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Heritage Bank Seeks to Recover Debts From the Ooni of Ife

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Nigeria’s Heritage Bank is seeking to seize assets belonging to a prominent king widely regarded as one of the most influential royals in Nigeria. The privately-owned bank has appointed a leading insolvency lawyer Ajibola Aribisala to seize and dispose of the assets of Mr Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the head of the ancient south-western town of Ife.

Mr Ogunwusi, whose royal title is Ojaja II, is the Ooni of Ife, the most cherished of all traditional stools among the Yoruba, one of the largest ethnic nationalities in West Africa.

The bank has now seized Mr Ogunwusi’s property at Lake View Park I Estate, located along Lekki-Epe Expressway, Ajah Town, Lekki Peninsula as a result of the Ooni’s failure to repay loans granted to his companies by Heritage.

The bank says that the loans were advanced to Mr Ogunwusi’s Howard Roark Gardens Limited approached which received a term loan as refinancing and working capital for the development of real estate assets in Jacob Mews Estate and Lake View Park I Estate.

In a letter dated 28th February, 2013 addressed to The Head, Large Corporates, Heritage Banking Company Limited and personally signed by Mr Ogunwusi, a total loan of One Billion, Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira was requested by the Howard Roark Garden Limited. The company said it planned to use eight hundred million naira to offset the outstanding loan liabilities of a related company GT Hoems Limited while the remaining balance of Six Hundred and Fifty Million was to be used for the completion of Jacob Mews and Lake View Park I Estates.

Heritage Bank agreed to grant the Ooni’s company two loan facilities of Six Hundred Million Naira and Four and Fifty Million Naira to augment the working capital towards the completion of Jacob Mews and Lake View Park I Estates and also refinance the exposure of GTHomes respectively with comprehensive terms and conditions of payments.

Consequent upon the acceptance of the terms and conditions set out by the bank by the Board of Directors of Howard Roark Gardens headed by the Ooni of Ife, Oba AdeyeyeOgunwusi, a loan facility of One Billion, Fifty Million Naira was advanced by Heritage Bank Limited to be repaid over a period of eighteen months.

Heritage Bank said that by August 2014, the Ooni’s company had defaulted in payments of its debt to the tune of Two Hundred and Thirty Million, One Hundred and Seventy Thousand, Eight Hundred and Seventy Three Naira, Forty Kobo as stated in a letter addressed to the Ooni who was at the that time the Managing Director of Howard Roark Gardens Ltd, co-signed by Olumide Dare and Olugbenga Awe on behalf of Heritage Banking Company Limited.

Though there were series of meetings aimed at finding ways to ensure that the indebtedness was resolved, it was discovered that as at the December 2014 when loan facility was supposed to expire, Howard Roark Gardens Ltd was still having an outstanding debt of Five Hundred and Eleven Million, Four Hundred and Fifteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Nineteen Naira, Eighteen Kobo as stated in another letter still co-signed by Olumide Dare and Olugbenga Awe on behalf of Heritage Banking Company Limited and addressed to the Managing Director of Howard Roark Gardens Limited.

Another meeting between the officials of the two companies over restructuring of the balance of the loan led to the advance of another Five Hundred and Seventy Million Naira payable over a period of another eighteen months among other sets of terms and conditions one of which is the use of a parcel of land measuring approximately 29,562 square metres situated along Lekki-Epe Expressway as security

However, the failure of the Howard Roark Gardens to honour its side of the deal forced Heritage Banking Company Limited to write a final letter demanding the payment of the loan which by June 2017 had risen to Nine Hundred and Eight Million, Two Hundred and Sixty-Four Thousand, Two Hundred and Six Naira, Thirty-Three Kobo (N908,264,206:33) and later rose to Nine Hundred and Fifty-Eight Thousand, Six Hundred and Ninety-Eight Thousand, Six Hundred and Eight-Two Naira, Fifty-Eight Kobo (N958,264,682:58) by October 2017.

Heritage Bank subsequently appointed Ajibola A. Aribisala as the Receiver/Manager over the mortgaged assets of Howard Roark Gardens Ltd in pursuant to Clauses 4. 9 and 10 of the Deed of Legal Mortgage dated 10th July, 2017 and registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission on 10th May, 2017

As Receiver and Manager, Chief Aribisala is expected to take possession of the property and among other things assist Heritage Bank recur its debts either through sale, leasing or letting of the property which means the mortgaged asset ceased to be property of the monarch until the Receiver could figure out a way to pay the money owed Heritage Bank

However, contrary to the expectations of the aggrieved party, Ooni Adeyeye’s company had refused to hand over the necessary documents or transit over the mortgaged assets over to the Receiver as required by the law. To further demonstrate its unwillingness to release the property, and frustrate efforts of Heritage Bank to recover the debt owed, the management of Howard Roark Garden Limited instituted a case at Lagos High Court seeking to stop the bank from going about its lawful business.

This prompted the Receiver and Manager, Chief Ajibola Aribisala to file an ex-parte motion at the Federal High Court; Lagos to use legal means to enforce his rights as a Receiver/Manager over the assets of Howard Roark Gardens Ltd and also use the agencies of the law to enforce such rights.

A Federal High Court judge Justice R.M Aikawa has now granted Mr Aribisala’s prayer to use all legal means at his disposal to take over all the fixed and floating assets of Howard Roark Gardens Limited (in receivership).

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