Oil Firm Sues Senior Lawyer, 3 Others Over Alleged Unlawful Eviction, Demands $8.2m USD, N81,040m

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An oil company, ASCON Oil Company Limited, has instituted a suit before a Lagos Federal High Court, against a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Wale Akoni, and three others, over alleged unlawfully eviction from its property, located at Block 36, Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos State.

ASCON accused Akoni (SAN) and others of committing the alleged infraction without a subsisting court order, at the dead hour of May 15, 2021,

Joined as Akoni’s co-respondents in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/61/2021 are; Rain Oil Limited; Stannic/IBTC Bank Plc and Inspector-General of Police (IGP).

ASCON in its originating summons filed before Justice Lewis Allagoa, is seeking an order directing and compelling the Akoni (SAN) to hand over the assets and facilities of the Petrol filling Station located at 34, Admiralty Way, Lekki Peninsula Scheme 1, Et-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State for the term of the lease agreement to the Plaintiff.

In the alternative, the oil company is asking for an order directing and compelling Akoni (SAN) to pay the sum of $8. 2 million USD, obtained by the defendant from it for the purpose of discharging the trading facility of $8 million USD, obtained from Stanbic-IBTC Bank Plc using its Petrol station at 36, Admiralty Way, Lekki Peninsula Scheme 1, E-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, as collateral by the deposit of the title deed of the Petrol Station.

“An order stating that the plaintiffs are in the eyes of the law still in possession of the filling station at Block 36 Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1 from August 5, 2020 till date.

“An order directing the first to third defendants jointly and severally to pay to the sum of N1.4 million daily, from August 6, 2020 till possession is restored to the plaintiff, being the average daily sales and receipts from the filling station

“An order awarding damages against the fourth defendant in the sum ot N40 million, for his unconstitutional, unlawful and brazen invasion of the plaintiff’s property at Block 36, Admiralty Way Lekki Phase 1 at about 1200am and the eviction of the plaintiff and statf therefrom

“An order awarding damages of N20 million, against the first defendant, for breach of his statutory duties in relation to the plaintiff and his unlawful Invasion of the Plaintiff’s property and eviction therefrom with the active collusion and support of the 4th defendant.

“Awarding damages of N20 million against the first defendant (Akoni SAN) for his breach of his Statutory rights in relation to the plaintiff and his unlawful invasion of the plaintiff’s property and eviction therefrom with the active collusion and support of the fourth defendant.

“An order directing the first defendant to furnish the plaintiff with the statement of affairs of the filling station when he took over, an abstract of all monies received by him in respect of the petrol station winle in possession of same, evidence of the sale of the petrol station to the 2nd defendant.

“An order directing the third defendant to immediately deliver to the plaintiff the statement of account of the plaintiffs account with it from the date of draw down of the two faciht es till date of the nuling in this matter,

“An order restraining the defendants jointly and severally from harassing, intimidating, arresting or causing the arrest of the Plaintiff and/or its staff in respect of all issues relating to their ownership and possession of the filling station at 36 Admiralty Way, lekki Phase 1 Lagos forthwith.”

ASCON in an affidavit in support of the originating Summon deposed to by it’s lawyer, Augustine Ezenwankwo, stated that the first defendant (Mr. Wale Akoni SAN) applied for and was granted an Exparte order dated May 15, 2020, but Honourable Justice Liman in Suit numbered FHC/L/CS/567/20. And that in purportedly executing the the order, the first defendant evicted the Plaintiff from the filing station at Block 36, Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, took possess on thereof and immediately handed over the filling station to Rainoil Limited, the second defendant.

The deponent stated that Wale Akoni (SAN) had not given prior information of his appointment to the plaintiff nor did he obtain a statement of affairs while taking over the filling station or file an abstract of receivables including the price of sale of the filling station to the second defendant, nor did it file a moton on notice with the ex-parte application.

The deponent also stated that neither the first or third defendant has disclosed the amount of the sale the document purporting to evidence the sale or a statement of account to the plaintif till date. Adding that the Plaintiff had went to court and by order dated July 24, 2020, by the Hon. Justice Liman in varying the earlier order agreed that the first defendant ought to have given the plaintiff notice of motion and therefore discharged the order of injuncton restraining the plaintiff and or its directors and staff from interfering with the activities of his as Receiver.

The deponent further stated that the Plaintiff then appealed against the order of appointment of the first defendant and applied to be returned to possession, which was done by court officials. And that the plaintff was restored to possession and parties had several meetings with with fourth defendant which were none-conclusive. However, one night, Police offcers and men numbering over 30 with the first defendant’s staff entered the filling station at about 12 00am hours, beat up and arrested several of the plaintiff’s staff and its directors and forcibly handed over the filling station to the 2nd defendant, including a flash drive containing the recording of the incident. This he stated was done inspite of being served a moton to stay execution of the order.

He stated that the first defendant’s take over and eviction described above was done in the dead of the night without any Sheriff or baliff of the court and without lawful court order. Adding that that the filing station in question made an average income of N1. 4 million daily, this he said was made known to him by the Plaintiff’s Managing director, Mr. Goke Benjamin Dele, during a meeting on November 7, 2020 at about 18 00 hours.

He averred that by the illegal eviction carried out by the defendants, the plaintiff has been denied this income, and the defendants’ acts have caused the plaintiff loss of Income, loss of goodwill and embarrasament. And that at no time during the hearing leading up to the Exparte ruling exhibited in this matter was the fact of sale of the filling station to the second defendant disclosed to the court.

