$14m Debt: Court Fixes April 6 for Sahara Group, Ecobank’s Case

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Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos has adjourned till April 6, to take pending motions in an alleged $14 million debt case between Sahara Group Limited and Ecobank Nigeria Limited.

The judge fixed the date yesterday, after Ecobank’s lawyer, Mr. Obinna Divine, informed the court of his client’s January 23, 2020 motion seeking a summary judgment for the sum of $9,125,119.34, while Sahara Group’s lawyer, J.A. Adesulu, said his clients had filed a motion on notice in opposition.

Sahara Energy Resources Limited, Isle of Man, and Sahara Group Limited had dragged Ecobank to court seeking an order to stop the bank from carrying out a, “unilateral review of interest rates,” on loans obtained by the oil firms.

But Ecobank filed a counter-claim, insisting that it “reserves the right to review its interest rates from time to time in line with prevailing market conditions.”

The bank claimed that based on computation, Sahara Energy Resources Limited, Isle of Man, and Sahara Group Limited were indebted to it in the sum of $14,069458.30 “being the principal sum and interest due to the counter-claimant as of 21st August, 2019.”

Ecobank said though the oil firms had offered to pay it $9,125,119.34 “as full and final settlement of their indebtedness,” it remained firm in its demand for $14,069,458.30 as their debt as of August 21, 2019.

However, the bank urged the court to, in the meantime, order the oil firms to immediately pay the $9,125,119.34, which they had allegedly admitted “after the joint reconciliation carried out by parties.”

It then prayed further prayed the court to compel the oil firms to pay it another $5,069,458.30 “being the outstanding correspondence to the defendant in tandem with the offer letters of the 1st of May, 2016 and other subsisting agreements between the parties.”

But Sahara Energy Resources Limited, Isle of Man, and Sahara Group Limited have, through a motion on notice, urged the court to strike out the bank’s motion on notice and other processes on the basis that the bank wrote Sahara Energy Resources Limited, instead of Sahara Energy Resources Limited, Isle of Man, as the first plaintiff in the papers it filed.

Counsel for the oil firms contended that by omitting to include Isle of Man, in the name of Sahara Energy Resources Limited, Ecobank had “unilaterally introduced a new party to this suit that is not a party to the originating processes, without the express order of this court to do so.”

It said for this, the court “lacks the jurisdiction to countenance the above-referenced processes filed by the defendant, which will also constitute a crass abuse of judicial process.”

Justice Aikawa adjourned till April 6 to take Ecobank’s application for summary judgment for the sum of $9.1million and the oil firms’ motion seeking the striking out of the bank’s court papers.