By Bose Adelaja
A LAGOS-based firm, The Suru Worldwide Ventures Nigeria Limited and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria AMCON, are presently at logger heads following moves by the corporation to seize the Best Western Hotel Plus, situated at No 12, Allen Avenue, Ikeja.
The company’s Managing Director, Mr. Edward Akinlade, had accused the corporation of illegal and unlawful attempts to take possession of the property but the corporation dismissed the allegation saying it bought over the unpaid loan with which the facility was built.
According to Akinlade, some officials of the corporation had on three occasions stormed the hotel in an attempt to seal it up and take over its management accusing the company of owing the defunct Oceanic Bank (now Ecobank) the sum of N27billion. He said in 2008, the company obtained a revolving loan worth N12.5 billion from the defunct Oceanic Bank, to be paid over a period of five years unfortunately, the bank was liquidated and acquired by Ecobank which officially must have handed over the transaction to AMCON in 2011, without his knowledge.
Akinlade said before the bank’s liquidation, he had paid up to N10 billion before AMCON took over the performing loan and stalled the process but immediately, he sued the defunct bank for transferring the loan.
Enforcing the acquisition
His words, “AMCON took over the company’s performing loan in Oceanic Bank and the Bank was sued for selling the loan since AMCON can only take over a non-performing loan. We sued Oceanic Bank to the tune of N39 billion for mismanaging our account, AMCON now took us to court before Justice Idris who dismissed the case on the basis that it was a performing loan.
“What AMCON should have done was to appeal the suit but it did not, instead, it joined the case with Oceanic Bank, and the case is ongoing. We sued Oceanic Bank at Federal High Court since 2011, so we are still on the matter but AMCON decided to join the case as co-defendants and the case has been adjourned till October 3, 2017. In other words, AMCON ought to have maintained the status quo, rather, it filed a fresh suit without our consent requesting the Inspector General of Police, the Lagos State Command of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Command to assist in enforcing the acquisition.”
The managing director said the company had resisted the various moves by AMCON to take over the property but AMCON is about using another ploy to take over the company. “The last move by AMCON was last Wednesday and all we saw was some uniformed men with AMCON officials taking steps to force us out of the hotel but we were smart enough and resisted such moves. However, we cannot continue to run the business amidst fear. AMCON is set up to buy a non-performing loan and not a revolving loan and it should not turn around to come up with a judgment that does not concern us. Besides, the law enforcement agents are meant to provide security for AMCON and not to be used to effect possession.”
When Vanguard visited AMCON’s 67, Marina, Lagos office, the Head, Corporate Communications, Mr. Jude Nwauzor, who reacted to the allegation said a bad debt of N27 billion was transferred to the corporation and that the agency was just obeying the court order that instituted it to take over the property as a result of the huge debt of N27billion. He said the principal figure has accepted that he was owing and willing to settle and that AMCON is waiting for him to put the terms of settlement on the table for the management of AMCON to consider as AMCON is not set up to kill a growing business but resuscitate it.
He said, “As a government agency, we are careful not to flout the court order though we have the right to handcuff and jail the man but we did not do so because we did not want to create a scene. It is a court bailiff thing but Nigerians are fond of flouting laws. No country will allow anyone owing up to N27billion to still be in business.”
Reacting to the development, Second Vice President, Nigeria Bar Association NBA, Barr. Onyekachi Ubani, said AMCON must have the document backing it up before making such moves. “This is a simple case. AMCON would not have taken such steps if there are no legal backings. Also, it must have repaid the loan and thereafter take necessary steps to recoup it. On the other hand, the company cannot challenge a defunct bank but perfect the legal mortgage in order to challenge the new owner which is AMCON.”