However, Mr. Wale Akoni (SAN) and Stannic-IBTC, the first and third defendants, in their preliminary objection to the suit, prayed the Court for an order dismissing the Plaintiff/Reapondent’s suit in its entirety, for being incompetent and an abuse of court process.

Both Akoni (SAN) and Stanbic-IBTC in an affidavit in support of their preliminary objection deposed to by a lawyer, Omotosho Ibrahim, stated that pursuant to the banking relationship between the Plaintiff and the third defendant, the third respondent was granted a facility via an offer letter dated 27th, April 2016, in the sum of N1, 927, 578, 513. 28 billion, and the said Facilty was secured by the Respondent’s properties listed in the offer letter.

He stated that the applicant/Respondent defaulted on the repayment of the facility and at its request, the third defendant agreed to grant it an additional trade facility to enable it trade and meet up with its monthly repayment obligation. The additional facilities were covered by the offer letter of February 21, 2017 and same was secured by several properties belonging to the Respondent/ personal guarantees of its directors at the time, Deed of Legal Mortgage dated June 5, 2019 among others. Nevertheless, the applicant/respondent refused, failed, and neglected to repay the facilities advanced to it despite repeated demands by the third Defendant.

The deponent averred that due to applicant/respondent’s failure to pay it’s debt, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria instituted several suits such as; Suit No.FHC/CS/567/2020 -Olawale Akoni SAN v Ascon Oil Company Limited; CA/LAG/CV/753/2020 -Ascon Oil Company Limited vs Olawale Akoni SAN & Another; LD/6965GCM/2020 -Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc v, Ascon Oil Company Limited pending before the High Court of Lagos; FHC/L/CS/618/2020 Ascon Oil Company Limited v. Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc; FHC/L/CS/629/2020 Mrs, Grace Enenmoh & Ors Vs. Stanbic IBIC Bank Plc & Another and several others.

The deponent stated that due to the applicant/Respondent’s outstanding indebtedness to the third defendant, the 3rd Defendant/Applicant exercised its right under Paragraph 6 of the Deed of Legal Mortgage dated June 5, 2019, appointed the 1st Defendant/Applicant as a receiver over one of the applicant/respondent’s properties situate and known as the Ascon Oil Petrol site at 36, Admiralty way, Lekki Peninsula Scheme 2, Eti-Osa Local Goverment Area, Lagos State.

He stated that in a bid to smoothly exercise his powers as a Receiver over the property, the first defendant/applicant applied for and obtained orders of this Court dated May 15, 2020, in Suit No FHC/L/CS/567/2020 – Olawale Akoni SAN v Ascon Oil Company Limited to wit mandatory order of police protection to enable him perform his duty as receiver and a restraining order preventing the Respondent and its assigns, privies etc from interfermg with the exercise of the first defendant’s power as Receiver.

He further stated that the first defendant, accompanied by the Court’s sheriffs and Police Officers, took possession of the Property, handed same over to the third defendant/applicant and the third defendant/applicant subsequently sold it to the second defendant for N1,530 billion.

He stated that following the execution of the order of May 15, 2020 and the consequent takeover of the property, the applicant/respondent, aggrieved by the orders, applied to the Honourable Court via a Motion on Notice dated May 27, 2020 seeking “order to set aside and or vacate the Exparte order made on May 15, 2020, by reason of lack of jurisdiction, suppression, non-disclosure and material misrepresentation of facts.

“An order of reversing, set aside, nullifying and or suspending the steps taken. pursuant to the Ex parte Orders made by this Honourable Court on May 15, 2020, including, but not limited to the seizure of possession of the real property known as Ascon oil Filling Station located at Block 36, Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lekki, Lagos”.

He stated that Justice A.M. Liman, upon hearing the applicant/respondent’s application, and in his ruling of July 24,  2020, the court refused to set aside its mandatory order directing the Police to provide protection to the first defendant in the exercise of his powers as a Receiver, the court also refused to reverse, set aside, nullify and/or suspend the actions and steps already taken by the first defendant/applicant pursuant to the said order of May 15, 2020 (including the take over of the property, the transfer to the first to third defendant/applicant and the eventual sale of the property to the second defendant.

He stated that the instant suit as filed by the applicant/respondent constitutes an abuse of the Judicial process of the court, considering the several suits pending before different courts (trial and appellate) regarding the subject matter of this suit. He therefore urged the court to dismiss the suit for being abuse of court process and lack of Jurisdiction

Meanwhile, attempt by ASCON Oil Company Limited through its counsel, Augustine Ezenwankwo, to withdraw the suit when it’s came up for hearing on Monday, was vehemently opposed by the second defendant’s counsel, Kolawole B., who told the court that ASCON’s application was brought in bad faith.

Kolawole also told the court that the motion to withdraw the suit was served on him in open court and needed time to respond. And that the plaintiff resulted to self-help and it was in debt to the bank.

He therefore asked the court for a short date to file a counter to the Plaintiff’s motion to withdraw.

But counsel to Akoni (SAN) and Stanbic-IBTC, Charles Adekunle, did not opposed to the Plaintiff’s motion.

Meanwhile, Justice Allagoa, while adjourning the matter till November 29, for hearing, ordered parties in the suit to file addresses on the issues raised sumoto by the court on whether can raise objection to withdrawal of suit.

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