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A Federal high court sitting in Ikoyi,Lagos State, south west Nigeria has adjourned till 31st of March 2022 for hearing, the suit instituted against Heritage Bank of Nigeria by a Lagos Lawyer. Barrister Dada Awosika SAN,over alleged manipulation of his account.

  

Mr. Awosika SAN practices under a business name and style of D.A. Awosika & Partners and who maintain a current account with the bank, alleged thus: that Heritage Bank conscripted him to open the aforementioned account in order that the judgment sum arising from certain terms of settlement executed between his clients (Mr. Olajide Aleshiloye Williams/Otunba Segun Jawando) on one hand and the bank on the other hand in Suit No: LD/7313/2014 between Mr. Olajide Aleshiloye Williams/Otunba Segun Jawando vs. Beach Resorts Nigeria Plc/Heritage Bank Limited be paid into the said account.I

In opening the account the bank detailed one of its senior officials to be his account officer to assist in opening the said account and for proper endorsement and execution of the current account opening package which he properly endorsed leading to normal operation of the said account.

At all material times, he agreed with the bank to run and operate the said current account in line with good banking standard and employ the best ethical and professional manner consistent with global best practice. Further to the aforementioned paragraphs and in line with the consent judgment entered on the 12th of January 2016 between the Plaintiff’s client and the Bank, the bank paid a total sum of N250,000,000.00 into the Plaintiff’s stated account as judgment sum at various times in February, 2016, May 2016 and August 2016 for the benefit of the Plaintiff’s clients who were Claimants in Suit number

LD/7313/2014.

Surprisingly, in the narration contained in the statement of account of the Plaintiff, the bank manipulated the narration and discreetly described the payment as fees to the Plaintiff.

Mr. Awosika, SAN, avers that it was an implied term of the banker-customer relationship between parties herein and of the mandate submitted to the bank by him that the Bank would exercise reasonable skill and care in the running of his account and that at no time will the banking and financial records of the Plaintiff be furnished or made available to a third party except with his consent and/or in a normal execution of a valid and subsisting order of court.

However, in breach of the sacred mandate donated to the bank for the running of the Plaintiff’s account, the bank disclosed, furnished and passed over to the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) the Plaintiff’s financial and banking detail and this ultimately led FIRS to issue notice to the Plaintiff to remit unpaid taxes for 2016/2017 (as Company Income Tax and Value Added Tax (VAT)} directing the Plaintiff to pay the sum of N23,274,166.19 being turn over of N258,601,846.53 in custody of the bank.

The Plaintiff immediately responded to the FIRS letter and debunked the insinuation and misconceptions that the Plaintiff was operating as a limited liability company to pay Income Tax. Thereafter it came as a shock to the Plaintiff that the bank posted POST NO DEBIT on the Plaintiff account without any communication to the Plaintiff in compliance with a directive of FIRS.

Upon protest at the Bank’s premises at Adeola Odeku on the 6th of February, 2019, the bank informed the Plaintiff that the freezing order on the Plaintiff’s account was directed to be placed by FIRS as a result of banking and financial details submitted to FIRS by the Bank The Plaintiff made further protest to FIRS headquarters in Abuja, which later issued directive to the bank to remove the ‘Post No Debit’ and any other freezing orders, placed on the Plaintiff’s account since February 4, 2019. The bank placed this Post No Debit’ on the Plaintiff’s account without any order of court and also the bank furnished the Plaintiff’s banking and financial records to FIRS without order of court or consent of the Plaintiff.

 

The Plaintiff alleged further that he made several transfers and cash deposits into his firm’s account with the bank, When the bank thereafter sent notifications of receipt of this transfers and cash deposits, the Plaintiff discovered that the bank had surreptitiously applied a debit of over N23 Million into the Plaintiff’s firm’s account without notice of such activity to the Plaintiff.

The Plaintiff further avers that the bank appropriated, converted and utilized the entire credit balance in the Plaintiff’s firm’s account as well as all transfers and cash deposits made into the said account in purported satisfaction of repayment obligations in regard to a purported phony debt allegedly outstanding and payable to the bank.

