The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and its receiver manager have been brought to the center of a media circus owing to the allegations of Olajide Awosedo, chairman of Grant Properties Limited, against the corporation. AMCON has now given a detailed response to the allegations.
WHO IS OLAJIDE AWOSEDO?
Mr. Olajide Awosedo is the promoter of Grant Properties which is currently under receivership due to debts owed AMCON. AMCON was established under the AMCON Act 2010 to acquire non-performing loans known as “Eligible Bank Assets” (EBA) from Nigerian banks. These assets are now held on behalf of 180 million Nigerians. It has been reported that over 80% of these debts are owed by a few elite Nigerians who deploy huge resources to avoid paying back the debts. One such debtor is Olajide Awosedo who was indebted to over nine banks to the tune of N22 billion. Awosedo’s other company –Havilah Villas Limited is also indebted to Heritage Bank and Access Bank. Its assets in Ogun state were seized by AMCON in June 2017 over a N4.68 billion debt. Awosedo also owes First Bank N2 billion plus interest arising from a development called Goshen Beach Estate. As a result First Bank, Sterling Bank, Wema Bank, Unity Bank, Access Bank, Skye Bank and the other banks are all trying to recover their loans.
WHEN AWOSEDO’S FINANCIAL PROBLEMS REACHED A HEAD
Awosedo’s financial problem crystallized when he left the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the Labour Party having failed to secure the Ogun State governorship Ticket. He proceeded to contest the governorship contest using borrowed funds and was unsuccessful. Olajide Awosedo made another unsuccessful attempt through the Accord party which further compounded his financial situation. As a result he was unable to repay his mounting debts. It has been alleged that Awosedo used part of the N8 billion he borrowed from the consortium of banks, meant for real estate development, to fund his governorship campaign in Ogun state.
Mr. Awosedo’s various debts arose from unpaid loans relating to the development of Goshen Beach Estate Lekki (First Bank), Victory Park Estate Lekki ( Sterling Bank, Wema Bank, Unity Bank and Skye Bank ) and Havilla Gardens Ogun State (Access Bank formerly Intercontinental Bank and Heritage Bank). It is claimed that he also owed FCMB, Diamond Bank, United Mortgage Bank and Providus Bank. These debts have been subject to court cases, court judgments and EBAs now acquired by AMCON.
THE BEGINNING OF AWOSEDO’S TROUBLE WITH BANKS AND AMCON
According to a source privy to this case, in 2002 the Lagos State government under the private developers’ scheme allocated 46 hectares of land to a company called Knight Rook Limited. But the company was unable to pay for the land; Lagos state demanded for a bank guarantee to cover the payment. Grant Properties the promoters approached a consortium of banks for the Bank Guarantee. Grant Properties was a shareholder of Knight Rook Limited before transferring its shares to the four banks led by Sterling Bank in 2006. At all times the property belonged to Knight Rook Limited and not Grant Properties.
The Victory Park Estate debt under reference arose due to this failed obligation to Lagos State Government. Grant Properties had approached the four banks in 2003 (Sterling Bank, WEMA Bank, Unity Bank and Skye Bank) for the Bank Guarantee to be issued in favor of Lagos State Government for a Site and Services estate Scheme. The lead bank was Sterling Bank (formerly NAL Bank). Mr. Awosedo was a staff of NAL Bank before resigning to enter private business.
Grant Properties failed to make payment on the due date and Lagos State claimed the due funds on the Bank Guarantee from the four Banks. Since the property was in the name of a company called Knight Rook Limited and the banks fully paid for the Land. (Awosedo did not contribute any money to the purchase of the property). The Banks demanded for their funds which were not forthcoming. Therefore in 2006 the bank foreclosed and all the shares of Knight Rook Limited were transferred to the four banks and the Banks appointed directors to Knight Rook Limited which meant that the banks fully owned Knight Rook. Grant Properties transferred all its shares to the banks and Mr. Awosedo and his wife resigned from Knight Rook Limited. Knight Rook secretariat and administrative matters were domiciled with Sterling Bank as the Lead Bank.
By an MOU, the Banks also appointed Grant Properties as developer to develop the phase 1 of 90 flats in Victory park estate. The Banks also funded and sponsored the phase 1 development. The Four Banks also paid the salaries of Awosedo’s staff during the period and customers paid deposits to the banks for the phase 2 development. The Banks did not charge any interest during this period because it was an investment. Upon completion of Phase 1 , the construction loan granted by the Banks remained unpaid and the project was declared a loss.
