Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A private school in Abuja, WhitePlains British School, has asked the Federal High Court to stop First Bank of Nigeria limited from taking over the administration of the school.
In addition, the school was pressing for an order directing the bank to remove all the fences it had raised blocking all gates and foot entrances to the school premises.
In the suit filed at the Federal High Court by White Plains British School and France Lee through their counsel Chukwuma -Machukwu Ume (SAN), further prayed the court to restrained the bank and Mr. Bola Olotu from obstructing or showing physical presence in the school pending the determination of the appeal process pending at the Court of Appeal.
The suit was brought pursuant to order 26, rules 19 and 21, order 40, rule 2(1) of the High Court (civil procedure) rules 2009.
In a further and better affidavit of urgency filed in support of the motion, the dependent, Genevieve Okereke, averred that the respondents embarked on the illegal action two weeks ago while forcefully attempting to take over the school under the guise of staged loan default.
She told the court that First bank officials, Mr. Bola Olotu ( Receiver), some armed police officers and masons on Sunday , July 8, 2018 chased out staff of the elites school worth over N6bn from the school premises in Jabi district of Abuja.
According to the affidavit, the respondents went to work and sealed the two entrances and two foot paths with blocks while trying to enforce a N630m loan default judgment which the school claimed was obtained through a forged document.
The school told the court that the Tripartite Legal Mortgage which the bank used in misleading the court to grant their prayers was forged as the school never entered a tripartite agreement with the bank.
The school which won the prize for national and the United Nations awards in 2012 as the best private school in Nigeria and Africa respectively, also stated that the bank never served them with any court processes.
That the bank came to the school premises on Sunday illegally with unapproved armed police officers and side tracked a court order and forcefully sealed the school.
They further stated that the bank breached the court orders made by Hon. Justice B.F.M Nyako on November 18, 2016 to the effect that Mr. Bola Olotu who is duly appointed Receiver “can perform all the duties stated therein without being visible in the administration of the school so as not to traumatize the students.”
They also averred that the court order only allowed Mr. Olotu (Receiver) to take over finance activity of the school and work out a “sharing formula so that the school remains open and operational with teachers and staff salaries paid,” and that only monies relating to the facility should be lodged with the First bank account.
In addition that the First bank should enable the school access to the properties used as collateral for Guaranty Trust Bank loan so that they can sell same off to enable them repay the loan with them.
The school alleged ulterior motive on the part of bank officials, wondering why Mr. Olotu “(Receiver) of 2nd applicant ( France Lee ), unlawfully went to 1st applicant (White Plains British School) to take over.”
According to documents in court, the school authority stated that some time in 2013 First bank wrote and asked the school to open banking relationship with it so that the bank can grant it N390m loan facility to off set a loan which Guaranty Trust Bank granted the school earlier.
The school accepted the offer and the sum was given to the school. After some months the bank wrote another letter advancing N100m loan for the completion of the School blocks. It later gave the School another loan of N200m to meet its running cost but as soon as the account was credited the bank instantly deducted N188.6 million “as larger than life perfection charge.”
he school authority claimed that the unlawful N188.6m was a designs trap by the bank to stifle its operation as there was no fund to pay salaries and buy essential needs of the school and thus put the school in position of inability to service the loan.
They said that the First bank suddenly went to court and, introduced and used forged document to obtain judgment in the suit they filed against the school.
“The forged document is the so- called Tripartite Legal Mortgage, purportedly executed several months after the loan was granted and by party long dead before the date of the purported signing.”
The school averred that it has lodged an appeal marked CA/ A/ 239/ M/ 2017 at the Court of Appeal against the judgment and It has also petition the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the forgery since 2017 but no response.
Beside, the school further claimed that the First bank filed its action in court without claiming any specific amount owed by it, but targeted grabbing the school. According to the school “the Respondents are eager, more interested and bent on covetously selling the school to themselves through their cronies.”