MKO Abiola’s Legacy …Going?

The late Chief MKO Abiola

The late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was arguably the richest Nigerian of his time.

A brilliant mind with impeccable antecedents, Abiola was a tycoon and the biggest philanthropist in Africa. He was an African pillar with investments scattered across Nigeria and the African continent.

From South Africa to Libya, Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria, Italy to the United Kingdom, UK, United States to Lebanon, Abiola’s fame was undeniable. He had his fingers in virtually every sector of the economy, including oil, aviation, farming, printing, publishing, communication and well as banking.

Some of his business interests were Abiola Farms, Abiola Bookshops, Radio Communications Nigeria, Wonder Bakeries, Concord Press, Banuso Fisheries, Concord Airlines, Summit Oil International Ltd, Africa Ocean Lines and Habib Bank, among others. Abiola’s firms and companies employed over 5,000 people in Nigeria and the West African sub-region.

But as soon as he fell into bad times with the then government of the day, following his political ambition, many of his businesses also fell. His death in 1998 affected his business empire, including Summit Oil International, as many of them went into limbo.

Sadly, it was gathered that Summit Oil is about to go down like others over unpaid debts. A limited liability company, Seistech Energy Limited, has filed a petition before a Federal High Court in Lagos, urging the court to wind up the pioneer exploration and production oil company on the grounds that the company is insolvent and unable to pay its debt.

In a petition filed before the court by a Lagos lawyer, Barrister Fidel Albert, on behalf of Seistech Energy company against Summit Oil International limited, it was alleged that Summit Oil International that was established in 1990 by the billionaire is a joint leaseholder and joint developer of Oil Mining lease OML 142 formerly OPL 205, in respect of the Otien-1Field located in the Anambra basin on the North edge of the Niger -Delta.

The company was granted the oil prospecting licence, but could not develop the asset for about 20 years, due to severe cash flow constraints. It was also clear that the company lacked certain basic infrastructure to transport the crude oil and condensate from the production wells to truck loading gantries, as well as the facility for transporting the hydrocarbon fluids preparatory to export. On account of this acute infrastructural deficiency and the

technical know-how, the company contracted Seistech Energy Limited vide the provision of installation and construction of other delivery line contract of April, 2017 for an end- to- end design, construction and installation of delivery line for the company, including provision of six storage tanks.

However, after the completion of the contract, the petitioner issued its invoice to the respondent for the payment of the first tranche of the contract sum due in the sum of N11,868,703.75, representing 50% of the contract price payable as mobilization and same duly paid by the respondent.

It was also gathered that upon payment of the first mobilization, the respondent failed to make subsequent tranche payments to the petitioner, as had been agreed, as at when due. The respondent allegedly did not dispute the petitioner’s invoices, but rather gave several promises to liquidate them.

The oil company, which has Wuraola Zulikat Abiola as its managing director, is alleged to be indebted to the petitioner to the tune of N69, 210,671.75 as at June 2018, which accrued to the petitioner as payment for the installation and construction of the respondent’s Otien delivery line, including tank rentals associated with that work scope.

The petitioner claimed that it had repeatedly made applications to the oil firm for payment of its debt, but it had failed and neglected to pay same on account of insolvency and is unable to pay its debts to its creditors as the obligation falls due.

In the suit, the petitioner said: “In the circumstances, it is just and equitable that the company be wound up”

It also prayed that Summit Oil International Limited be wound up by the court under the provisions of the Company and Allied Matters Act on the grounds of its inability to pay its debts.

However, in an affidavit in support of notice of preliminary objection sworn to by Chief Financial Officer of Summit Oil International limited Tajudeen Jinadu and filed before the Court by the law firm of G. Elias and company, the company averred that the dispute between the two parties regarding the amount to be paid in relation to the actual work done by the respondent is one which ought to be resolved by parties by negotiations as the applicant is aware of clause of the contract, which is dispute resolution clause that mandates both parties to resolve any dispute under the contract by arbitration. It further stated that rather than initiating arbitral proceedings to enable the dispute to be resolved as agreed in the contract, the applicant maliciously commenced this winding up proceedings against the respondent.

It was revealed that the company is willing and able to expeditiously proceed to arbitration once referred to arbitration by the court or the respondent gives its notice of reference to arbitration.

Consequently, the company contended that the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the petition, saying that the petition constitutes an abuse of court process. The respondent, therefore, urged the court to strike out the petition in the interest of justice.