By Akin Kuponiyi
United Bank for Africa (UBA) has asked Justice Mohammed Liman, presiding over a Federal High Court in Lagos to dismiss a motion filed by a Petroleum Resources firm, Sahara Energy Limited, seeking a discharge of an ex-parte order allowing the bank to advertise a petition it filed to wind-up the firm over alleged N15 billion debt.
The bank is currently locked in a legal battle with Sahara Energy over a N15 billion debt owed by KEPCO Energy Resources Limited (KEPCO). Sahara Energy was said to have stood as a guarantor to KEPCO to obtain.
Justice Liman had on 21st April, 2019, granted UBA’s ex-pate application seeking to advertise the petition to wind-up Sahara Energy over the alleged debt.
However, at the resumed hearing of the matter, Sahara Energy’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) drew the court’s attention to a motion he filed on behalf of his client to vacate the order.
He argued that the ex-parte order was expected to have lapsed at the expiration of the period allowed by the court’s rule.
In his reaction, UBA’s lawyer, Temilolu Adamolekun, opposed Olanipekun’s submissions on the ground that the rule of court was not applicable in the instant case.
He argued that the order was just a condition precedent to the hearing of the petition and was not targeted at anyone,
The lawyer further told the court that granting the Sahara Energy’s request would prevent the bank from advertising the petition thereby shutting out other interested parties.
Justice Liman has adjourned till Friday 24th May, 2019 to rule on the contentious issue.
Prior to the court’s hearing of arguments on the ex-parte motion, Olanipekun had withdrew another motion filed by him asking the judge to recuse himself from the case.
Justice Liman in a bench ruling declared that no other motion would be heard until the motion asking him to withdraw from the case is determined.
In an affidavit in support of the petition, UBA disclosed that it granted KEPCO a loan to the tune of $35 million in August 2013, to fund the acquisition of Egbin Power Plant,which Sahara Energy guaranteed.
The bank said KEPCO subsequently failed to meet its obligations even after restructuring the loan on two different occasions.
The interest on the rescheduled debt is said to have increased the facility to $42,282,430.49 or N15,221,674,976.40 as of December 31, 2018.
UBA added that Sahara Energy was notified several times to fulfill its obligation as a guarantor but had not done so, hence the the need to file a winding up suit.
“The company herein is insolvent and unable to pay its debt. In the circumstances, it is just and equitable that the company should be wound up,” the petition read.
The petitioner also sought “an order that the company, Sahara Energy Resources Ltd, be wound up by the court under the provisions of Companies and Allied Matters Act.”