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$81.9m debt: Bank petitions NJC, EFCC, DSS over judge’s conduct

Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. has dragged Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos before the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Services (DSS) over alleged professional misconduct.

In the 44-page petition written through a law firm, A.O.S Practice, the bank accused the judge of colluding with one of its huge debtors, Mr. Bhagwani Mahtani (an Indian national), to defraud it and pervert the cause of justice.

 

In the petition dated March 28, 2018, the judge was accused of using his intellectual prowess and position to bend the rules by allegedly turning the law upside down in favour of the debtor, Mahtani, the alter ego of First Continental Properties Limited.

 

The bank claimed that Justice Buba deliberately destroyed the legal mortgages that were entered into to guarantee the repayment.

 

The petitioner accused the judge of delivering a judgement that appears most unreasonable and difficult to understand, thereby conferring benefit to the unrighteous at the expense of the righteous in an alleged bid to make financial gains.

 

The bank claimed that the judge’s action has exposed it to great risk as the loan facilities extended to the company was part of its depositors and shareholders’ funds.

 

It urged both the NJC and the EFCC to intervene and investigate the matter with a view to prosecuting the offenders, saying it cannot afford to lose such huge amount of its depositors and shareholders’ fund to fraudulent characters, particularly at this period of crushing economic recession.

 

The crisis of confidence between Union Bank and Mr. Mahtani, was said to have begun on March 27, 2011 when a loan facility of $68 million was granted to First Continental Properties, promoted by Mr. Mahtani.

 

The bank claimed that the loan, which was to be used to build the then new development, Churchgate in Abuja otherwise known as World Trade Centre which has since been completed in Abuja, has remained unserviced with an outstanding balance currently standing at the sum of $81,941,230.84 as at February 7, 2018.

 

The debtor was said to have provided two legal mortgages as collateral for the loan which tenor was four years with expiration period of April 30, 2015.

 

The petitioner added that the loan was disbursed in U.S. dollar and the interest was initially fixed at 15% per annum and payment to be done through proceeds to be gotten from the sale of the World Trade Centre, Abuja and also from the rental proceeds of Plot PC 40 Afribank Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, Plot 473 AO Cadastral Zone, Constitution Avenue, Abuja and payment was also expected from proceeds of other business of the company and its holden company – Churchgate Investment Ltd.

 

The petition stated that upon the application of the company, the loan was restructured by another offer letter dated March 13, 2015 endorsed by the directors.

 

But, despite all the acknowledgement, the bank claimed that the company persisted in its default to repay the loan.

The petitioner recalled that at one instance, through a letter dated June 28, 2016, the defaulting company acknowledged its indebtedness to it by admitting owing the bank $61.089 million and was proposing repayment pattern of N250 million and N388,890 million in five instalments.

 

It was further alleged that the loan increased to $81.941,230.80 due to lack of servicing.

The bank further claimed that while this was ongoing, the debtor proceeded to a Federal High Court in Lagos and filed a suit marked; FHC/L/1334/16 between First Continental Properties Ltd vs Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.

 

The 12 reliefs being sought in the suit, according to the petitioner, were a total reversal of the obligation of the defaulting customer; First Continental Properties Ltd, contrary to its earlier admittance of responsibility towards the repayment of the facility.

 

The bank claimed that when the case presided over by Justice Ibrahim Buba went on trial, the court made contrasting findings by declaring the loan facility illegal, voiding the legal instrument/agreement of the loan and granting an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the bank from exercising its right to appoint a receiver even when the court also held that the amount owed to the bank must be paid by First Continental Properties Ltd in another breath.

 

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