*Embattled Ekiti State born Senator Opeyemi Bamidele on war part with AMCON
From all indications, the judicial measures taken by Senator Bamidele M. Opeyemi to stop the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) from prosecuting a debt recovery suit against him failed at the Federal High Court. It also did not stand a chance at the Court of Appeal, our Correspondent gathered on May 21, 2020.
This is coming as a sequel to the striking out of his appeal by a Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal, challenging an exparte order granted by Justice Saliu Saidu led-court, which in the interim, forfeited some of his shares to AMCON and freezing of his bank accounts pending the determination of debt recovery suit against him. The appeal of the serving Senator of the Federal republic of Nigeria according to C.J.Onah, Counsel to AMCON was struck out on April 30, 2020.
It was gathered that while the appeal was still pending, Senator Bamidele went ahead and filed a stay of proceedings before the Hon. Justice Saidu’s court against AMCON’s debt recovery suit against him. However, Justice Saidu, on Tuesday, equally dismissed Bamidele’s stay of proceedings application, on the ground that the appeal was antithetical to speedy hearing of a case.
“A stay of proceedings is of a very serious nature that a lower court does not grant as a matter of course. This is because it delays the trial process of the main matter, at times inordinately. Stay of proceedings is antithetical to the speedy hearing of a case. Before it can be granted, there must be a compelling and inevitable circumstance. Stay of proceedings cannot be granted to give a recess to the lower court and counsel. It is not granted to enable one of the parties put right the deficiencies of his case or plan strategies to overreach the adverse party. See the case of Caribbean Trading and Fidelity Corporation VS. NNPC (1991) 6 NWLR (Pt. 197) 350 at 360, Paras. F-H.
“I have taken a cursory look at the notice of appeal against the Interlocutory Ruling of this Court delivered on April 3, 2019. The subject matter of the substantive suit herein is the recovery of debt owed the Claimant by the Defendant, the Interlocutory Appeal at the Defendant concerns the refusal of the Court to vacate the Interim Order made by the Court freezing the bank accounts of the Defendant and granting possession of some Shares of the defendant to the Claimant. This Court will not allow the interruption of this case by the 1st Defendant’s Interlocutory Appeal. Consequently, I refuse to stay proceedings in this case and the motion on notice filed on May 7, 2019 is hereby struck out”, Justice Saidu ruled just as he adjourned further hearing of the suit till September 29, 2020.
It would be recalled that the management of AMCON led by Mr. Ahmed Lawan Kuru, the no-nonsense Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the government recovery agency had sometimes in 2018, dragged Bamidele who is also a chieftain of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Senator, representing Ekiti Central Senatorial district, before Justice Saliu Saidu, due to his failure to liquidate loan sum of N201 million, which had over the years increased to N511. 3 million, which he obtained from the defunct Oceanic Bank Plc and was eventually bought over by AMCON.
In the debt recovery suit, AMCON in its statement of claimed in suit number FHC/L/CS/588/2018, filed before the Court, through its lawyer stated that upon request by the Senator, the defunct Oceanic Bank International Plc through a document headed ‘offer of margin facility’, granted the Senator and overdraft of N210 million on October 10, 2007, at the interest rate of 18 per cent per-annum, for the purpose of buying shares. The tenor was then put at 12 months. AMCON stated upon maturity of the loan facility, the Senator, refused, failed and neglected to liquidate the loan leading to the accumulation of interest over times of interest and that as at January 1, 2011, the principal facility and interest stood at N307, 779, 998.80 million.
AMCON further stated that due to continuous accumulation of interest, the defendant’s indebtedness to it as at November 2017, stood at N478, 170,566.62 million. While adding it instructed its counsel, Godwin N. Chigbu, to write the Senator a demand letter through the addresses he provided with the bank. They said despite the demand letter, which was delivered to the defendant, he still refused and neglected to pay the demanded sum. AMCON stated that as at March 31, 2018, the Senator’s debt had risen to N511, 311, 895. 80 million. It said when the Senator again failed to pay back the indebtedness, AMCON consequently, asked the Court for an order directing the Senator to pay it the sum of N511. 311, 895. 62 million being the debt owed since March 31, 2018.
However, in Senator Bamidele in his statement of defense and counterclaimed filed before the court by his counsel, Precious Orotma said the alleged debt arose because of banker-customer relationship between him and the defunct Oceanic Bank. Orotma added that the bank sometimes in 2007, through its team of investment bankers and asset managers approached and invited the Senator to partner with bank for the purchase of stocks and shares. Accordingly, the bank and its subsidiary company provided the sum of N 210, 000, 000.00 in the form of margin facility while the Senator provided only an equity contribution of 30 per cent plus security in the sum of N90, 000, 000.00 worth of shares and cash.
The understanding then was that the bank and its subsidiary company would merge his contribution with that of the bank to finance the purchase of shares and stocks in which the purchased shares would remain in the custody of the bank, which shall also manage the investments through its asset management, this known then as Oceanic Capital Limited and Oceanic Asset Management (OAM). The Senator said he provided N90, 000, 000.00 worth of shares and cash in line with the margin trading facility agreement upon the execution of the margin facility and before the disbursement of the margin facility by the bank, but Oceanic Bank did not take reasonable care in ensuring the performance of the contract and observe compliance with all terms and conditions of their agreement in relations to the transaction, as it failed to monitor the stock market, advise him accordingly and timely and appropriately sell down as it was obliged by the margin facility agreement he signed with the bank.
The Senator stated that the defunct Oceanic Bank Nigeria Plc, fraudulently induced him into the margin facility agreement as it misrepresented, concealed and or suppressed fundamental facts of the transaction.