By Robert Egbe
ASCON Oil Company Ltd has denied a claim by Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC that it retook possession of its petrol station at Block 36, Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, unlawfully.
ASCON said it recovered the fuel station with the assistance of court bailiffs pursuant to a July 24 order of Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
It rebutted the bank’s claim it resorted to self-help and its actions were contemptuous.
Stanbic IBTC, in an August 11 statement, said “…no Court Order was granted to ASCON to warrant their extra-judicial action, which they undertook in forcefully seizing a Petrol Station validly belonging to a third party, in total defiance and disregard of Ruling of Justice Liman of the Federal High Court on 24 July 2020,“ adding that ” in total contempt of the Ruling by the Federal High Court, the Directors of Ascon resorted to self-help, and forcefully seized the property from the valid title holder.”
But responding to the claim in its statement, ASCON said: “We note that Stanbic IBTC PLC (Stanbic) in its Statement dated 11th August 2019 stated that there was no order granted by the Federal High Court on the basis of which ASCON Oil Company Limited took possession of its petrol station lying and situate at Block 36, Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1.
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“Stanbic in its statement has alleged that ASCON resorted to self-help and are in contempt of court.
“Further to this, ASCON has deemed it fit that we publish the following extract of the Certified True Copy of the Ruling of the Court setting aside its earlier order in suit marked FHC/L/CS/567/2020- OLAWALE AKONI, SAN V. ASCON OIL COMPANY LIMITED.
“ASCON Oil Company in its application dated 27th May 2020 had requested for an Order of Court setting aside its earlier Ex parte Orders dated 15th May 2020 which granted Olawale Akoni SAN, a receiver purportedly appointed by Stanbic, police protection for the preservation of Ascon’s petrol station as well as restrained ASCON from obstructing, interfering with the performance of his duties as receiver.
“On the 24th July 2020, Honourable Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court in his ruling setting aside his earlier order in part on the basis of fair hearing, stated that “Ascon ought to have been put on notice after the exparte order was made on the 15th of May 2020.
“In setting aside the order, the Court relied on the case of Unibiz Commercial Ltd V. Commercial Bank Credit Lyonnais Limited (2003) 6 NWLR (PT 816) 402, a similar case, wherein the Supreme Court per Ejiwunmi held as follows: “… ‘But what need be said, having regard to what I have said already is that the Appellant has rightly contended that he ought to be put on notice before the trial Court granted to the Respondent the restraining order placed upon the Appellant. I therefore hold that the Order was made in breach of the provisions of Section 33(1) of the Constitution. It follows that part of the Appeal succeeds and I therefore set aside the order made pursuant to the 2nd prayer of the application restraining the appellant, its privies, assigns, from doing anything that would prevent the receiver from performing his lawful duties as a receiver…’
ASCON said it was on the basis of the above ruling that it “interfered with the activities of the receiver” appointed pursuant to disputed Deed of Legal Mortgaged dated 5th June 2019.
The oil firm stated that it was on the basis of the earlier order of May 15, 2020 which had restrained ASCON from obstructing the activities of the receiver “that Stanbic had taken over possession of Ascon’s petrol station and Ascon did not interfere in any manner because of the erstwhile pending injunction against it.
It said in the light that the order was set aside in part by the same Court that granted it, “the bailiffs of the Federal High Court on August 5, 2020, served the ruling on Rain Oil and restored possession of the petrol station to ASCON.”
The firm further stated that it had notified the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) of possible “collusion anti-competitive acts” in the saga.