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High Flyer, ABC Orjiako Still Trailed By Debts



Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc (Seplat), a company listed on both the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) and the London Stock Exchange (LSE) recently raised $650 through a bond issuance.

While the transaction has been hailed by analysts, some other analysts have raised the red flag concerning the character and reputation of some board members in the energy company.

Indeed, they noted that some recalcitrant debtors who are in the habit of moving from one bank to another, with a deliberate plan not to repay, would go to any length to carry out their practice.

Precisely, they noted the ongoing legal tussle between Access Bank Plc and Seplat, of which the Chairman of the energy company is at the centre of the matter.

Apart from Access Bank, ABC Orjiako is battling AMCON over unpaid debt which had forced the Asset Management Company of Nigeria to drag him to court where an order to seize his asset was granted to AMCON.

Also the Access Bank tussle with Orjiako is now matter a subject of legal tussle with Orjiako; Seplat as a company; Cardinal Drilling Nigeria Limited, another company associated with the businessman, and Kalu Nwosu, Managing Director of Cardinal Drilling Nigeria Limited, over an indebtedness put at $85.8 million.

The sum was being owed to the defunct Diamond Bank, which has since been acquired by Access Bank.

Owing to this matter, on December 2, 2020, the head office of Seplat Petroleum Development Company was sealed up following a court order which permitted a receiver/manager, Messrs Kunle Ogunba & Co to enforce an ex parte motion requesting that Access Bank take over the oil and gas company’s head office, due to the Cardinal Drilling Nigeria loan taken from Diamond Bank. In 2012, Cardinal Drilling Services Limited applied for and obtained a credit facility from Diamond Bank to buy CDS Rigs 101, 201, 202 and 203.

The loan was secured by a fixed and floating Debenture over Cardinal’s assets and the Cardinal Rigs were allegedly used to provide drilling services to Seplat.

Also, CDS 101 and 201 were used to execute Seplat’s 2019 work programme and all four rigs were allegedly critical to Seplat’s future drilling plans and to shareholder returns by way of improved revenues and possible dividends.

But Cardinal Drilling was unable to service the facility, prompting Access Bank to approach the court to enforce its rights. Since then, Access Bank has been bent on recovering its debt, maintaining that the loan was utilised by Seplat.

The bank, through its solicitors, Mr. Kunle Ogunba and Associates, had argued that the learned justices of the court erred in law when they suspended the interlocutory orders made by the trial judge at the Federal High Court, thereby treating the substantive appeal at an interlocutory stage.

The foregoing therefore underscores the need for investors in the bank’s recent bond offerings to be vigilant so as not to fall victims of bad actors.

There is increasing pressure on Orjiako to pay up his debts so as not to destroy confidence in the financial sector and high flying company, Seplat he superintends.

By Mikun Mayowa

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