A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, south west Nigeria, has adjourned till 27 October this year,the debt recovery suit filed against Dr. Doyin Okupe, the former Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan, and two others, by the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC).
Initially, NDIC had filed an application before the court to place the suit on an undefended list before Dr Okupe and other defendants in the suit sought the leave of the court to file their defence and counter claim.
Joined as Okupe’s co-defendants in the suit are an investment company, Value Trust Investment Limited, and a Director of the company Mr. Ray Ahazie.
NDIC as the liquidator of Gulf Bank Plc in the suit is claiming from Okupe the chairman of the investment company and other defendants the sum of N34,168, 064.51. as outstanding balance of a loan they took from liquidated Gulf Bank Plc. but alleged to have refused to pay.
NDIC is also claiming the interest on the said sum at the rate of 21 percent per annum from May 2007, until the final liquidation of the said sum.
NDIC in its statement of claim filed before the court on 10 July, 2007 by its lawyer, Dr. Abiodun Layonu, stated that the defendants were granted a credit facility in October 2000 by Gulf Bank Plc, to finance the importation of 10,000 metric tonnes of rice for delivery to the Balyesa state government in the sum of N448, 000, vide an offer letter dated 27 October, 2000, and that the terms and conditions of the offers and acceptance were later formalised in a memorandum of agreement duly signed and stamped between the bank and the defendants.
The plaintiff stated that in securing the facility granted the defendants, the Balyesa state government through its banker, Society Generale Bank granted a bank guarantee in contract sum of N500 million in favour of Gulf Bank and in further securing the facility, the Investment company’s directors, Dr. Okupe and Ahazie, entered into joint and several guarantees to the full amount granted in favour of Gulf Bank Plc.
NDIC further stated that when the ship carrying the 10,000 metric tonnes of rice arrived Nigerian territorial waters on 28 December, 2000, it could not berth at Apapa Port until 3 January, 2001, because the port was congested. The ship arrived Port Harcourt territorial waters on 26 July, 2001, but refused to berth on the ground that the shipping agency fee of $155,000, (about N18.6 million) had not been paid.
Upon enquiry, Nigeria’s representative of the shipping company, Koda International Nigeria Limited, informed Gulf Bank Plc that a bill of $155,000, had been sent to the first defendant, Value Trust Investment Limited, for settlement as per the agreement between the investment company and the overseas supplier Luck Rice International. But NDIC stated that it had no knowledge of such agreement on the shipping fee.
The plaintiff stated further that Gulf Bank Plc upon further enquiry was informed by Koda International Nigeria Limited that the $155,000, was for port dues, that is, harbour, conservancy and anchorage fees, and after reviewing the Charter Party agreement between Value Trust Investment Ltd and Lucky Rice International under “Clause 28”, showed that liability for the payment of shipping fees was actually for Value Trust Investment Ltd, and when it appeared that the investment company could not come up with the $155,000 shipping agency fees, Gulf Bank decided to pay the fee to Koda International Nigeria Limited.
NDIC further averred that when Balyesa state government reneged on its promise to take the rice, Gulf Bank was forced to commence an open market sale of the rice, before the open market sale of the rice, some of the bags were damaged, culled or lost on board which consequently affected the amount realized from the sales. It stated that the total number of sound bags stood at 196,000; torn bags 2,941; caked or stained bags 869; public relations bags 105; and leap on board 85 bags.
At the end of the sales, Gulf Bank was only able to realize the sum of N454,574,150, in the account resulting in a difference of N70, 425, 850 between the initial overdrawn position of N525 million in Value Trust Investment Limited account, and the difference has been attracting interest since 2001.
Sometime in September 2005, it had a meeting with the defendants at the Ikoyi office of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to resolve the indebtedness of the defendants. It was agreed in its letter dated 21 September, 2005, to waive the sum of N196,642,996.08, from the outstanding debt of N240,811,060.59, thereby repayment due to Gulf Bank stood at N44,168,064.51 and sequel to the meeting at the EFCC office in September 2005, the defendants were only able to pay the sum of N10 million, leaving the outstanding balance unpaid in the sum of N34, 168, 064, 51.
. However, the defendants have refused, neglected and failed to liquidate their indebtedness despite repeated demand on same and despite the fact that the defendants have admitted owing the aforesaid debt, as this was evidenced in their letter dated 15 February, 2006.
Consequently, NDIC is claiming the sum of N34,168,064.51, being the agreed outstanding indebtedness of the defendants; and interest on the said sum at the rate of 21 percent per annum until the final liquidation of the said sum. It is also claiming the cost of instituting the legal action.
However, in an amended statement of defence and counter claim, Dr Okupe, while denying not owing Gulf Bank Plc is counter claiming the sum of N100million against NDIC and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as general damages for the wrongful detention, torture, gruelling frustration, health challenges he suffered and the exorbitant cost of his special meals in detention which EFCC could not provide.
Okupe alleged that the bank decided unilaterally without notice to sell the 10,000 metric tonnes of rice thereby preventing their company from repaying what was outstanding on its account. Consequently, the bank breached the contract as it did not allow the Government of Bayelsa state of Nigeria or its agent to sell the rice from which their company are now liable to NDIC or Gulf Bank in the sum of N34,168,064.51
Okupe further alleged that the letter purportedly written by Value Trust Investment Ltd was no agreement that the defendants were owing the bank N34,168,064.51 as the letter clearly stated that the indebtedness was being forced on the company due to pressure, detention and coercion by EFCC and his unjustifiable detention and torture by the officers of the anti-graft agency.
Consequently, he contended that the claim of the plaintiff is not only frivolous, but gold digging, vexatious and lack in merit and should be dismissed, while his counter-claim should be allowed by the court.
The presiding judge, Saliu Saidu has adjourned till 27 October, 2015 when legal hostility between the two parties will commence.
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