Company seeks FG intervention over property takeover

July 21, 2021
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Out of fear of losing its prized asset, a property development company, Grant Properties Limited, has sent a Save-Our-Soul (SOS) plea to the Federal Government, asking President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in its issue and cause a probe into an alleged collusion in the dissipation of the company’s assets to satisfy a facility obtained by the company.

The company said the cry for help became necessary following what it described as collusion which is against its interest between one of the banks from which it obtained the loan facility and the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON)

It claimed it had secured a loan from a consortium of four banks; Sterling Bank, Skye Bank, Unity Bank and Wema Bank, to finance the development of an estate, Victory Park Estate, in Lekki, Lagos, adding that the said the facility was secured via the shares in its subsidiary, Knight Rook Limited, which only asset is about 46 hectares of land in Victory Park Estate.

There had however been a long battle on the property due to what the company tagged collusion between Sterling Bank Plc and Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, (AMCON) in the dissipation of the company’s assets and it was in the course of the crisis that the chairman of the company, Chief Olajide Awosedo, who started the legal fight to protect the company’s asset, died.

They have written petitions and the case had even gone to court. In a petition to the Central Bank of Nigeria, signed by Chief Olajide Awosedo titled: Insider abuse, collusion and fraud: petition against Sterling Bank Plc, Mr Yemi Adeola, Mr Yemi Idowu, Ms Justina Lewa  and the Asset Management Corporation, Awosedo asked the president to intervene to redress the injustice meted out to him and his company.

He called on the CBN to investigate the legal and ethical issues raised in the insider abuse, collusion and illegal sale of a customer’s assets by Sterling Bank to its directors especially in view of the fact that a judgment of a Lagos High Court had established the illegality of their actions, which broke the AMCON Act and the Securities and Exchange Commission laws, banking laws and all the ethics of the banking profession.

They are further asking the government and CBN to cause a thorough investigation of the insider trading and collusion by Sterling Bank and its top management and compel the bank to return the 10 hectares of land which they illegally sold to themselves to AMCON as part of the collateral in line with the judgment of a Lagos High Court which nullified that sale.

The company also asked the CBN to compel AMCON to recover the 10 hectares of land as its collateral, and apply it toward the N8.5 billion debt obligation, demanding that “AMCON should commission a valuation of the property and take the portion of it which satisfies the obligation and then return the remainder to us. After the obligation is satisfied, AMCON should be asked to issue a letter of release and return our Knight Rook shares and other properties held by AMCON and the Receiver Manager to us.”

According to the company, the bank management in order to ensure that the court verdict the company won was not executed, engaged in an intricate web of mind-game, bringing in the AMCON to set obstacles for the company in order to arm-twist it to abandon its judgment it won at the Lagos High Court, adding that at some point in 2009, the project was stalled due to liquidity challenges in the banks when “they were no longer able to provide funds to continue the development.

“When AMCON was established in 2011, the banks transferred the loan to the corporation but Sterling Bank retained the Knight Rook shares and used the same to trade illegally. We discovered the bank did not transfer all of our collateral to AMCON, instead it diverted 10 hectares of the land, which it secretly sold to its Director, a rival real estate developer who was appointed to manage the account as the head of the Project Implementation Committee, PIC, comprising the four financing banks and ourselves. In reality, Yemi Idowu should never have been allowed to manage our account as he was a direct competitor,” the company management averred.

The company alleged that the bank sold the land using a proxy company and deposited the sales proceeds of N1.8 billion “into our project account” and immediately withdrew same without the knowledge or mandate of the real estate development company, to pay BENA Management Services Limited, another surrogate/proxy company which Sterling Bank secretly used to purchase houses in the Victory Park Estate.”

The company emphasised that it wants government and CBN to wade in and ensure that the judgment it won June 2, 2017 is allowed to take effect in respect to the rule of law and ethical provisions.

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