On Wednesday the 20th of November, 2019, the Plaintiff visited the Defendant’s Ashabi Cole branch, Agidingbi, Ikeja being the nearest branch to the Plaintiff’s office to vehemently protest the fraudulent manipulation of his firm’s account but was informed by the manager on duty that the branch could not help him as there was no complaint resolution mechanism available to resolve the issue in that branch.

However, the manager of Ashabi Cole branch of the bank confirmed the debit of over N23Million lumped into the Plaintiff’s firm’s account and advised that the Plaintiff write the bank detailing his complaint to the bank’s Managing Director for expeditious resolution.

The Plaintiff avers that the bank sent his firm’s account’s November, 2019 statement to him on the 2nd of December 2019 and it came as a shock to the Plaintiff that the bank hid or covertly suppressed the debit of over N23Million in the said Plaintiff’s account.

Sequel to this, the Plaintiff made further cash transfers to his account on the 2nd and 7th December, 2019, and surprisingly, when notifications were sent to the Plaintiff, those cash deposits were illegally and wrongfully applied by the bank to a non-existent repayment obligation of the N23Million

cooked up by the bank into the Plaintiff’s firm account.

In a bid to get to the bottom of the fraudulent manipulation of the Plaintiff’s account, the Plaintiff wrote the bank in his letter of December 2, 2019 received the same day to demand for the immediate removal of over N23 Million illegally debited and posted into the Plaintiff’s firm account.

The Plaintiff avers that the bank fraudulently manipulated the Plaintiff’s firm account and posted a bogus debit of over N23Million into the said account without the Plaintiff’s consent and no information was made available to the Plaintiff regarding this illegal and phony debit and there was no court order directing that this debit of over N23 million be posted into the Plaintiff’s account.

 

In the statement of particulars of fraud,the Plaintiff stated that: He has no subsisting repayment obligation arising from any overdraft or transaction involving the use of depositors’ funds at the instance of the Plaintiff to warrant any repayment obligation.

The bank appropriated the credit balance in the Plaintiff’s account in excess of N76,000. in satisfaction of a sham and bogus debit of over N23 Million Naira.

All cash deposits and transfers made into the Plaintiff’s firm’s account were utilized, converted and appropriated by the bank without seeking the Plaintiff’s consent and without an order of court to that effect.

The bank discreetly narrated judgment sum payment to the Plaintiff’s clients as fees paid to the Plaintiff when in fact there were no

narration of services rendered by the Plaintiff to the bank to justify such.

The Defendant disguised the payment of N250 Million to the Plaintiff’s clients as fees to the Plaintiff to avoid payment of VAT and Witholding tax to the relevant government agencies.

The bank operated the Plaintiff’s account outside the standard of good banking practice and that the bank conducted its banking business outside the ethical and professional manner consistent with global best practice;

The bank did not bring to the Plaintiff’s attention the origin/source of the bogus and illegal debit of over N23Million posted to the Plaintiff’s account as against the standard practice for a banking outfit to bring to the attention of their customers any form of activity or information concerning their accounts.

The bank breached the duty to exercise reasonable skill and care as well as that of confidentiality in the running of the Plaintiff’s account.

He did not at any time apply for and utilize any overdraft facility, nor did he apply for credit facility from the bank to justify any set off or appropriation of the Plaintiff’s credit balance or cash deposits made into the Plaintiff’s account.

The Plaintiff shall rely on several Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN)’s circulars and regulations as well as code of conduct in the Nigerian Banking Industry signed to by the bank to prove various violations against the bank espoused above.

The Plaintiff has suffered loss and damage as a result of the fraudulent manipulation of his firm’s account, depriving him access to his much needed funds in the said account and for several violations by the bank of crucial banking ethics and standard.

Consequently the Plaintiff’s claims against the Heritage bank are as follows:

A declaration that the bank was not entitled in law to appropriate and convert to its own use the credit balance of N76,000.00 and several other cash deposits made into the Plaintiff’s firm’s account at various times in purported satisfaction of a non existing debt obligation allegedly owed to the bank by the Plaintiff thus breaching the fiduciary duty and duty of care owed the Plaintiff in the running and operation of the said Plaintiff’s account.

A declaration that the bank fraudulently manipulated the Plaintiff’s firm’s account by surreptitiously hiding, disguising and posting a bogus debt of over N23Million into the Plaintiff ‘s said account and the bank illegally coverted,appropriated and utilized all the credit balance and several other cash deposited into into the Plaintiff’s debit and of said account utilized in purported satisfaction of a non existing debt.

