Court Filings Show Seplat Used Cardinal to Obtain Bank Loan, Says Lawyer

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By Davidson Iriekpen

Court documents filed by Access Bank in the case between it and Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc, have shown that the oil firm may have benefitted and indeed utilised the loan obtained by Cardinal Drilling from the banks, its lawyer, Mr. Kunle Ogunba (SAN), said yesterday.

He said the documents show that Cardinal Drilling, is a subsidiary of Seplat and may have been used as a front for the deal.

However, Seplat insists that Access Bank could not hold it liable for a loan obtained by a third party (Cardinal Drilling), alleging that Ogunba misled the court in obtaining an order for the bank to take over the oil firm’s office at 16A Temple Road, Ikoyi as receiver/manager over the multimillion dollar debt.

Seplat has also reportedly written a petition against Ogunba to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) and the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), accusing Ogunba of unprofessional conduct.

Despite the indigenous oil firm’s insistence that it wasn’t complicit, Ogunba who responded to questions by THISDAY, added that the court processes filed by Access Bank showed that the plaintiff provided proof of Seplat benefiting from the loan, with Cardinal Drilling and passing the obligation to Seplat after obtaining the loan and disbursing it.

The company’s statement of account, which Access Bank exhibited in court, has details of Seplat transferring funds into Cardinal Drilling’s account, which in turn would transfer it to Diamond Bank (which was later acquired by Access Bank), as loan repayment.

He insisted that Seplat is the real debtor, which was why they joined Seplat in the debt recovery suit, obtained and executed the order against it, which is now a subject of appeal.

Ogunba noted that both himself and the bank acted based on a ruling by Justice Rilwan Aikawa, who, despite objections by Seplat’s lawyers, granted bank’s application.

“In my view, all these issues touch the substance of the case and should therefore be reserved for substantive trial…

“An attempt to delve into any of them at this stage has the potential and danger of determining substantive issues at this interlocutory stage, a tendency which has been frowned upon by the appellate courts.

“There is no evidence of suppression of any material facts by the plaintiff in this application,” the judge had noted.

It was further learnt that the petition against Ogunba was written even before the ruling on Seplat’s application to discharge the order made by Justice Aikawa was given, because while Seplat’s petition was submitted on December 18, 2020, Justice Aikawa delivered his ruling on December 24, 2020.