At this point, the debt figure was about over N10 billion. The consortium of banks explored every avenue to recover their money without success.
The Banks later discovered that Olajide Awosedo diverted 9 of the flats to his children and family which was an abuse and breach of trust. As a result all four banks were unwilling to provide further loans and the loan was classified as a bad debt. The banks further resolved to transfer the debt to AMCON. However, before the debt could be purchased by AMCON, the banks needed to refund all the creditors and depositors.
Grant properties proposed the sale of 10 hectares to raise funds to repay some of the debts. The four banks gave Grant Properties over 2 years to find a buyer but Grant properties informed the banks that they could not find a buyer due to the economic situation. So the Banks found a buyer and sold the 10 hectares and then refunded all the depositors with the proceeds. In the process the banks lost a lot of money. This meant that even if the land was sold at a higher price, Grant Properties would NOT have received the money because it would have been applied to repay the remaining debts which were written off by the banks before they transferred the EBA to AMCON. The 4 Banks also agreed to transfer the remaining 14 hectares to AMCON as consideration for the EBA purchased from the banks. Considering the fact that this was depositors’ money and pressed in a tight corner, the banks sold the bad debt to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). The corporation bought the liability for N5.1 billion which was not enough to cover the N10 billion debt sum which meant that the Banks lost another N5 billion on the debts.
Meanwhile Awosedo of Grant Properties continued to sell parcels of land in Victory Park Estate, Lekki, to unsuspecting buyers even after AMCON had acquired the asset. AMCON considered this action fraudulent and took legal action against him. Awosedo then petitioned AMCON claiming that the Banks sold the 10 hectares without his knowledge and that the 10 hectares sold by the Banks was part of the 14 hectares belonging to AMCON and that he was not involved or aware of the sale of the 10 hectares by the four banks. He also claimed that the property was sold below the true market value.
Further investigation by AMCON and the CBN found his petition to be false and untrue. AMCON found that the banks acted within the bounds of the law, and that sale of the assets to refund the depositors was legal. Contrary to the claim by Awosedo that the banks sold “his land” after AMCON had acquired his debt. The corporation confirmed that the sale of this asset (10 Hectares) happened before its acquisition of the liability. AMCON also found that he had been aware of the sale of 10 Hectares, that the proceeds were used to refund depositors and subscribers for buildings which Awosedo failed to deliver, that most of the refund cheques and deposits were handled by Grant properties and Awosedo. In refunding the subscribers, the lead bank (Sterling Bank) issued cheques, which were then handed over to Grant Properties Limited for distribution. Grant Properties Limited not only acknowledged the cheques but replied with corrections to be made in the name of some subscribers. Consequently, contrary to the petition, Mr Awosedo, through his companies was clearly involved in the sale of the 10 hectares and distribution of the proceeds of same.
AMCON discovered that Awosedo had fraudulently sold 2 Hectares of the 10 Hectares to unsuspecting buyers at N24,000/ sq meter. AMCON also discovered that the sales proceeds were diverted by Grant Properties and the proceeds were not used to pay down the bank debts or the AMCON EBA. The four banks had sold the 10 hectares - at N18,500/sq meter (about N1.85 billion) to Real Estate Development Company (RED) before AMCON took over the assets. RED sold 2.4 hectares of this land to UAC Property Development Company at the rate of N26,000/ sq meter. The price was higher because the value of the property had appreciated owing to the construction of a pivotal access road – Oba Akinloye Way. The entire 10 Hectares is now fully developed with over 300 families living in the estate.
Notwithstanding the above, AMCON negotiated between the two parties and sought an amicable resolution. Awosedo demanded for N750 million, the difference between N26,000/ sq meter price sold to UAC and the N18,000/ sq meter purchase price of RED (despite having sold two hectares at N24,000/ sq meter). Mr. Awosedo put his demands in writing offering to accept N600 million which was applied to reduce his liability to AMCON. The Banks counterclaimed through Sterling Bank that Awosedo withheld the proceeds of nine developed apartments valued at N270 million and the sales proceeds of two hectares. After protracted negotiations and mediation by AMCON, the banks agreed to forfeit the 9 apartments valued at N270 million and 10% of the EBA proceeds valued at N510 million. AMCON wrote to the banks confirming the final settlement and the four banks replied through sterling bank accepting the offer with the condition that AMCON will compel Awosedo and Grant properties to accept the same. AMCON replied and accepted the terms. AMCON is therefore now also bound by the terms of settlement reached by both parties.
