Six years after the demise of late businessman and philanthropist, Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola-Alao, respite seems to be coming the way of his family concerning the lingering debt crises and squabbles around his estate. Aare, as Arisekola was fondly called, died in his sleep in his London, United Kingdom home on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 and was buried in his expansive Bashorun, Ibadan home on Friday, June 20, 2014. Ever since, most of his businesses and properties have been in tatters.
Arisekola, before his death, was arguably one of the wealthiest men in Nigeria. He had his hand in many pies, including food production, real estate, oil and gas, banking, insurance, transport and publishing under the Lister conglomerate. His name spread beyond the shores of Africa, and he was one of the few Nigerian businessmen who rubbed shoulders with other top business moguls around the world. But few weeks into his death, his family had not found things easy, as they had been enmeshed in a legal issue over some debts the first Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland had incurred.
Spotlight gathered that peace might soon return to the family as the Federal High Court, Lagos recently adjourned till February 17, 2020 for hearing on another term of settlement in a N10.7 billion debt recovery suit pending before the court between First Bank of Nigeria Limited and Lister Flour Mills —one of the companies owned by the late business mogul.
It was gathered that the initial terms of settlement filed before the court were said to have been allegedly aborted by both Lister Flour Mills and Mrs. Khadijah Alao-Straub, who are co-defendants in the suit, when the matter was mentioned.
The counsel representing First Bank had told the court that the terms of settlement filed before the court could not be adopted because the defendants had scuttled the terms of the settlement. Consequently, they have to fine-tune another terms of settlement that will soon be filed before the court, once the process is completed. Therefore, the court was urged to grant them an adjournment which it acceded to.
While alive, the bank had allegedly granted credit facilities to Arisekola’s Lister Flour Mills, which were renewed and restructured. It eventually culminated into a debit balance of N10, 787,556,430.02 , while the interest continued to accrue. The securities for the facilities among others include the company’s undertaking, goodwill and assets, as well as the entire piece and parcel of land at Idiroko Olomoyoyo, along Ibadan–Ijebu Ode Road, Ibadan, Oyo State, together with the building or buildings erected thereon. It also includes the Lister Oil Company’s Deed of Corporate Guarantee dated May 22, 2013 wherein the Company guaranteed the repayment of the various facilities availed the Lister Flour Mills by the bank; and personal guarantee of Ismail Alao dated May 22, 2013, wherein he guaranteed the repayment of the various facilities availed Lister Flour Mills. But it was gathered that Lister Flour Mills had failed to fully repay the loans to First Bank and the loans remain unpaid till date. The bank, in exercise of its rights as mortgagee under the Deed of Legal Mortgage over the Lagos property, appointed a receiver of the property and assets of the Lister Flour Mills. The Deed of Appointment of the receiver together with the Notice of Appointment were duly filed with the Corporate Affairs Commission. On February 11, 2015, the court granted the orders as prayed by the receiver/manager.
Mrs. Khadijah Alao-Straub and other co-defendants, it was gathered, denied all the claims made in the debt recovery suit filed against them and challenged the appointment of the receiver/manager over Lister Flour Mills Nigeria Limited as well as steps, which the receiver/manager had taken. However, the parties have now agreed to settle and resolve the legal action together with other related suits arising from receivership upon the time and conditions stated in the terms of settlement.
Meanwhile, as all hope this aspect of the trouble would seize after the decision of the court on the next adjourned date, many are of same expectations that the cold war among the late billionaire’s over 30 children, wives and some members of his extended family would also simmer very soon. It was gathered that the children have been factionalised into three groups, each laying claims to various properties of their dad scattered in Ibadan and London, United Kingdom, his tank farms in Lagos, flour mill in Ibadan and the deceased’s substantial investments in First Bank Plc among other blue-chip companies in the country. While one of the groups was led by Khadijat, Arisekola’s first daughter, the others have Ismaila, Arisekola’s first child and Abdullahi, the self-made millionaire son of Alhaja Jelilat, Arisekola’s eldest wife, who died two weeks after her husband’s death. The latter has been on the sideline watching his other siblings’ drama.