The purported sale of Ikoyi property of the late Ide Ahaba of Asaba, Chief Sonny Odogwu, has ignited a fresh legal battle between Access bank Plc and the family of the late billionaire at the Federal High Court, Lagos.
The project located at 31-35, apartments known as Le Meridien Grand Towers was promoted by the late Odogwu to create two 15-storeys, comprising a hotel and residential tower in Lagos. The complex is expected to provide luxurious accommodation in the city.
Le Meridien Grand Towers was designed to accommodate 271 suites divided into five distinct size categories; the king suite, the twin suite, the suite, the diplomatic suite and visitors’ guest rooms (attached to other suites).
Additionally, there are 46 smaller guest rooms forming part of the four suites flanking the two west wings of the hotel, thereby bringing the number of keys to 317. The VIP floors and services will rival any world-class accommodation, hence positioning Le Meridien Grand Towers Hotel as the foremost accommodation in Lagos.
The late billionaire had engaged the bank through its subsidiary, Diamond Capital Limited, as lead arranger for the syndication of project finance for the project sponsor’s seven-star hotel.
It was also learnt that the recourse for repayment of the loan is the project’s cash flow on completion. The security, which all syndicate members share, is the project itself.
Consequently, Leadway Trustees was appointed the trustee to hold the title to 33/35 Ikoyi Crescent Ikoyi for all the syndicate members and no security was offered to Diamond now Access Bank because the project finance with the security was to be shared by syndicate members.
Unfortunately, the bank failed to arrange the syndication, and the contractors threatened to pull out of the site.
At this stage, the bank assured the project sponsor that it would put the syndication in place in 90 days and offered unsecured bridge finance to the project to be repaid from the syndication proceeds.
The objective was to avoid disruption of the project. The bridge finance came in two tranches of N3.5 billion and N1.5 billion, making a total of N5 billion paid directly to the contractors and not the project sponsor.
The project sponsor put into the project equity of over N5 billion apart from the land cost and preliminary works.
The bank again allegedly failed to arrange the syndication of the project finance. The result of the bank’s failure as lead arranger was that the project became stranded and the bridge finance was unresolved, leading to several disputes and litigation.
As a result, the bank obtained a judgment at the Federal High Court on November 3, 2015, over its unsecured bridge loan.
Consequently, parties signed a settlement agreement dated May 30, 2019, and addendum dated July 26, 2019.
Accordingly, the Odogwu family agreed to withdraw their appeal at the Court of Appeal, and the parties agreed to enter the settlement as a consent judgment.
According to them, the banks’ actions of trespassing on their customer’s property at 33/33 Ikoyi Crescent Ikoyi and unlawfully purporting to have sold it to one inactive company called Siete Trading Limited in apparent self-dealing amount to a flagrant breach of the rule of law in Nigeria.
Subsequently, Access bank filed a suit seeking to set aside the consent judgment delivered by Justice Aikawa in suit N0 FHC/L/CS/156/2017 between Robert Dyson& Dike Limited & 2 Ors v Diamond Bank Plc on October 11, 2019, and enforce the judgment of Justice Saidu delivered in Suit N): FHC/L/CS/1633/14 between parties.
The suit filed by Access Bank Plc and Siet Trading Limited has Robert Dyson & Diket Limited, SIO Properties Limited, Kenneth Odogwu (sued as beneficiary and in the representative capacity on behalf of all the administrators of the estate of late Chief Sonny Odogwu and the Registrar of Title Federal Land Registry for want of jurisdiction as respondents.
In the suit, the plaintiffs submitted that the judgment debtors have refused to hand over the Dubai property to the judgment creditors in line with the settlement agreement.
They also stated that the judgment debtor has refused to grant vacant possession to the properties at Kirikiri as well as the Dubai property to date in line with the consent judgment.
The judgment creditors are determined to protect depositors funds and realise the fruits of their judgment by recovering the judgment sum of N26 billion.
But in a motion on notice filed on December 31, 2021, the family is urging the court to dismiss or in the alternative strike out a suit filed by Access Bank Plc and Siet Trading Limited.
The notice of preliminary objection was brought on the grounds that the suit constitutes an abuse of court process, that the plaintiffs (Access Bank and Siete Trading Limited), lack the locus standi to institute the suit as well as that the action as presently constituted did not disclose any reasonable cause of action against the defendants.
They also contended that the entire action is frivolous, vexatious, malicious, tantamount to abuse of the judicial process, that the action as presently constituted is an attempt to use the court to perfect fraud, as no leave of court was obtained before the filing of the suit seeking to set aside a consent judgment.