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Court Rules Orjiako Must Repay $144.2m debt to Consortium

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited, Allenne Limited and Ambrosie Bryant Chukwueloka Orjiako, to pay the sum of $144.2 million to a consortium of three banks.

The court ruled that the sum, which was the outstanding and accrued interest on a facility granted to the defendants in 2011, must be to the African Export-Import Bank, Diamond Bank PLC and Skye Bank PLC. The court ordered the defendants to comply with the judgment and denied the defendants motion for appeal.

The three banks had sued the companies associated with Mr Orjiako at the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, United Kingdom in order to recover the outstanding facility.

They had asked the court to determine whether it was arguable that, in entering the Facility Agreement, the parties were contracting on the claimants’ written standard terms of business so as to engage section 3 of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1997 (‘UCTA’).

The first defendant, Shebah Exploration and Production Company is a Nigerian company engaged in oil exploration and production and the borrower of said loan, while the second defendant, Allenne is the guarantor of the borrowed loan.

Mr Orjiako, a medical doctor who co-founded Seplat Petroleum is currently the Chairman of Seplat as well as the President of Shebah Exploration and Production Company. The plaintiffs averred that Mr Orjiakor agreed to act as a personal guarantor of the liabilities of Shebah and Allenne, pursuant to a Deed of Guarantee and Indemnity dated July 1, 2011.

In a judgment delivered by Justice Phillips of the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division on February 19, 2016, the judge stated that Shebah had taken the loan for purpose of discharging certain of its existing borrowings and to provide working capital for its operations, including funding for a work-over programme to stimulate production at oil wells in the Ukpokiti oil field.

According to the judgment, the defendants never denied that the claimants advanced $150 million to Shebah pursuant to the facility agreement, nor disputed that, apart from paying one installment of $6,111,111.11 in June 2012 but that Shebah has failed to meet any further repayment installment, despite the claimants agreeing to the deferral of several installments.

The judge held that defendants agreed that, in exchange for the claimants’ discontinuing the proceedings, Shebah would repay all sums outstanding under the facility agreement in two tranches of $49.999,999.86 (with accrued interest) by April 30, 2014 and the balance of the loans and interest by July 1, 2014. He added that Shebah failed to pay any part of the sum due on April 30, 2014.

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