Seplat Wins Appeal to Unseal Headquarters, Pays N7.6bn Bond
By Dipo Olowookere
An indigenous energy firm trading its securities on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Seplat Petroleum Development Company, has won its appeal to unseal its corporate headquarters in Lagos.
Last month, another publicly listed company, Access Bank Plc, secured an interim order from a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to seal the head office of Seplat over a debt owed by another organisation, Cardinal Drilling Services Limited, which the lender claimed Seplat has an interest in.
Seplat approached the Lagos division of the appeal court to upturn this judgement, claiming since its headquarters was sealed, it has been unable to operate and meet its obligations, including supplying gas to three power plants that generate almost 40 per cent of power supply in Nigeria.
At the hearing, counsel to Seplat, Mr Etigwe Uwa (SAN), maintained that the company had no connection whatsoever with the loan in issue or the debenture with which it was secured and that the high court was wrong to have issued the order sealing the organisation’s premises.
The legal practitioner explained that the loan agreements evidenced by letters of offer of the credit facility were all between Diamond Bank Plc. (now Access Bank Plc.) and Cardinal Drilling Services Limited, while the three Deeds of Debenture to the loan were over specific and fixed assets of Cardinal Drilling viz four Drilling Rigs set out in the schedules of the three Deeds of Debenture.
He, therefore, urged the court to order the reopening of Seplat headquarters to allow for smooth operations.
However, Access Bank rejected this, arguing that overturning the interim order would amount to dabbling into the substantive issues that ought to be determined while hearing the main appeal.
But the judge, Justice Joseph Shagbaor Ikyegh, described the fears of Access Bank as “unfounded,” pointing out that “the Supreme Court has held that where machines and workers would be rendered useless, the court would intervene.”
“Disruption of business should be considered in the issue of balance of convenience. The court will exercise its discretion in suspending the injunction.
“Practical approach should be adopted and not do injustice to any of the parties.
“Where considerable hardship will be done to a party, the court will intervene by suspending the injunction or stay it.
“I found substance in the argument. The injunction restraining the appellant from operating is hereby suspended.
“Order on its accounts are also lifted pending the determination of the appeal,” the judge held.
He, therefore, asked Seplat issue a N7.6 billion ($20 million at N381/$1) in the name of the court’s Chief Registrar as part of the conditions to unseal the office.
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