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Stanbic IBTC, Ascon Oil tussle over sale of N2.5bn petrol station

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By Cynthia Alo

Ascon Oil Company Ltd said it has recovered its fuel retail station at Block 36, Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos purportedly sold by Stanbic IBTC Bank.

According to Ascon Oil, the property with a market value of N2.5 billion was undersold at N1.53 billion, through Stanbic IBTC’s Receiver.

It was learnt that Ascon retook possession of the property following a July 24, 2020 order of Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court in Lagos. The suit, marked FHC/L/CS/567/2020, arose following a N1.7 billion loan facility.

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The property had been with the receiver manager following the judge’s May 15, 2020 ex-parte order which authorised Police protection for the Receiver to protect and preserve the fuel retail station and restrain Ascon from interfering with the Receiver’s discharge of his functions. But on July 24, 2020, Justice Liman vacated that order in part following Ascon’s claims of suppression, non-disclosure and material misrepresentation of facts against Stanbic IBTC, which the bank has rejected.

Before the July 24 ruling, and in seeking to recover its property, Ascon had written to Stanbic IBTC, through its Managing Director, Demola Shogunle, stating that its outstanding indebtedness was now available and that Ascon was ready to make the payment subject to an audit of its account.

But the bank, it was learnt, declined, stating that the property had been sold. It also declined Ascon’s requests for details of the expedited process of the transaction or evidence of any cash movement by which the property was purportedly conveyed to the buyer.

On May 27, 2020, Ascon approached the court to set aside its earlier orders and nullify all steps taken pursuant to the orders.

It argued, among others that since Ascon was not initially allowed to make its own case meant it was denied the right to fair hearing.

On July 24, 2020, Justice Liman agreed that the Receiver was wrong in law to have brought his application for the orders, ex-parte and that ASCON should have been put on notice.

The court discharged its earlier order of May 15th, 2020 restraining Ascon from preventing the activities of the Receiver. Thus, the order preventing Ascon from resisting the activities of the Receiver was vacated.

Ascon had alleged in its motion on notice, that the purported Deed of Legal Mortgage dated June 5th, 2019, through which Stanbic IBTC derived its right or power to either appoint a Receiver or sell the property was a forgery.

“At the time the Deed of Legal Mortgage was purportedly executed, Ascon had by letters of 28th and 31st May 2018 protested the inclusion of the property for perfection. Thus, Ascon could not have executed a Deed of Legal Mortgage over the same Property,” the document averred.

Ascon also alleged that forensic analysis of the purported Deed of Legal Mortgage revealed significant inconsistencies as two supposed signatures, were materially different from their regular signatures and the signature page of the purported Deed of Legal Mortgage is a counterpart copy of previously executed Deeds of Legal Mortgage.

Vanguard

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