How N13.5bn Loan Set AMCON, Hotel Owner On War Path

When in 2006, the Managing Director of Suru Worldwide Nigeria Limited, Mr. Edward Akinlade, obtained a loan of N13.5 billion from Oceanic Bank, now Ecobank, for his hotel, Best Western Hotel, located in the Opebi area of Ikeja, Lagos; he hardly had envisaged any problems. However, that singular transaction has become a source of crisis, which now threatens Akinlade’s ownership of the facility as the management of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, (AMCON) is alleged to have forcefully taken over and sold out the property to strange persons.

Akinlade has therefore called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Lagos State government to intervene and salvage his hotel business from collapse, following a recent discovery of ongoing demolition and renovation of the property by some persons who claim to have purchased the property.

On a visit, an official at the site who confirmed the ongoing renovation added that the hotel was due for operation by the end of the year. The said property which was a 5 star hotel facilitates, known as, Best Western Hotel, was seized by AMCON on September 22, 2017, over a loan facilitate of N13.5 billion by the defunct Oceanic Bank in 2006.

According to Mr Akinlade, the call for intervention is necessitated by the latest development in the facility. “Some persons are currently carrying out construction work in the property and they have destroyed the structure of the property even though it’s still under litigation.”

Speaking with journalists on the situation, he said he was calling the attention of the Lagos State government to what is happening because he discovered that the facility is being tampered with in such a way that it may pose threat to the society.

“I visited the facility yesterday when someone told me that renovation is ongoing in the property. What I saw there is a complete disruption of what it is designed for. The people are destroying everything including the pillars made to support the structure. The implication is that the building can collapse. Unfortunately, Lagos state government is still sending me messages concerning the facility when I don’t know who is carrying out the renovation.

“The Lagos State government came to put a seal on the property and they wrote to me asking for an explanation. By implementation, those executing the construction work did not get clearance from the state government,” he said.

Asked how come he is not aware of the transfer of ownership or otherwise, he said as far as he is concerned, the litigation issue is currently before the Supreme Court. He added that he expected AMCON to at least respect the court or even inform him in writing if it has put the property on lease.

“It’s a serious concern for me that while I am doing everything to resolve this matter the management of AMCON is out to forcefully take over the property. Why can’t they just wait for the Supreme Court to make a final decision on the matter before they go ahead to sell it if the court grants them ownership”?

Mr. Akinlade described the new initiative to hand the property over to someone to carry out a destructive construction while the case is still in court as an attempt to destroy his business as well as implicating him. He stressed that with the level of destruction already carried out on the building in the name of renovation, it is bound to collapse in no distant time. This is why I am calling on the government to investigate the issues before a new case of building collapse is recorded in Lagos, he stated.

“Moreover, it is important to emphasise that if nothing is done and the unexpected happens, no one should hold me responsible,” he added.

Meanwhile, a Supreme Court document, titled, APPEAL/SC/NO/ 1098/19, dated, May 19th, 2022, the legal firm of Layi Babatunde, (SAN) and Co, initiated an appeal against AMCON on behalf of Suru Worldwide Nigeria Limited.

Although no date has been fixed for the hearing of the case, the applicant, Suru Worldwide is seeking the “Order of Interlocutory Injection” restraining AMCON or her agent from removing or tampering with the property under dispute.

Mr. Akinlade confirmed that the court documents were properly served on AMCON but the agency which is a creation of law went ahead to vandalise the property. He described the action as a show of impunity and total disregard for court orders.

According to Mr. Akinlade, prior to the current development, every effort on his part to settle the lingering case with AMCON has been unfruitful as he was always frustrated by the managing director of AMCON, Mr. Ahmed Kuru.

Recounting some of such efforts, Mr. Akinlade said, the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, at a point intervene in the matter and asked him to pay the sum of N2 billion to AMCON as the property has depreciated beyond the original value of over N6 billion at the time of taking over. But, Mr. Kulu and his team from AMCON refuse to accept the terms.

Trouble started when Mr. Akinlade through his company obtained a loan of N13.5 billion from Oceanic Bank, now Ecobank, in 2006.

According to him, the company as at 2010, had drawn down N10 billion with an outstanding balance of N3.5 billion when Oceanic Bank was acquired by Ecobank.

According to him, the problem started when the management of Ecobank wrote to the company, alleging that it had no money to continue to fund the facility and had subsequently sold the loan to AMCON.

Investigations revealed that the transaction between Ecobank and AMCON, which can best be described as surreptitious, was carried out even though the loan was performed without the consent of the debtors.

The facility did not qualify to be taken over by AMCON since it was a performing loan. Besides, the loan, which amounted to about N10 billion, was presented and sold to AMCON for about N15 billion face value with AMCON purchase payment of about N8 billion.

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