A declaration that the bank failed to exercise reasonable skill and care in carrying out its banking business in relation to the Plaintiff’s firm’s account, when the bank illegally debited the Plaintiff’s account with the sum of over N23Million without any order of court and most importantly when the Plaintiff did not utilize any overdraft nor have any collateral transactional agreement for over draft or trade finance facility on the said account

 

An order of the Court directing the bank to forthwith expunge and reverse the bogus illegal debit of the sum of N23Million applied to the Plaintiff’s firm’s account and also immediately credit the Plaintiff’s account with all sums already appropriated, converted and utilized by the bank with interest at Central Bank Premises (CBN) prime lending rate of 25%

An order of the Court directing the bank to pay the sum of N650Million as general, aggravated, fraudulently manipulating, appropriating and converting the credit balance and other cash deposits made into the Plaintiff’s account and for the bank’s failure to exercise reasonable skill and care in the running of the Plaintiff’s account and for the breach of fiduciary duty and confidentiality.

Cost of this action as the Court may deem fit to order.

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Police launch manhunt for Sterling Bank staff for Stealing customers’ N300m

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The Delta State Police Command on Sunday says it has begun search for a female staff of Sterling Bank in Effurun Branch, Delta State for allegedly disappearing with customers’ money to the tune of N300 milion.

 

Police Public Relations Officer in the State, DSP Bright Edafe who confirmed this to our correspondent, said that the suspect, a female staff (name withheld) allegedly defrauded customers of the bank she works in the sum of N300million, adding that the police were seriously looking for her.

 

DSP Bright Edafe said that the female banker was said to have approached some account owners to grant her permission to be using their money for business while she would be giving the customers certain percentage every month, adding that this was not to be as it was discovered last week by one of the customers that the woman stopped coming to work and an attempt to reach her on phone was unsuccessful as her lines were switched off.

 

It was gathered that on getting to her house around Living Faith Church at Water Resources, Effurun where she lived, it was alleged that she had also absconded as one of her colleagues said that the female banker did business with customers’ money with their consent while it backfired when many people she gave money to refused to pay back, a situation that had kept her hiding from the people.

 

Edafe said that the police will do everything possible to arrest her, disclosing that her co-workers denied her whereabouts when the incident happened upon police investigation, adding that there has been palpable tension laced with threats to sack her co-workers who assisted her to ensure that she was allowed to be using the funds when they pleaded with the owners of the money.

 

He also revealed that her husband had been invited for questioning.

 

Kontongs Bello, Police Public Relations Officer, who confirmed this to journalists, said that the suspect is wanted for many cases that bothered on robbery, stealing among others, adding that the police will do everything possible to smoke him from his hideout.

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Oriental Energy in 4m Dollar Debt Mess

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The Federal high court sitting in Lagos, south west Nigeria has adjourned till 28 of September,2022, when hearing will commence in a case of debt recovery of USD4,143,856.70 filed against Oriental Energy Resources Company by Borr International Operation drilling company,being an alleged outstanding approved and unpaid invoices for the drilling services rendered in accordance with Contract for the provision of Jack-Up Drilling Unit and Drilling Rig Services rendered in the Defendant’s Ebok Field in OML 67.

 

 

The drilling company in a suit filed by its lawyer, Barrister,Gabriel Uduafi is also praying the court for interest on US$ 4,143,856.70 million based on the current London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), one month interest rate increased by 5 percent and calculated pro data on a daily basis from 6th October, 2021, till the date of liquidation of the judgement debt.

 

In its statement of claim, the Plaintiff stated that by the relevant provisions of the contract, the Drilling Operations, which the Plaintiff was engaged to carry out was required to be done within the Firm Term of 120 days.

 

It stated that going by the relevant provisions of the Contract, there was no fixed-or set target that the Plaintiff was obligated to achieve, as the Contract was not a turnkey but a day rate’ contract; and to this effect, Clauses and Schedule of the Contract explicitly set out the various rates to include Operating Rate, Standby Rate, Repair Rate, . Force Majeure Rate, Redrill Rate, Moving Rate and Zero Kate.

