Legal fire works over the property housing the Best Western Ikeja Hotel, a four Star hospitality facility situated at 12, Allen Avenue and owned by Suru World Wide Ventures Limited has shifted to the appellant court.
The hotel is one of the disputed property recently sealed up by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) over alleged N24.2billon indebtedness.Parties in the matter, which include, Suru World Wide Ventures Limited (plaintiff), Eco Bank Plc, AMCON and Mr. Edward Akinlade had been involved in a fierce legal battle over the hotel and other properties in Ikeja following credit facilities extended to Mr. Akinlade, the Managing Director of Suru World Wide Ventures Limited by the defunct Oceanic Bank (Now Ecobank).
The alleged inability of Akinlade to pay the debt put then at N13.4billion led to it being classified as a bad debt and was subsequently absolved by debt manager, AMCON.But Suru World Wide Ventures Limited had in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/218/2014 sued Ecobank asking for N39billion as damages for allegedly mismanaging their account, however, AMCON filed a counter claim, which was dismissed
The debt manager also filed another counter claim in suit No FHC/L/CS/450/2011.The court presided by Justice Muslim Sule Hassan had on March 22, 2018 dismissed the counter claims filed by AMCON on the ground of being an abuse of court process.AMCON further approached Justice Mohammed Idris for an order to attach the said property, which was granted leading to the sealing up and taking over of the property.
But the recent ruling of Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High court has changed the narrative.Ruling specifically on the motion on notice filed by the applicant (Suru World Wide Ventures Limited) and dated June 13, 2017, the court agreed with the submission of the counsel for the plaintiff that the issue in contention in both suits is the alleged indebtedness of the defendant in the dismissed suit N0 FHC/L/CS/218/2014, which stood at N15.3 billion in 2014 and now N24.3 billion in the current counter –claim.
The judge had held that the counter claim is an abuse of judicial process as it seeks to relegate issues that have been determined by the court and an attempt to restore suit N0 FHC/L/CS/218/2014, which was dismissed on June 22, 2015.In the ruling, justice Hassan held that since the counterclaim of AMCON has been dismissed, it goes without saying that their application for injunction dated May 22, 2017 but filed on May 23, 2017 is dismissed.Dissatisfied by the ruling, AMCON approached the Court of Appeal, Lagos, seeking the order of the court to restoring its counter claim dated June 16, 2016 in suit N0 FHC/L/CS/218/2014.
It also sought an order restoring its motion of notice dated May 22, 2017 in the same suit as well as an order relisting the suit; Suru World Wide Ventures Limited Vs. Ecobank Plc and AMCON together with the counter claim and to be heard by another judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos division.In asking for relisting of the dismissed suit, AMCON argued that the lower court did not decide, evaluate and/or resolve any or all of the questions and issues submitted for its determination in the suit before dismissing same.
According to the debt manager, the law is settled that , where a suit is dismissed without being heard on the merits, the order of dismissal amounts to a striking out of the suit.It was also the contention of AMCON that parties in Suit N0: FHC/L/CS/218/2014, neither adopted their respective processes nor canvassed arguments in support of their case before the said suit was discontinued and dismissed.
But the Group Managing Director, Suru Group Limited, Edward Akinlade said the ruling of the court on March 22, 2018 has put to rest the reason behind the alleged take over of Best Western Ikeja Hotels by AMCON.
“With the court ruling in our favour, no person has the right to take possession of the property, Best Western Ikeja Hotels in any way, either by lease or outright purchase which also calls to question the presence of security operatives put there by AMCON”, he said.He also urged the Federal Government to call to order the management of AMCON over its illegal occupation of Best Western Ikeja Hotels, adding that in spite of the courts ruling in favour of Suru World wide Ventures, AMCON has refused to let go of the property which was kept under fully armed police surveillance.
According to him, the dissatisfaction of AMCON to the judgment and the notice of appeal filed at the Court of Appeal do not in any way give right to any individual or organization to take possession of Best Western Ikeja Hotels either by lease or outright purchase.
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