esho Jinadu (Buruji Kashamu) in his lifetime used the maneuver of law and politics to escape from facing justice on alleged criminal offence in Nigeria and outside Nigeria.
“But no legal, political, cultural, social or even medical maneuver could stop the cold hand of death when the Creator of all of us decides that the time is up.
“May Allah forgive his sin and accept his soul into Aljanah, and may God grant his family and friends fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.”
The statement did not go down well with a lot of Nigerians who were quick to condemn the former president for ‘disrespecting’ the dead.
Former Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose, slammed OBJ via twitter stating that “He (Obasanjo) should also remember that his own end will come too and nobody knows how the end will be.”
National leader of the All progressives Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu also expressed displeasure stating that “people should be kind to the dead since everyman would die someday.”
Responding to the criticisms, Obasanjo in an interview on Sunday with Premium Times, said: ” “As you know, I say my mind as truthfully as I know them and in line with my convictions.
People are free to say whatever they want about my comment. I don’t begrudge people for holding opinions on whatever I say or do.”
“Let people say whatever they like when I transit. Now that I am alive, am I not being abused? Whenever I transit, let people say whatever they know or think about me. Let them say it as it is. What my maker thinks of me is what matters most,”.
“When I was growing up, in our community, when anyone known with bad character died, we usually only mourn him and bury him.
“There is an English saying that urges us never to talk ill of the dead. But in this case, we are not talking ill of the dead. We are only drawing lessons from the life and history of the dead. I am not gloating over his death. It is sad for anyone to die and we must mourn him.”
“But we must learn from such a passage. There will be bad lessons. There will be good lessons. But we should not just be praise-singing or eulogising the dead, especially when there is no need to do so.
“We should not cover up bad histories and conducts so that the right lessons can be learnt,” Obasanjo states.
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