A federal high court sitting in Lagos south west Nigeria today adjourned till 30th May, 2017, for hearing all pending applications in a debt recovery suit filed against Senator Stella Oduah by Sterling bank Plc. The bank is alleging that, the Senator and her company Sea Petroleum and Gas company are owing it the sum of :$16,412,819.06 and N100,493,225,59
When the matter was mentioned today, a lawyer Mrs Ijeoma Esom, representing sea Petroleum company, told the court that she has not been served with a copy of the petition, though she has filed a preliminary objection to the suit, while the counsel representing Stella Oduah, Mr A. Nweke who also claimed he had not been served, told the court that he had filed an application urging the court to discharge the order of the court freezing the account of the defendants.
However, the counsel, representing Sterling bank, Barrister Kemi Balogun SAN, leading another senior Advocate of Nigeria, Funke Aboyade and nine other lawyers, told the court that the order of the court was advertised in two National daily newspapers, thereafter he showed the court copies of the newspapers, he also corroborated his position by showing the court, the proof of service by the bailiff of the court.
However the lawyers of the defendants urged the court to grant them extensions of time for them to file their responses to the petition.
The matter was initially pending before justice Abdulaziz Anka, before it was transferred before, the current judge, A. O. Faji
It would be recalled that about two months ago the court restrained Senator Stella Ada Oduah and Sea Petroleum and Gas Company Limited and his directors from making any withdrawal whatsoever from the account of the company and three other Limited Liability companies, Sea Shipping Agency Limited, Rotary Engineering Services Limited, and Tour Afrique Company Limited domicile with 21 commercial banks listed before the court over indebtedness of $16,412,819.06 and N100,493,225.59.
The court also granted an order directing the said commercial banks having Stella Oduah and the four companies’ asset to sequestrate up to the indebtedness of Stella Oduah and Sea petroleum and Gas Company Limited in the sum of $16,412,819.06 and N100,493,225.59 respectively owed by Stella Oduah and Sea Petroleum and Gas company as at November 2016 and keep same in an interest yielding account in the name of the chief Registrar of the Federal court pending the determination of the suit filed before the court to recover the debt.
The order of the court was sequel to an affidavit sworn to by business manager, Maritime of Sterling bank Plc Mr Segun Akinsanya, filed and argued before the court by a Lagos lawyer Barrister Kemi Balogun (SAN).
Akinsanya in the affidavit 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 5,000MTtanker vessel..
The loan was secured by unconditional personal guarantee of the companies director,Princess Stella Oduah supported by statement of her networth, legal mortgage of two properties worth N135million, power of Attorneys of the tanker vessel in favour of Sterling Bank and fully executed irrevocable standing payment order and tripartite remittance agreement between First Bank plc, Sterling Bank and Stella 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 expences, $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.
Upon the persistent failure of the defendants to liquidate their indebtedness Sterling Bank instructed the law firm of Oluwakemi BALOGUN to recover the debt.
Despite several reminders, demands, pleas and persuasion emanated from the bank and it’s solicitor the defendants have failed and refused to liquidate their indebtedness which has culminated in the sum of $16,412,819.06.and N100,493,225.59 as at 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 who have stepped into the shoes of those banks,therefore there is imminent risk of the defendants dissipating the assets of the companies therefore urged the court to grant the order restraining Stella Oduah and other directors of Sea Petroleum and Gas company from withdrawing money from the account of the companies domicile with 21 banks listed before the court, pending the final determination of the debt recovery suit.
Meanwhile, based on ex-parte application filed and argued before the court by Mr Kemi Balogun, SAN that it has been difficult to serve court process and order on the defendants,the then presiding judge,justice Abdulaziz Anka ordered that court process should be advertised in two Newspapers.