N17bn debt: Court discharges 19 banks, Afex directors face contempt (2024)

The Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday fixed July 8, 2024, for hearing of all pending applications in a contempt suit initiated by Guaranty Trust Bank Limited against the directors of the Afex Exchange Commodities Limited over alleged N17, 808, 452, 467. 107 loan indebtedness.

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke fixed the date after taking arguments and submissions from counsel for the plaintiff, Mr. Ade Adedeji (SAN) and counsel for the respondent, Prof. Wale Olawoyin (SAN).

The plaintiff, Guaranty Trust Bank Limited, seeking to recover an alleged N17bn debt from Afex, had on May 27, 2024, obtained an interim Global Standing Instruction preventing Afex from accessing its funds in all commercial banks in the country.

The PUNCH reports that GSI is applied as a last resort for banks and financial institutions to recover outstanding loans from chronic debtors.

Justice Aneke, who granted the GSI, also granted GTbank’s prayer to take over the warehouses of Afex in a number of states in the country.

The bank, however, alleged that Afex Exchange Commodities Limited and the banks flouted the GSI, hence, it commenced contempt proceedings, asking the court to jail them for disobeying a court order.

The Afex directors cited for contempt were listed as Ayodeji Olaleye Balogun, Jendayi Fraaser, Justin Lee Topilow, Mobolaji Oluwatomi Adeoye, and Koonal Bharat Ghandi.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Thursday, GTBank’s lawyer, Adedeji, urged the court to discharge 19 banks who had shown cause that Afex has no account with them.

Subsequently, the judge struck out the names of the 19 banks, which include Citi Bank, Wema Bank, Standard Trust Bank, Keystone Bank, Signature Bank, Titan Trust Bank and Unity Bank.

Others are Parallex Bank, Jaiz Bank Plc, Lotus Bank Limited, Providus Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria, Suntrust Bank Limited, and Polaris Bank Limited, Ecobank, Heritage Bank Plc and Unity Bank Plc.

Adedeji then urged the court to proceed with contempt proceedings against the directors of Afex Exchange Commodities Limited.

But counsel for the alleged contemnors, Olawoyin, objected, saying there were no competent contempt proceedings before the court.

Olawoyin informed the court that two of the directors cited for contempt, Balogun and Adeoye, were in court.

He further told the court that others cited for contempt such as Fraaser, Topilow, and Ghandi are foreigners and were no longer Directors of Afex Exchange Commodities Limited.

Olawoyin submitted a diligent search of Afex Exchange Commodities Limited directors at the Corporate Affairs Commission, which revealed that some of the people cited for contempt had resigned from the company several years ago.

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Justice Aneke subsequently adjourned further hearing in the suit till July 8, 2024, for hearing of all pending applications.

Meanwhile, the judge granted a motion ex parte, directing 13 commercial banks and money deposit banks to comply with the order of the court to provide a detailed statement of account of the defendant/respondent company for the past three months i.e. up and until May, 27,2024.

The banks are Access Bank Plc, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, First City Monument Bank Plc, Polaris Bank Limited.

Others are Stanbic Ibtc Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc, TAJ Bank Limited, United Bank for Africa Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Optimus Bank Limited, and FBNQuest Merchant Bank.

The order reads: “That an order is hereby made directing the commercial banks and money deposit banks herein enumerated as 1st — 13th respondents banks, in line with the orders of this honourable court dated May, 27, 2024 and June, 10, 2024, to provide a detailed statement of account of the defendant/respondent company for the past three months i.e., up and until May, 27 2024.

“That an order is hereby made compelling the 1st — 13th respondent banks to file a comprehensive statement of account of the defendant/respondent’s transactions for the past three months up and until the date of the order dated May, 27 2024, with a certificate of identification, in compliance with Section 84 of the Evidence Act 2011.

“That an order is hereby made mandating the commercial banks and money deposit banks herein enumerated as 1st — 13th respondent banks to comply with all applicable statutory requirements when providing financial records, to ensure the authenticity and accuracy of such records in line with the guidelines stipulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria and other regulatory bodies.”

On May 27, 2024, Justice Aneke granted an interim Global Standing Instruction injunctive relief, following an application by Chief Ajibola Aribisala (SAN), on behalf of GTBank.

The court also granted a “pre-judgment interest on the N15,766,475,417.06 at the prevailing rediscounted rate of 28 per cent yearly, as approved by the CBN from April 18, 2024, when the plaintiff’s letter of demand dated April 17, 2024 was delivered to the defendant, until judgment is delivered in this suit.

“Post-judgment interest on the said sum of N15,766,475,417.06 and cost of recovery and incidental expenses in the sum of N2,041,977,050.047.”

The court further granted a mandatory injunction commanding the defendant/respondent to allow the plaintiff to appoint its appointed agent to take over the commodities/produce stored by the defendant in the 16 warehouses across the seven states.

Meanwhile, the defendants in their preliminary objection, are asking the court to decline jurisdiction to entertain any contempt proceedings “in relation to or connected with or arising from the Notice of Disobedience of Court Order (Form 48) dated May 31, 2024 or any alleged non-compliance with the ex parte order of the court dated May 27, 2024.”

They stated that the alleged contemptuous act was done outside the precincts of the court, making the same, a contempt ex facie curiae.

In an affidavit in support of the notice of preliminary objection deposed to by one Akala Richard, an associate in the capital market sales department of the defendant/objector, he stated that the interest of justice would be better served by the striking out of the entire contempt proceedings initiated by the plaintiff in the suit.

N17bn debt: Court discharges 19 banks, Afex directors face contempt (2024)


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