Why Access Bank receiver-manager took over Seplat’

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Access Bank, through its receiver-manager, Kunle Ogunba (SAN), on Monday said it took over the corporate office of Seplat Petroleum Development Company Limited, following a court order.

It said the action followed a ruling by Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos, which granted it leave to take over the corporate offices of Seplat and to freeze its accounts over a loan obtained by Cardinal Drilling Services Limited.

The loan, according to the bank, was utilised by Seplat.

Access Bank said it had filed a notice of appeal at the Supreme Court to challenge the decision of the Lagos Division of Court of Appeal lifting the interim order made by Justice Aikawa.

Ogunba said he also filed a motion for a stay of execution of the Appeal Court verdict.

Justice Aikawa, in the ruling delivered on December 24, 2020, rejected the issues raised by Seplat’s lawyers in opposing the application.

The judge held: “In my view, all these are issues which touch the substance of the case and should, therefore, be reserved for substantive trial.

“It is my opinion that an attempt to delve into any of them at this stage has the potential and danger of determining substantive issues at this interlocutory stage, a tendency which has been frowned upon by the appellate courts.”

Justice Aikawa averred that the plaintiff’s application was primarily intended to secure assets of the defendant within the court’s jurisdiction, adding that “the plaintiff displayed its fear that the defendant will dispose of their assets,” if the order is not made.

The court also took into consideration the bank’s undertaking to pay damages for injury or losses occasioned to the defendants, if it is later discovered that the application upon which the order is based is “frivolous” or “a sham”.

Justice Aikawa added: “There is no evidence of suppression of any material facts by the plaintiff in this application.”

There were reports that Seplat wrote a petition against Ogunba, alleging that the SAN misled the court and did not provide “documentary information exhibited to the affidavit sustaining that Seplat used Cardinal Drilling as a ‘vehicle’, ‘smokescreen’, ‘decoy’, or ‘shell company’”.

When this was put to Ogunba, the SAN said he had not been officially notified of the purported petition and that the actions he took on his client’s behalf were based on the ruling.

“The petition, if any, has no leg to stand because all the issues they raised were brought before the court and the judge affirmed our position and granted the application. The judge held that no materials facts were suppressed.

“Seplat should liquidate its debt rather than attempt to intimidate me for doing my job, if indeed they wrote the purported petition, as reported,” he said.

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