Court Orders Stanbic IBTC To Return Petrol Station In Lagos To Ascon Oil


Ascon Oil Ltd has recovered a petrol retail station at Block 36, Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos purportedly sold by Stanbic IBTC Bank.

The development followed a recent ruling by Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court, Lagos.

The suit marked FHC/L/CS/567/2020, arose following a N1.7bn loan facility.

It was gathered that the property with a market value of N2.5bn was undersold at N1.53bn through Stanbic IBTC’s receiver to one of its customers, Rainoil Ltd.

Rainoil is one of Ascon’s competitors in the downstream sector and in 2019 while Stanbic IBTC was its banker, made a bid to acquire controlling shares in Ascon Oil.

The property had been in the receiver’s possession following a May 15, 2020 ex-parte ruling by the same court authorising the takeover of the property and restrain Ascon from interfering with the receiver’s discharge of his functions.

But on July 24, 2020, Justice Liman vacated that order after Ascon alleged non-disclosure and material misrepresentation of facts against Stanbic IBTC.

Before the July 24 ruling and in seeking to recover its property, Ascon had written to Stanbic IBTC through its Managing Director, Demola Shogunle, stating that its outstanding indebtedness was now available and that it was ready to make the payment subject to an audit of its account.

But the bank, it was learnt, declined, stating that the property had been sold.

It also declined Ascon’s requests for details of the expedited process of the transaction or evidence of any cash movement by which the property was purportedly conveyed to Rainoil.

On May 27, 2020, Ascon approached the court to set aside its earlier orders and nullify all steps taken pursuant to the orders.

It argued that since the company was not initially allowed to make its own case, this meant it was denied the right to fair hearing.

Justice Liman agreed that the receiver was wrong in law to have brought his application for the orders, ex-parte and that Ascon should have been put on notice.

Consequently, the order preventing Ascon from resisting the activities of the receiver was vacated.

Ascon had alleged in its motion on notice that the purported Deed of Legal Mortgage dated June 5, 2019 through which Stanbic IBTC derived its right or power to either appoint a receiver or sell the property was forged.

“At the time the Deed of Legal Mortgage was purportedly executed, Ascon had by letters of 28th and 31st May 2018 protested the inclusion of the property for perfection. Thus, Ascon could not have executed a Deed of Legal Mortgage over the same property,” the document stated.

Ascon also alleged that forensic analysis of the purported Deed of Legal Mortgage revealed significant inconsistencies as two supposed signatures were materially different from their regular signatures and the signature page of the purported Deed of Legal Mortgage was a counterpart copy of previously executed versions.

It was learnt further that prior to the extant issues, Ascon in May 2019 paid N500m out of its outstanding indebtedness.

It also requested for a restructuring of the loan facility to enable it to meet the escalating repayment obligations on it following fresh terms/conditions by the bank.

The firm made an offer to the bank requesting to pay a lump sum of N500m on or before December 31, 2019, with outstanding balance spread over 24 months and suspension of further interest charges, which the bank declined.

The company revealed that it had paid about N800m out of the term loan till date.

In 2017, the oil firm requested additional trading facilities to assist it in trading and thereby make monies that will be used to offset the existing term loan.

The securities listed to secure the term loan are property at Plot 27, Balarabe Musa Crescent, Victoria Island; Lagos, lube plant located along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Magboro; petrol station at Osolo Way, Isolo; and petrol station at Gbagada-Oshodi Expressway, Lagos.

However, the latest ruling by the Federal High Court, Lagos, has changed the complexion of the tussle as it has ordered the return of the petrol station in Lekki to Ascon.

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