$101m ‘bankruptcy’: Court advises parties to explore settlement

A  Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, Monday advised parties to explore settlement in an alleged bankruptcy suit by Access Bank against a businessman, Dr. Ambrose “ABC” Orjiakor, and firms connected to him.

Access Bank filed the suit marked FHC/L/BK/08/2023, following the alleged inability of Dr. Orjiakor to pay the $101 million he allegedly owes the bank.

Respondents in the suit are Seplat Energy Plc; Helko Nigeria Limited, Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc; Salvic Petroleum Resources Limited; Zebbra Energy Limited; Ordrec Group Limited; Helko Marine Services Limited; Berwick Nigeria Limited; Abbeycourt Petroleum Company Limited; Abbeycourt Energy Services Limited; Abbeycourt Company Limited and Pursley Resources Limited.

The case, formerly before Justice Nicholas Oweibo, is now being heard by Justice Isaac Dipeolu following Justice Oweibo’s transfer out of the jurisdiction.

At the resumed hearing,  Kunle Ogunba, SAN led a team on behalf of the Creditor (the bank), Anthony Idigbe, SAN, led a team on behalf of the Debtor, Nwosu, led a team on behalf of 1st respondent, T. Ipaye appeared for the 2nd-4th and 7th-12th respondents, A.C Onuoha appeared for the 5th and 6th respondents, Oluwakemi Balogun, SAN, led a team on behalf of Zenith Bank Plc (party affected by order of court), while E. Akaeuduvo led a team on behalf Providus bank (Interested Party).

Idigbe argued the alleged debtor’s motion dated August 14, 2023, (and its further affidavit) challenging the Jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.

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He was opposed by Ogunba via a counter affidavit, following which Ogunba argued a motion dated 19th September 2023, seeking to relieve the Creditor of any non-compliance with the Bankruptcy Act.

After protracted arguments and submissions by counsel, the court urged parties to explore settlement noting the peculiar circumstance of this case.

Responding, Balogun thanked the court for encouraging parties to settle and applied for the court to make an interim order directing parties to meet with all Creditors (including Zenith Bank) to enable amicable resolution of the matter, and to also adjourn to a longer date to enable parties to explore settlement before the next adjourned date.

Ogunba informed the court that the creditor was not opposed to settlement. He prayed the court to adjourn for a month for parties to return with a settlement report.

The SAN then paid tribute to the late Access Bank CEO, Herbert Wigwe, saying the death was “personally painful” adding that he personally attended the day’s proceedings to foster his legacy.

Idigbe and Balogun also paid their respects.

But Justice Dipeolu said the court was not minded to make the said order prayed Balogun, noting that he would not want to make an order that may affect the substantive suit at an interlocutory stage.

He adjourned till April 16, 2024, for report of settlement.

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