July 25, 2011 by Akeem Nafiu, Lagos
Hearing in two out of the three cases involving Access Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) and the chairman of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, Mr Femi Otedola, over two separate loans estimated at N40 billion, at a Federal High Court in Lagos may have been stalled, owing to the decision of Justice Okechukwu Okeke to stay all actions on the matters.According to the judge, the two cases would have to be put on hold, pending the outcome of a petition against him before the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta.
In the suits, GTBank was claiming N25 billion on one hand, while Access Bank was claiming N15 billion.
Access Bank, in the letter with reference number ABP/CCG/UA/SE/10/2011/092, had urged the chief judge to transfer the case to another judge, on the ground that it had lost confidence in the ability of Okeke to be objective in the handling of the matter.The protest letter was jointly signed by the bank’s secretary, Sunday Ekwochi and head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Uwem Akangson.
Access Bank, in the petition, said it firmly believed that it could not get justice from Okeke’s court, in view of the fact that one Kemi Balogun, a lawyer to GTBank actually monitored the assignment of the case to the judge.
The bank further said it observed that the conduct of influencing the assignment of cases to courts would lead to total miscarriage of justice, as the receiver/manager it appointed over Zenon’s assets, Ajibola Aribisala, was denied access to search the court’s file.
However, in a response, GTBank, in another letter, urged the chief judge to discountenance the allegations contained in Access Bank’s petition, saying they were “spurious, baseless, lacked merit and done in bad faith.”
GTBank, in its letter signed by Tolu Fadipe and Soga Adewale, both of the Legal Group, stressed that the rejoinder became necessary, so as to correct errors of fact inherent in Access Bank’s petition and to ensure that the chief judge was not unwittingly misled.
In the matter, GTBank filed a suit against Access, Aribisala, Zenon and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to challenge Access Bank’s appointment of Aribisala as a receiver/manager over Zenon’s assets.
The suit had been adjourned till October 13 for ruling.
Access Bank, in turn, filed another suit through Aribisala against Zenon and Otedola, while the third was filed by Zenon against Access and Aribisala.
But GTBank, in its suit, said in May 2004, it granted a $13 million trade facility to Zenon for the importation and local purchase of diesel and that in February 2005, the facility was increased to $48 million then to $50 million and latter to $70 million in 2006, to accommodate the growth in Zenon Group.
GTB averred that Zenon executed a Deed of All Assets Debenture dated April 18, 2006 in its favour and that same was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on May 12, 2006.
GTB stressed that it was shocked when it conducted a search on Zenon’s file at CAC on March 7, 2011 and discovered that a further charge had been created on the same assets by Zenon in 2009, in favour of Access, without its consent and approval.