 

The plaintiff stated that the Lump Sum payments under the contract are the Mobilization cost of $450,000 and the

Demobilization cost of $250,000, a sum Which become due and payable upon the completion of the contract.

 

However,following the default in making payment as stipulated under the Contract, the plaintiff wrote to the Defendant both by mail and letters, demanding for the payment of the outstanding and approved invoices and that the Defendant wrote replies raising issues and points that are completely alien to the Contract as its reason for not making the payment.

 

The Plaintiff contended that in setting up a completely ridiculous claim, the Defendant claimed spread cost for nonproductive time (NPT) in the total sum of US$3,437,500.00 where there is no provision in the Contract to support such claim.

 

The Plaintiff added that following series of engagement , it was compelled to instruct its lawyers to issue a demand for the payment of the invoices, and by a letter dated 19th January, 2022 the Plaintiffs Solicitors delivered a formal demand for the payment of some of the outstanding invoices in the sum of US$2,533,749.12 net of taxes.

 

Rather than simply honour its payment obligation under the Contract and credit the Plaintiff with the value of the invoices, the Defendant caused its Solicitors to reply the Plaintiff’s formal demand by the letter dated 26th January, 2022 by which the Defendant now seeks to claim the sum of $10,511,754.00 as spread cost for non-productive time (NPT) and consequential loss, as against the sum of US$3,437,500.00 initially set up by the Defendant in its earlier engagement with the Plaintiff.

 

The plaintiff added that in accordance with the provisions of the Contract, the same came to completion on 10th October, 2021 when the Plaintiff’s Drilling Unit left the Defendant’s Ebok Field OML 67.

 

Plaintiff avers that by the Completion Date, the lump sum Demobilization Rate of US$250,000 became due and payable.

The reasons given by the Defendant in refusing to honour its payment obligation under the Contract are flimsy, frivolous, vexatious and ultra vires, the provisions of the Contract between the Parties, and having approved the invoices, the defendant is obligated to make the payment within the stipulated 30 days under the Contract.

Consequently,excuses given by the Defendant in failing to honour its contractual obligations to the Plaintiff are simply provocative, as same are not supported or derived from the Contract.

The Plaintiff is being denied of the payment due to it in respect of the services rendered to the Defendant

as a result of which the Defendant is indebted to the Plaintiff to the tune of US$4,143,856.70 as stipulated under Clause 11.2 of the Contract.

It will be in the interest of justice to grant all the reliefs claimed in this suit adding that except the Court intervenes and grant the reliefs sought, the Defendant will continue to default in the payment of the invoices which have been duly approved for payment by the Plaintiff.

In its defence, Oriental Energy Resources Limited stated that the company is not indebted to the Plaintiff in the manner alleged in it’s claim or in any manner whatsoever as the invoices upon which the alleged debt purportedly arose are disputed by the defendant.

 

The Defendant stated that the Plaintiff misled it into agreeing to the mobilisation of the drilling rig to commence the contract, by fraudulently misrepresenting to the Defendant that its drilling rig, Borr Natt, was suitable for the Defendant’s Drilling Programme.

 

In an affidavit deposed to by Abraham Faga, a Well Engineering Manager in the Defendant company, he stated that the Defendant is not indebted to the Plaintiff in the way and manner alleged in its claim or in any way and manner whatsoever as the Defendant is disputing the invoices upon which the purported debt arose.

 

He averred that without the Plaintiff’s fraudulent misrepresentations, the Defendant would never have commenced the contract and approved mobilisation of the drilling unit, hence the issue of Plaintiff’s invoices which were issued within the contract would never have arisen.

 

He added that the Defendant would, be claiming for a refund of all payments it has so far made to the Plaintiff as the payments were fraudulently obtained.

 

He claimed that due to the Plaintiff’s fraudulent misrepresentation, the purported execution of the contract was completely appalling with non-productive time of over 25 days attributed to rig related repairs which is unprecedented in the industry for drilling operations.

 

He stated that the Plaintiff hastily commenced this suit under undefended list to mislead the court into believing that the Defendant has no defence to its claims.

 

The deponent further stated that Justice will be better served if the Defendant is allowed to defend the suit.

 

He urged the court to transfer the suit to Ordinary Cause List for a complete and holistic determination of all issues in controversy.

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