The Federal High Court (FHC) in Lagos has ordered oil trader and independent businessman Mr Olusola Anthony Adejugbe and his company Tonique Oil Services Limited (TOSL) to pay Zenith Bank Plc N6 382 334 421, 04.
FHC Judge Ayokunle Faji, in his judgment, upheld the bank’s counterclaim in an action brought by plaintiffs Adejugbe and Tonique Oil Services. The plaintiffs, in the lawsuit numbered FHC/L/CS/1584/2012, had asked the court for a declaration that the bank could not charge interest on the facilities granted to them above the approved official key rate of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
They also urged the court to declare that they owed the bank no money or none at all.
Zenith Bank, in its defense and counterclaim through its counsel, Mr Sylva Ogwemoh (SAN), stated that the claimants’ alleged expert calculation did not reflect the interest rate agreed on the facilities granted to the company for the purchase of petroleum products and the acquisition of two hectares of land in Port Harcourt.
Furthermore, Zenith Bank said the plaintiffs admitted their debt amounting to N6,383,911,204.26.
The bank said it initially withdrew the sum of N2,501,270,000.00 from the plaintiffs’ debt before the plaintiffs agreed to owe N6.3 billion.
The defendant said he was surprised when the plaintiffs, in a letter dated July 6, 2015, requested a waiver of the 3.6 billion naira and a restructuring of the balance of 2.7 billion naira into a new repayable loan. over 10 years. without interest.
According to the bank, the demand and the lawsuit were part of the plaintiffs’ schemes not to repay the debt.
The bank claimed that the claimants’ indebtedness as of January 31, 2013 was N8,464,176,356.52.
Zenith Bank therefore filed a counterclaim, asking the court to order the plaintiffs to pay the debt.
Faji, in his judgment, agreed with the bank and entered judgment ordering the plaintiffs to pay their acknowledged debt.
The judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ lawsuit in its entirety and awarded Zenith Bank its first relief in the amount of N6,382,334,421.04.
The court also awarded interest on the judgment amount at the rate of 15% from July 6, 2015 to January 24, 2022, and thereafter at the rate of 10% until the debt amount is paid in full.
The court further allowed Zenith Bank to enforce the personal guarantee against Anthony Olusola Adejugbe and foreclose the plaintiffs’ equitable right to redeem their pledged assets against the outstanding debt.
The plaintiffs, represented by Mr. Lanre Ogunlesi (SAN), appealed against the judgment to the Court of Appeal.
Adejugbe and Tonique Oil Services had sought a perpetual injunction restraining the bank or its agents from selling or dealing in the properties used as collateral by the plaintiffs without first reconciling the company’s accounts.
They demanded a statement that any alleged interest charged above the official CBN-approved key rate declared by any bank is null and void.
The plaintiffs also requested a statement that Zenith Bank is not permitted to unilaterally change the interest rate unless otherwise agreed, which in itself must be in accordance with CBN policy of each successive year from the date on which the transaction was concluded.
The plaintiffs sought an order compelling the bank to reimburse them the sum of N1,842,471,801.99, allegedly the total excess charges debited from the second plaintiff’s account, together with N3,212,825,223.64 being the interest due to the Tonic oil.
They also claimed interest on the total sum of N6,441,369,617.73 owed to the company at the rate of 21% per annum from the date of judgment until final liquidation.