Ecobank Nigeria Limited has sent a letter to First Bank of Nigeria Holdings Plc, urging them not to approve the purchase of 4.7 billion shares by Oba Otudeko’s Honeywell Group. The move comes amidst an alleged debt of N13,507,052,417.99 owed to Ecobank by the company and its promoters.
The letter, written by Ecobank’s lawyer, Oludare Amusan of Kunle Ogunba & Associates, emphasizes that if First Bank approves the transaction, it could be seen as assisting in the diversion of funds and assets intended for debt repayment. Ecobank insists that First Bank must not take any action that could be construed as violating the extant judgment of the Supreme Court, which allegedly mandates the Honeywell companies to settle their outstanding indebtedness personally guaranteed by Oba Otudeko.
Dated July 7, 2923, the letter also demands that First Bank provide details of the status of the transaction within seven days of receiving the letter.
The shares in question were acquired at a rate of N19 per unit, representing the largest volume of First Bank shares traded in a single day since 2012 when stock exchange data started being published. As a result, Otudeko’s shareholding in the bank now stands at 14 percent of its outstanding market value.
In the letter addressed to Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, the CEO of First Bank of Nigeria Holdings Plc, Ecobank claims to have initiated several lawsuits against Honeywell Group Limited, Siloam Global Services Limited, Anchorage Leisures Limited, Honeywell Flour Mills Plc, and Dr. Oba Otudeko at the Federal High Court in Lagos. These legal actions aim to recover the debts owed by the companies.
According to the letter, the Supreme Court, in Appeal No. SC/CV/210/2021, delivered a judgment on January 27, 2023, affirming the indebtedness of the aforementioned entities to Ecobank. The court further commanded them to settle all outstanding debts accrued under the loan contract between the parties. The total debt stood at N13,507,052,417.99 as of January 31, 2023, with interest continuing to accrue as legally sanctioned by the Supreme Court.
However, instead of taking immediate steps to repay their indebtedness in line with the Supreme Court’s mandate, Ecobank has noticed that Dr. Oba Otudeko, the prime mover and alter ego of the debtor companies who personally guaranteed the debt, has been diverting his assets and those of the debtor companies. Ecobank firmly believes that these actions are aimed at frustrating the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s judgment against him and the Honeywell companies, thereby hindering the recovery of their undisputed indebtedness to Ecobank.