Commercial Law

Access bank approaches Supreme Court over Seplat N38.5bn debt

Dissatisfied with Friday’s decision of the Court of Appeal, Lagos, Access Bank Plc has filed a Notice of Appeal at the Supreme Court to challenge suspension of the interim order issued by a Federal High Court, Lagos, sealing the corporate offices of Seplat Petroleum Development Company (Seplat) in respect of loan procured by Cardinal Drilling Services Limited and utilized by Seplat.

Access Bank, through its lawyer, Kunle Ogunba SAN being dissatisfied with the decision delivered by the appellate court  said that the learned Justices erred in law when they suspended the interlocutory orders made by the trial Judge at the Federal High Court, thereby treating the substantive appeal at an interlocutory stage.

Justice Joseph Ikyegh while delivering a ruling on an application by the petroleum company for an order of the court suspending the interim order of the Federal High Court pending the determination of the appeal filed by Seplat, held that the balance of convenience favoured the petroleum company. Other Justices in the matter are Justice Umaru Abubakar Sadiq and Justice Bayero Abdullahi-Mahmud.

The appellate court held that Access Bank had nothing to lose if Seplat continued to discharge its obligation to its numerous clients even as it lifted the order stopping banks from fulfilling their obligations to Seplat under banks-customers relationship.

However, Access Bank in an affidavit deposed in support of the application, maintained that “by discharging the said interlocutory orders, the Lower Court had unwittingly (via a motion) determined the main Appeal which seeks to also discharge the interlocutory orders made by the trial court”.

The Bank noted that the learned justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they failed to dismiss the said application, same being an abuse of court process filed to interfere with the due administration of justice.

Therefore, the Bank in its appeal to the Supreme Court is seeking an order to set aside the judgment of the lower court delivered on January 22, 2021 as well as reinstating the interlocutory orders made by the trial court on December 24, 2020.

The Bank has also filed a Motion on Notice for an Order of Injunction pending Appeal at the Court of Appeal in order to restrain Seplat, together with Cardinal Drilling Services Ltd, Mr. Orjiako Ambrose Bryant, Kalu Nwosu, the baliffs, sheriffs and/or any other person acting through them from taking further step towards enforcing, executing or giving any effect to the ruling/order of the Court of Appeal delivered on 22nd day of January, 2021, pending the hearing and final determination of the appeal it has filed at the Supreme Court.

It would recalled that the trial judge, Hon. Justice Rilwan Aikawa had in the ruling delivered on December 24, 2020 in Access Bank Plc. V. Seplat Petroleum Development Company Ltd. granted injunctions that, among others, resulted in the sealing of Seplat’s corporate offices in Lagos over a N38.5bn loan that Cardinal Drilling Services Limited allegedly owed Access Bank.

The trial judge declined to discharge the orders of interim injunction made ex-parte against Seplat on November 23, 2020 as amended by the order made on November 30, 2020.

He proceeded to determine Access Bank’s application for interlocutory injunction and held that the court’s ruling on the said application had rendered Seplat’s application to discharge the Injunctions academic. He therefore proceeded to strike it out.

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