This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: N13.5 Billion Debt - Babalakin, AMCON Consider

Roygate Properties Limited, owned by businessman-lawyer, Dr. Wale Babalakin, and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) have commenced talks aimed at ensuring an out-of-court settlement of dispute between them over N13.5 billion debt allegedly owed by Roygate.

Officials of the Federal High Court, Lagos had, in execution of an order by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke sealed off a property located on 43A, Afribank Street, Victoria Island on February 8.

The property was said to have been pledged by the company in tripartite legal mortgage registered on October 14, 2010 between Roygate (the borrower) , Stabilini Visioni Limited (surety/mortgagor) and Guaranty Trust Bank (the lender). AMCON later acquired the loan.

In the order made ex-parte on February 5, the judge restrained Roygate, its directors, subsidiaries and sister companies from transferring or dealing with any of its funds in 20 banks listed in the application, or anywhere else up to the N13.5billion allegedly owed by the company.

He also restrained the banks from allowing Roygate "operate any bank accounts" held by it in the banks and fixed yesterday as the return date.

When parties and the affected banks returned to court Tuesday, lawyers to Roygate and AMCON, Olawale Akoni (SAN) and Adebola Sobowale told the court that talks were on to ensure an amicable settlement of the dispute.

Akoni told the court that he received a call from his client, before entering the court, to the effect that "talks are ongoing between parties."

He said he had told AMCON's lawyer about the development and sought an adjournment.

Sobowale confirmed the development. He told the court that he had equally confirmed that information about the ongoing talks by the parties from his client.

He agreed to a short adjournment. The court refused request by lawyers representing the banks to be excused from further proceedings.

They had sought to be excused on the grounds that having filed reruns, as ordered by the court, those without banking relationship with Roygate should be allowed to go.

But AMCON's Head, Corporate Communication, Kayode Lambo, said Roygate may have approached the corporation, indicating its willingness to commence settlement negotiation. He however, said negotiations are yet to commence.

Justice Aneke has however adjourned to February 28 for parties to either report the settlement or argue on which of the pending applications should be heard first.

Meanwhile, Babalakin while reacting to the proceedings yesterday, said the court adjourned for parties to properly agree on the next step to take.

In statement by his spokesman, Dipo Kehinde, he said: "There is need for discussion so that we can make process. We have no problem with that."

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