Alleged N17bn Debt: Court Fixes July 8 for Hearing of Preliminary Objection

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has fixed July 8, 2024 for hearing of all pending applications in a contempt suit initiated by the Guarantee Trust Bank Limited against the Directors of the Afex Exchange Commodities Limited over alleged N17, 808, 452, 467. 107 billion loan indebtedness.

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke fixed the date after hearing the arguments and submissions of counsel to the Plaintiff, Mr. Ade Adedeji (SAN) and counsel to the respondent/defendant, Prof. Wale Olawoyin (SAN).

The judge had on May 31, 2024  granted a motion ex parte in Suit FHC/L/CS/911/2024, and cited AFEX and its principal officers for contempt of court following their alleged disobedience to a court order authorising Guaranty Trust  (GTBank) to take over the funds and assets belonging to Afex Commodities Exchange following its inability to pay N17,808,452,467.107  (billion) loan facilities granted by the bank.

The alleged contemnors are; Ayodeji Olaleye Balogun, Jendayi Fraaser, Justin Lee Topilow, Mobolaji Oluwatomi Adeoye, and Koonal Bharat Ghandi.

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However, at the resume hearing of proceedings yesterday, counsel to the plaintiff, Adedeji (SAN) urged the court to discharge 19 banks who have shown cause that the judgment debtor has no account with them.

Subsequently, the judge struck out names of Citi Bank, Fidelity Bank Plc, Wema Bank, Standard Trust Bank, Union Bank of Nigeria, Keystone Bank, Signature Bank, Titan Trust Bank, Unity Bank, Parallex Bank, Jaiz Bank PLC, Lotus Bank Limited, Providus Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria, Suntrust Bank Limited, and Polaris Bank Limited, Eco Bank, Heritage Bank Plc and Unity Bank Plc.

Adedeji then urged the Court to proceed with contempt proceedings against Directors of the Afex Exchange Commodities Limited.

But, counsel to the alleged contemnors, Prof. Olawoyin objected, adding that there was no competent contempt proceedings before the court.

Olawoyin informed the court that two of the Directors cited for contempt, Ayodeji Olaleye Balogun, and Mobolaji Oluwatomi Adeoye are in court.

He further told the court that others cited for contempt namely, Jendayi Fraaser, Justin Lee Topilow, and Koonal Bharat Ghandi are foreigners and were no longer Directors of Afex Exchange Commodities Limited.

Prof. Olawoyin argued that a deligent search of Afex Exchange Commodities Limited Directors at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC revealed that some of the people cited for contempt have resigned from the company several years ago.

Consequently, Justice Aneke adjourned till July 8 for hearing of all pending applications.

Meanwhile, the defendants in their preliminary objection are asking the court decline jurisdiction to entertain any contempt proceedings in relation to or connected with or arising from the Notice of Disobedience of Court Order (Form 48) dated 31st May, 2024 or any alleged non compliance with the ex parte order of the Court dated 27th May 2024.

The stated that the alleged contemptuous act was done outside the precincts of the Court making same, a contempt ex facie curiae.

In an affidavit in support of notice of Preliminary Objection deposed to by one Akala Ehigie Richard, an Associate in the Capital Market Sales department of the Defendant/Objector, he stated that, on 29th May, 2024, the defendant was alerted to the enrolled orders of the Court made on 27th May, 2024 and published in Thisday Newspaper of 29th May, 2024.

He averred that on the 10th of June, 2024, when the matter came up before the Court, the Plaintiff’s counsel informed the Honourable Court that, the Plaintiff had procured and published a Notice of Disobedience of Order of Court (Form 48} in the Punch Newspaper.

He stated that the alleged contemptuous act, upon which the Plaintiff is seeking to activate the quasi criminal jurisdiction of the court occurred outside the precincts of the trial court.

He stated that the interest of justice would be better served by the striking out of the entire contempt proceedings initiated by the Plaintiff in the suit.

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