Court Freezes Senator Stella Oduah’s Accounts Over $16m Debt
The Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday restrained Senator Stella Oduah, along with Sea Petroleum and Gas Company Limited and its directors, from making any withdrawals from the account of the company.
The order is in connection with an issue before the court of their indebtedness of over $16.4 million and N100.4 million.
The court also forbade them from withdrawing any funds from the accounts of three other companies in 21 commercial banks listed before it. The affected companies are: Sea Shipping Agency Limited, Rotary Engineering Services Limited, and Tour Afrique Company Limited.
The court further granted an order directing the said commercial banks having assets belonging to Ms. Oduah and the four companies to sequestrate up to the indebtedness of the Senator and Sea Petroleum and Gas Company Limited in the sum of their indebtedness as of November 2016, and maintain the sums in an interest-yielding account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court pending the determination of the suit filed at the court to recover the debt.
The order of the court follows an affidavit sworn to by the business manager of Maritime of Sterling Bank, Segun Akinsanya, and filed and argued before the court by a Lagos lawyer, Kemi Balogun.
In the affidavit, Akinsanya averred that on October 8, 2012, the bank granted a lease/cabotage vessel finance facility to Sea Petroleum and Gas Company in the sum of $10,069,620.25 to finance one unit 5,000MT tanker vessel..
The loan was secured by unconditional personal guarantee of the company’s director, Ms. Oduah, supported by a statement of her net worth, legal mortgage of two properties worth N135million, power of Attorney of the tanker vessel in favour of Sterling Bank and a fully executed and irrevocable standing payment order and tripartite remittance agreement between First Bank, Sterling Bank and Ms. Oduah.
It was further averred that between June 27, 2013 Sea Petroleum Company requested for and was granted additional facilities in the sum of $449,600.00 for post-delivery expenses, $642,954.00 and $350,000 to meet the requisite conditions in securing of the Federal High Court in securing the release of the tanker.
According to the affidavit, upon the persistent failure of the defendants to liquidate their indebtedness, Sterling Bank instructed the law firm of Oluwakemi Balogun to recover the debt.
But despite several reminders, demands, pleas and persuasion by the bank and its solicitor, the defendants did not liquidate their indebtedness which stood at over $16.4 million and N100.4 million in November 2016.
Akinsanya also averred that the defendants are also greatly indebted to a number of banks and have conceded a number of Assets to AMCON, which has stepped into the shoes of those banks, raising the imminent risk of the defendants dissipating the assets of the companies. He therefore urged the court to grant the order restraining Ms. Oduah and other directors of Sea Petroleum and Gas from withdrawing money from the account of the companies in the 21 listed banks until final determination of the debt recovery suit.
Meanwhile, based on an ex-parte application filed and argued before the court by Mr. Balogun that it has been difficult to serve court processes and orders on the defendants, Justice Abdulaziz Anka ordered that the documents should be advertised in the newspapers.
Ms. Oduah and her companies, urging the court to discharge the order made against them, also filed a preliminary objection to the suit. They asked the court to strike out the action as the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the suit. Mr. Balogun vehemently opposed the two applications.
Justice Anka adjourned the matter to March 2017 for a decision on whether to vacate the order or not.