Justice Ayokunle Faji of a Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered a customer, Olusola Anthony Adejugbe and his company, Tonique Oil Services Limited, to pay Zenith Bank Plc a total sum of N6.3 billion. The judge upheld the bank’s counter-claim in a suit by the plaintiffs – Adejugbe and Tonique Oil Services.
The plaintiffs, in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1584/2012, had prayed the court for a declaration that the bank cannot charge interest on any facilities granted to them beyond the official approved policy rate of the Central Bank of Nigeria. They sought a declaration that any purported interest charged beyond the CBN declared official approved policy rate by any bank is null and void.
The plaintiffs also sought a declaration that Zenith Bank is not entitled to vary interest rate unilaterally, except as otherwise agreed, of which in itself must be consistent with CBN policy of every successive year with effect from when the transaction was entered into. They also urged the court to hold that they were not indebted to the bank in any sum of money or at all.
The plaintiffs sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the bank or its agents from selling or dealing with the properties used as collateral by the plaintiffs without first reconciling the company’s accounts.
The plaintiffs also sought an order compelling the bank to refund to them the sum of N1,842,471,801.99, allegedly being the total excess charges debited from the second plaintiff’s account, as well as N3,212,825,223.64 being the interest due to Tonique Oil. They also sought interest on the total sum of N6,441,369,617.73 due to the company at the rate of 21 per cent per annum from the date of the judgment until final liquidation.
Zenith Bank Plc, on being served with the plaintiffs’ originating process, filed its defence and counter-claim. Zenith Bank, represented by Mr. Sylva Ogwemoh (SAN), a Senior Partner at a commercial law firm, Kevin Martin Ogwemoh Legal, said the plaintiffs’ purported expert computation did not reflect the agreed interest rate on the facilities granted to the company for the purchase of petroleum products and acquisition of two hectares of land in Port Harcourt. Besides, Zenith Bank said the plaintiffs admitted their indebtedness to the tune of N6,383,911,204.26.
The bank said it had initially taken out the sum of N2,501,270,000.00 from the plaintiffs’ indebtedness before the plaintiffs agreed to owing N6.3billion. The defendant said it was taken aback when the plaintiffs, in a July 6, 2015 letter, requested for a waiver of the N3.6billion and a restructuring of the balance sum of N2.7billion to a fresh loan payable over 10 years without interest.
According to the bank, the request and the suit were part of the plaintiffs’ ploys not to repay the debt.
The bank claimed that the plaintiffs’ indebtedness as at January 31, 2013, was N8,464,176,356.52. Zenith Bank, therefore, made a counterclaim, praying the court to order the plaintiffs to pay the debt. In his judgement in the matter, Justice Faji agreed with the bank and ordered the plaintiffs to pay their admitted debt.
The judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ suit in its entirety and granted Zenith Bank’s first relief in the sum of N6, 382, 334, 421. 04. The court also awarded interest on the judgment sum at the rate of 15 per cent from July 6, 2015 until January 24, 2022 and then at the rate of 10 per cent until the judgment-debt sum is fully paid.
The court further granted Zenith Bank leave to enforce the personal guarantee against Anthony Olusola Adejugbe and to foreclose the plaintiffs’ equitable right to redeem their property pledged as collateral for outstanding indebtedness. The plaintiffs, represented by Lanre Ogunlesi (SAN), have filed an appeal against the judgement at the Court of Appeal.