However, Mr. Awosedo commenced legal action in 2012 – in the name of Knight Rook Limited (despite being fully aware that Knight Rook Limited was by this time wholly owned by AMCON and not having AMCON’s permission to do so) – purportedly to challenge the sale of land to UAC in SUIT NO: LD/576/12 – GRANT PROPERTIES LIMITED & ANOR V. UACN PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT COMPANY PLC & ANOR. Throughout this case, Mr. Awosedo never disclosed, until he was challenged, that he did not have AMCON’s authority to sue in the name of a company wholly owned by AMCON. The defendants contested his authority to sue, at which point his counsel – a senior advocate of Nigeria Bonajo Badejo SAN admitted the lack of authority to initiate the case in the name of Knight Rook Limited and Knight Rook Limited was struck out as a plaintiff in the suit (but inexplicably then joined as a defendant); more materially, Mr. Awosedo also never disclosed to the court that the issue had been resolved at his instance by AMCON. In June 2017 the high court nullified the transfer of 2.4 hectares to UAC but the court reaffirmed that the entire property still belonged to Knight Rook limited which was owned by AMCON. Awosedo then approached AMCON requesting to benefit from the judgment but AMCON as a responsible organization chose to honor the terms of the resolution earlier reached with all parties.
THE JUDGMENT OF A FEDERAL HIGH COURT SACKING GRANT PROPERTIES
In 2015, a Federal High Court in Lagos had ruled that the asset in dispute was the property of Knight Rook, not Awosedo’s Grant Properties. So, having resigned from the Knight Rook and transferring his shares to the four banks, Awosedo had no legal right to the asset. During the court case against UAC, Grant properties suppressed this information from the Lagos State court to his advantage. This forms part of the grounds of appeal by UAC in the Court of Appeal.
AMCON, which played a mediatory role between the consortium of banks and Grant Properties, says Awosedo has no legal right to Knight Rook or to its assets according to the 2015 judgment.
Mr. Jide Olasetin, a legal representative of the corporation, disclosed that the banks made 100 percent payment for the assets. He said Grant Properties made no single contribution to the purchase and development of the assets. He said the banks had exercised legal authority on the assets.
As required by law, AMCON duly gave Knight Rook Limited and thus Mr. Olajide Awosedo and his companies notice of the acquisition of their debts.
Today the assets belong to 180 million Nigerians and it is held in trust by AMCON until all the debts are recovered. Thus no amount of blackmail or intimidation will change the position of the Federal Government or AMCON until all the debts are paid.
The position of AMCON is unassailable and this position has been further confirmed “On 3rd October 2017, in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/744/17 – AMCON V. KNIGHT ROOK LIMITED & ORS, Hon Justice Buba of the Federal High Court (FHC), Lagos entered judgment in favour of AMCON against Knight Rook Limited & 5 Ors in the sum of N12, 566,910,191.00 plus interest. Counsel to Knight Rook Limited who was in court submitted to judgment stating that having reviewed records there was no defence to the claim while the other defendants including Mr. Olajide Awosedo who were duly served with the originating processes and had appeared in court through counsel prior to that day and had also applied for and obtained copies of all processes filed through their counsel, were absent and had Judgment entered against them in default of defence, pursuant to the extant provisions of the AMCON Practice Direction 2013,” AMCON said.
“Buba J also made an order forfeiting all and any residuary rights, which Mr. Olajide Awosedo may have to Knight Rook Limited amongst other orders.
“AMCON immediately executed this judgment by attaching and taking possession of the chattels and landed properties (including Victory Park Estate) which the receiver/Manager, Mr. Lanre Olaoluwa, had earlier taken possession of Victory Park Estate and other assets of Mr. Olajide Awosedo and his companies. The receiver/manager, in compliance with the judgment of the Federal High Court in that regard, handed over all those assets to AMCON.”
As a result of this action Olajide Awosedo has embarked on a smear campaign against individuals in AMCON and the banks on the social and print media. This blackmail is a usual strategy employed by chronic debtors who are unwilling to pay their debts. But AMCON and its senior management are undeterred.
According to the corporation, Justice Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos ruled in October that Awosedo had no residuary right to Knight Rook. AMCON says the judgment also gave it the necessary legal muscle to acquire the assets.
This judgment, from a constitutional court, validates the action of AMCON.