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AMCON, Sterling Bank fingered in illegal land sale

The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and Sterling Bank have been accused of the illegal sale of portions of Victory Park Estate belonging to an indigenous real estate development company, Grant Properties Limited (GPL).

The portion of land allegedly sold by the Bank was 10 hectares, which was valued at N5b billion at the time of the sale from the 50-hectare land in Lekki, Lagos, where the estate is to be built. The bank allegedly secretly sold the land to one of its Directors for a fraction of its valued price.

We reliably gathered that GPL took a loan from four banks – Unity Bank, Skye Bank, WEMA Bank, and Sterling Bank – to part-finance the development of the Estate.

The loan was secured with the transfer of the shares in GPL’s subsidiary company, Knight Rook Ltd to the banks in lieu of a legal mortgage.

In a petition addressed to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Imohimi D. Edgal, on November 8, 2017, the Managing Director of GPL, Dr Olawunmi Olajide-Awosedo, explained that the residue of the loan was transferred to AMCON in 2011 due to liquidity problems in the banks.

The petition, which was acknowledged by the Police boss, read in part; “At the time they sold the debt to AMCON, the banks were required to transfer all of our collateral; however, we found out that Sterling Bank secretly withheld 10 hectares of our land which it illegally sold to one of its Directors, Mr Yemi Idowu, a rival real estate developer, who the bank had appointed to manage the account.

“Prior to his appointment to manage the account, he had made an attempt to buy the land for a price below the market value, but we had refused to sell.

“After he secretly bought the land from his bank, Mr Yemi Idowu, sold a quarter of it (2.4 hectares) to UPDC Plc for a substantial secret profit. Both UPDC and Mr Idowu commenced construction immediately.”

The GPL noted that despite getting a favourable court judgement, its staff were being tortured by suspected agents of AMCON and its lawyer, Mr Lanre Olaoluwa of Matrix Solicitors.

It also alleged AMCON of forceful eviction of its client and captivity of a mother and her child, as well as a worker.

A copy of the Lagos State High Court judgement obtained by newsmen showed that the court nullified the sale of the land on June 2, 2017.

The judgement stated that “the land was sold by Sterling Bank after the banks had assigned the loans to AMCON; the documents of the sale were signed by Mr Yemi Adeola & Ms Justina Lewa, Managing Director and Company Secretary of Sterling Bank respectively, who had no authority to do so; Sterling Bank acted alone, as the other banks did not participate in the sale; and GPL was not informed about the sale.”

Dr Awosedo had earlier written the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, on September 28, 2017, detailing what it termed “insider abuse, collusion and fraud” against his company (GPL) by AMCON and Sterling Bank.

The petition, which was also received and acknowledged by the CBN, read: “We took our case to court, and secured 2 orders to stop them from construction, but they disobeyed the Court Orders and continued building. They built a residential development called Cadogan Estate on the land in defiance of the Court Order.

“Having won our case, and secured our land, we wrote to AMCON on 15th June 2017, enclosing a certified true copy of the judgement, and a proposal to repay our loan from the land we won in the judgement. We wrote to AMCON to request for it to value the land and take their payment from it.

“To our surprise, since Friday, June 16, 2017, Olaoluwa has taken over our offices, facilities, estate and homes under an ex parte Court Order granted in August 2016, which should have expired after a maximum of 21 days. In fact, he brought an action at the Federal High Court in Abeokuta, seeking among other things, to renew the receivership, and it is instructive to note that the suit is still pending, and the court had not granted him the powers he requested before he began this process.

“As part of the intimidation to force us to compromise our judgement and ratify the illegal sale of our collateral, Olaoluwa and Matrix Solicitors obtained a judgment on October 3rd, 2017 against us in secret, as we were never notified or served any processes concerned with this suit up until they got the judgment. This is despite the fact that a previous case was still pending before the Federal High Court in Abeokuta.

“In fact, on the day they obtained judgment, we actually had a meeting at AMCON offices which was attended by Olaoluwa, his partner and an AMCON team led by Mr Saidu, AMCON’s Company Secretary. We have however filed a motion to set the judgment aside.”

The GPL subsequently called on the Federal Government and other relevant regulatory authorities to order an investigation into the activities of Sterling Bank and AMCON.

It said, “We pray for an immediate and thorough investigation of the involvement of Sterling Bank; its Managing Director, Mr Yemi Adeola; its Company Secretary, Ms Justina Lewa,; Mr Yemi Idowu; and their surrogate companies, including Mosam Global Construction Ltd; RED Ltd (Real Estate Development Company of Nigeria Ltd); SAMTL LTD (Sterling Assets Management & Trust Limited); SAMTL Properties Ltd; and Aircom Ltd in the illegal sale and development of our land.

“The actions of Sterling Bank; Yemi Adeola (MD); Yemi Idowu (Former Director and Shareholder of the bank); and Justina Lewa (its Company Secretary) are illegal under several laws. We want to draw the attention of the government and regulatory authorities to this debacle, so that they can investigate and sanction those who are found to have erred”, he concluded.

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