$85.8M Debt: Appeal Court Overturns Mareva Judgement, Unfreezes SEPLAT’s Accounts

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By Abiola Olawale

The Court of Appeal, in Lagos, has struck out the order of Mareva injunction placed on the SEPLAT Petroleum Development Company’s accounts, over an alleged debt of $85.8million.

Honorable Justice Rilwan Aikawa of a Federal High Court, Lagos, had placed Mareva injunction on the accounts of the oil firm following a case filed by Access Bank and other defendants against SEPLAT.

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The New Diplomat understands that a Mareva injunction is a temporary court order that freezes the assets of a party pending further order or final resolution on a case by the court.

The Appeal court overturned the lower court’s injunction on the grounds that it wasn’t based on any facts.

While delivering the judgement, Honorable Justice Joseph Ikyegh who is the presiding judge at the court, ordered that the company’s sealed offices should be opened with immediate effect.

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Ikyegh said the first defendant, Access Bank, did not consider the adverse effects that the Mareva injunction can cause on the oil firm. He said it could lead to a termination of gas supply to electricity generating companies which could in turn result to power blackout in some parts of the country.

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In his words, “I find substance in the application and thereby suspend the order of Mareva injunction granted by the lower court. All the banks accounts operated by the applicant are unblocked for transactions.”

The Appeal Court also ordered SEPLAT to provide the sum of $20million as a guarantee pending the time the court will give its judgement on the alleged debt.

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While reacting to the judgement, Etigwe Uwa (SAN), the counsel to SEPLAT, told the court the the oil firm had already complied with the order of providing an account as a guarantor. He said the oil firm had already deposited the sum of $20million in a Zenith bank account on Thursday as they anticipate the Court’s decision.

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The New Diplomat recalls that the first defendant, Access Bank and other defendants, Cardinal Drilling Services Limited, Mr Orjiako Ambrosie Bryant and Mr Kalu Nwosu, filed a suit against the oil firm. The defendants argued that the court should freeze the accounts of the Oil firm over the alleged debt.

Following the suit, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos granted the order of Mareva injunction on SEPLAT account, on November 23, following the suit by Access Bank and other applicants.

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The judgement was pronounced by Aikawa. He also ordered that the Assistant Inspector-General (AIP) of Police, Zone 2, Lagos, and the Commissioner of Police(CP), and their deputies and assistants should assist the manager of Access Bank in his lawful duties over the assets of SEPLAT pending the hearing and final judgement of the suit.

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In response to the judgement, Uwa, counsel to SEPLAT, appealed against the the court judgement and urged the Appeal Court to reverse the order.

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