Judge’s illness stalls trial in bank’s suit against Stella Oduah
A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Thursday, further adjourned till October 19, hearing in a suit filed by Sterling Bank against a former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah, over alleged indebtedness.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the bank alleged that Oduah and her company, Sea Petroleum and Gas Company Limited, were indebted to it to the tune of $16.4 million and N100.5 million.
The suit, which was earlier adjourned for hearing pending applications, was on Thursday, further fixed for October 19 due to the health condition of the trial judge, Justice Ayokunle Faji.
Faji told counsels present in court that he would only be able to take cases for arraignment and rulings, while a new date would be issued for other cases.
The suit was, therefore, fixed for October 19.
The suit was initially pending before Justice Abdulaziz Anka of the same court, but was eventually reassigned to Justice Faji to begin afresh.
In March, Justice Anka issued an order restraining Oduah and her companies from making any withdrawal from its account and those of three other companies domiciled with 21 banks in the country.
The other companies include: Sea Shipping Agency Limited, Rotary Engineering Services Limited, and Tour Afrique Company Limited.
The court had also issued an order directing the said commercial banks harbouring the assets of Oduah and the four companies to sequestrate their indebtedness as at November 2016.
The court further ordered that the money be kept in an interest-yielding account in the name of the chief registrar of the federal court, pending the determination of the suit.
In an affidavit in support of the suit deposed to by a staff member of Sterling Bank, Mr Segun Akinsanya, the bank averred that on October 8, 2012, it granted a lease/Cabotage Vessel Finance Facility (CVFF) to Sea Petroleum and Gas Company.
He said that the facility was in the said sums to finance one unit 5,000 MT tanker vessel.
He also averred that the loan was secured by an unconditional personal guarantee of the companies’ Director, Princess Stella Oduah.
Akinsanya also averred that same was supported by a statement of her net worth, legal mortgage of two properties worth N135 billion, and a power of Attorney of the tanker vessel in favour of Sterling Bank.
He averred that also in support was a fully executed standing payment order and tripartite remittance agreement between it and Oduah.
It was further averred that on June 27, 2013, Sea Petroleum Company requested and was granted additional facilities in the sum of about $450,000 for post-delivery expenses.
Also, he averred that upon the persistent failure of the defendants to liquidate their indebtedness, Sterling Bank instructed its counsels to recover the debt.
He said that in spite of several reminders and demands, the defendant failed and refused to liquidate their indebtedness which had culminated to $16.4 million and about N100.5 million as of November 2016.
He averred that there was imminent risk of the defendants dissipating the assets of the companies and had urged the court to issue a restraining order.
Meanwhile, Oduah and her companies urged the court to discharge the order made against them.
They had also filed a preliminary objection to the suit urging the court to strike it out for lack of jurisdiction.