By Christopher Oji, Lagos
Suru Worldwide Ventures Nigeria Limited and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) are currently entangled in what the firm described as the forceful takeover of its multibillion naira Lagos-based property.
The company said that the defunct Oceanic Bank Plc facilitated its loan procurement amounting to billions of naira. The company has warned any persons or their agents to steer clear of its properties or face the wrath of the law.
In its effort to regain control of its business and operations, the company petitioned the National Assembly for its intervention, following a business deal that went awry over a decade.
Suru Worldwide Ventures Nigeria Limited is involved in the hotel industry and landed properties, and has been battling the defunct Oceanic Bank and its successor, Access Bank Plc and AMCON, seeking their faces to remain in business. The firm owns Best Western Lagos Hotel, Ikeja, Opebi Hotel projects, Ikeja, Government Reservation Area (GRA) Land, Lagos State, and Ikeja, GRA, townhouses.
The company has warned any persons, group or agents to steer clear of its properties, as any erring persons will face litigations.
The company claimed that it started with an initial staff strength of over 2,000 Nigerians before it witnessed a downturn resorting to staff downsizing, leaving 250 employees, following its loan repayment challenges with the defunct Oceanic Bank Plc.
The Lagos based firm, while appealing to its creditor bank (Oceanic Bank), to look into its loan repayments effort, said in its letter to AMCON, entitled: “Re: The Matter of Loan account of Suru Worldwide Nigeria Ventures Limited with Oceanic Bank International plc”, adding: ‘We write in respect of Suru Worldwide Ventures Nigeria Limited (The Company) loan accounts with Oceanic Bank International Plc (The Bank), which we understand has been sold to Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) as a non-performing loan.
‘The bank/customer relationship between the bank and the company, commenced in August 2017, with the bank issuing a total of N10.204 billion loan facilities of the company from a total of approved loan facilities of N13 billion from the said period till date.’
According to the Managing Director of Suru Worldwide Ventures Nigeria Limited, Edward Akinlade, and Company Secretary, Ayodeji Adewunmi, in a joint statement, to AMCON, ‘the classification of the loan accounts with bank has non-performing, is considered objectionable by the Company, as the said classification is due to no omission on negligence on our part, but owed to the bank’s breach of its agreement by the disbursement of funds on the facility as agreed and stalling the various projects which were mostly 95 per cent completed as at August 14, 2019.
‘Considering this position and the desire of AMCON to see genuine business flourish, we hereby appeal for the bellow stated measures aimed at protecting the interests of all parties.’
In a frantic but desired effort to remain in business, the firm had petitioned the National Assembly’s ‘Committee on Public Petitions’ over the illegal seizure of Suru Worldwide Ventures Nigeria Limited by AMCON asking it, among others, to wade into the matter.
According to the company, in a petition to the Honourable Speaker, Federal House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, dated August 1, 2019, alleged among other requests that ‘AMCON is acting upon an illegally and fraudulently obtained order of the Federal High Court in Suit No: ‘FHC/ LCS/1059/ 2016 on 30/5/ 17, without joining the owner of the property nor serving them, invaded their premises, at Allen Avenue, a five-star hotel, chasing away lodgers, including foreign tourists and diplomats.
‘However, despite efforts made by Suru Worldwide Ventures Nigeria Limited for the peaceful resolution of the matter in the overall interest of Nigeria, the company regretted that it was miffed by a letter from a solicitor acting on behalf of Infrastructural Development and Energy company Limited (IDECO), saying:
‘We write to inform you that, having purchased the property at No: 12 Reverend Ogunbiyi Street, GRA, Ikeja (Property) from Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), our client is your new landlord. Pursuant to this, our client has instructed us to inform you that it wishes to set up a meeting with you so as to ascertain the status of your tenancy.’
AMCON, through Mr Joshua Ikioda, Group Head, Enforcement, said, among others, that ‘by virtue of the terms of mortgages and the facility letters issued severally by the bank, the monies and liabilities thereby secured became due and payable. But the borrower/mortgagor under the mortgage, Suru Worldwide Ventures Nigeria Limited refused and failed to discharge the outstanding indebtedness despite several demands by the bank.’
Meanwhile, Suru Worldwide Ventures Nigeria Limited, through its lawyer, Layi Babatunde, SAN, is praying that by a letter dated September 2, 2020, that ‘our client’s property, situated at No:12 Reverend Ogunbiyi Street, GRA, Ikeja Lagos State, hereinafter called “the Property subject matter of suit No: FHC/L/CS/1059/2016, now on appeal to the Supreme Court under appeals No: SC/1098/2019 at the instance of AMCON, however, did not disclose in the said letter, to whom the property was purportedly sold and amount it was sold, thereby leaving those vital issues and information to speculations.’
The situation, no doubt speaks about this purported sale transaction.
‘We have since drawn the attention of AMCON to the subsisting judgment in Appeals No: CA/L/86/18 Suru Worldwide Venture Nigeria Limited and another v AMCON & ORS. Wherein the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division allowed our client’s appeals and set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court of Nigeria rendered in AMCON’s favour in suit No: FHC/L/CS/450/11 BETWEEN SURU WORLDWIDE VENTURE NIGERIA LIMITED V ECO Bank Plc & AMCON wherein the honourable court dismissed AMCON’s counterclaims for alleged indebtedness of our client to AMCON.’
AMCON has appealed the judgment to the court of Appeals No: CA/L/630/ 18 which appeal is still pending.
‘Furthermore, in suit No: FHC / L/CS/218/2014 BETWEEN; AMCON V SURU WORLDWIDE VENTURE NIGERIA LIMITED, the Honourable court also dismissed AMCON’s claims for the same alleged indebtedness of our clients.
‘It is, therefore baffling, that despite this state of affairs, AMCON could bring itself to act in such flagrant breach of the law, disregard for subsisting judgment and utter contempt of pending proceeding. AMCON’s conduct, no doubt, constitutes a frontal affront to due process which cannot be ignored.
‘It is most regrettable, that AMCON being a product of legislation and therefore law, will act in any way totally at variance with the rule of law and good corporate citizenship, suggesting that they are not believed in their own pending appeal, not due process.’