A PLEA by the counsel to Access Bank Plc for more time to study the objections raised by the African Petroleum (AP) Plc yesterday stalled... hearing in the N5.6 billion dispute involving the two organisations.
Justice Ibrahim Auta of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, adjourned the suit till Monday.
At yesterday’s hearing, the respondent’s lawyer, Sunday Ajibade (SAN), told the court that his client - AP- was served with a copy of the petition on Monday, adding that he had filed a preliminary objection and counter-affidavit to the petition.
His words: “Based on the development, we are ready to proceed with the hearing since the court originally fixed yesterday for continuation of trial.”
However, counsel to the petitioner, Norrison Quakers, urged the court to order parties to file written addresses before the hearing of the petition.
Quakers noted that the civil procedure rules of the Federal High Court stipulate that written addresses must be filed in support or opposition to the petition, urging the court to adjourn the matter for parties to comply with the rules of the court.
Responding, Ajibade insisted that a written address was unnecessary in the case because the application was filed under the Company’s Winding Up Law, maintaining that if the court should grant any adjournment, it should be a short one.
Ajibade said: “This petition has been advertised and is causing a lot of inconveniencies on my client. So, if the court is minded of granting an adjournment, it should be a short one.”
Justice Auta, while ruling on the argument, said that written addresses are only meant to aid the court and not for counsel. He then ordered the lawyers to proceed with the adoption of their applications.
Sensing that the court was prepared to go on with the case, Quakers informed the court that he was only served a copy of the counter affidavit and as stipulated by law, he was entitled to 48 hours to study and make up his mind on what to do on the objection.
He, therefore, urged the court to grant him an adjournment to enable him study the objections.
The judge consequently fixed July 27 for hearing of the petition and ordered that the written addresses should not be filed.
According to the matter, the bank averred that on December 17, 2007, it granted a N100 million facility in form of a Trade Finance Line (TFC) to AP.
The facility, according to Access Bank, was for a tenor of one year, with each transaction within the facility to have a specified tenor to a maximum of 90 days.
It added that in consideration of the TFC, AP gave a negative pledge in its favour, adding that AP later utilised the TFC by requesting a letter of credit of $35, 153. 822.15 to be opened by the Access Bank on its behalf.
The bank, however, contended that upon maturity of the facility, AP was unable to settle the obligation of $35, 153. 822.15, and that since the obligation became due, it made several attempts to get AP to settle its obligation, all to no avail.
It further told the court that the respondent was insolvent and unable to pay its debt, urging the court to wind it up.
In its opposition to the petition, AP contended that the only reason why it failed to pay the debt was because the bank insisted on being paid an amount in excess of what it was legitimately entitled and its desire to obtain an undue and illegitimate advantage arising from fluctuations in the exchange rate.
Besides, AP argued that the petitioner lacks the locus standi to institute the case against it, and that the subject matter constitutes an abuse of court process.