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The Federal High Court in Abuja has granted the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) application to take over the assets of the Chairman of SEPLAT Petroleum Development Company, Ambrosie Orjiako.

The court also ordered the take over of the assets of two of Mr Orjiako’s affiliate companies, Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited and Allenne Limited.

SEPLAT Petroleum is a Nigerian independent oil and gas company operating a portfolio of oil and gas assets in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.

The court order, issued on August 15, was accompanied with the letters to the Managing Directors of 29 commercial and merchant banks in the country where Mr Orjiako and his allies have accounts. A copy of the court ruling was obtained by PREMIUM TIMES on Friday.

Details of the application

The order followed an application by Mojisola Owoseni of Lexavier Partners, legal practitioners, legal counsel to AMCON in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/945/19 against ABC Orjiako, Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited, with RC No 499348, and Allenne Limited.

In the application, AMCON asked the court to grant Francis Chuka, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, right to exercise its function as Receiver/Manager of Mr Orjiako’s assets in Nigeria and abroad, including Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited.

Mr Chuka was appointed by AMCON as Receiver/Manager on July 30, 2019, with the mandate to “take possession of and preserve all its assets and undertakings” by Mr Orjiako.

The assets and undertakings included his personal properties at Nos. 10C and 25A Lugard Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos; an oil vessel, MT Trinity Spirit, used as a floating, Production, Storage, and Offloading (FPSO) facility in Ukpokiti Oil Field belonging to Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited.

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Also affected are all movable and immovable assets of Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited in and outside Nigeria, including the oil production facilities and other assets belonging to Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited and located in and around Ukpokiti Oil Field.

Court order

In granting AMCON’s application, the FCT Federal High Court presided by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, gave the Receiver/Manager judicial protection to take over and manage Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited till the full determination of the case.

The court also permitted the Receive/Manager to take over all shares belonging to Mr Orjiako and his affiliate companies, Shebah Exploration & Production Company Limited, and Allenne Limited, which they own directly or through proxies.

Their equity holdings are in registered corporate entities like Seplat Petroleum Development Company Limited, Platform Petroleum (Joint Ventures) Limited, Abbeycourt Trading Company Limited, Helko Nigeria Limited, Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited BVI, Plumage Management Limited, Sinclair Commercials Limited BVI and Allenne Limited BVI.

The order also authorized the Receiver/Manager to take over Mr Ojiako’s property in Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, and Maryland in the United States as well as London, United Kingdom.

By the order, counsel to AMCON said the Receiver/Manager was also ordered to take steps to take over the assets of Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited for the purpose of liquidating its outstanding indebtedness to AMCON.

Mr Orjiako and other directors of the Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited was ordered to desist from harassing the Receiver/Manager from doing his job.

In the letter to the 29 banks that Mr Orjiako and his affiliates had accounts, the managers were all directed to prevent all further withdrawals of funds and other debit transactions from the accounts.

The court also granted a request for an order restraining Mr Orjiako and his allies from interfering with or removing from the court’s jurisdiction in respect of the oil firm’s funds in the banks and financial institutions in and outside the country without the consent of the AMCON.

The legal firm urged the banks to furnish the Receiver/Manager within seven days the comprehensive statement of each account showing the outstanding balances of the defendants.

It is not clear as at press time if the banks complied with the court’s order to make available those details. Some of the banks contacted on Friday promised to cross-check the information and revert. None did.

The firm threatened to initiate contempt proceeding against any bank and its officials that flout the court order.

The banks AMCON wrote to included Access Bank, Citi Bank Nigeria Limited, Ecobank Nigeria, Fidelity Bank, First Bank of Nigeria, First City Monument Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Heritage Bank Limited, Keystone Bank Limited, Mainstream Bank Limited, Polaris Bank Limited Providus Bank Limited, Stanbic IBTC, Standard Chartered Bank, Sterling Bank, Suntrust Bank, Union Bank and United Bank for Africa, all in Lagos.

Other banks include Unity Bank, Wema Bank, Zenith International Bank, Titan Trust Bank, Globus Bank Limited, Coronation Merchant Bank FBNQuest Merchant Bank Limited, FSDH Merchant Bank Limited, Rand Merchant Bank Limited, and Nova Merchant Bank Limited in the Lagos as well as the African Export-Import Bank in Abuja.

The Debt

Mr Orjiako has been having a running battle over a multi-billion debt AMCON has been battling to recover.

Although AMCON was not forthcoming with the exact figure of the debt, pressures for a recovery compelled Mr Orjiako early this month to offload about 3.5 million units of the equity he controlled in SEPLAT Petroleum to enable him to defray part of the obligation.

After the sale, Mr Orjiako now holds a direct interest in 16,151,325 ordinary shares and indirect interest in 26,300,000 ordinary shares of the company totalling 42,451,325 shares which equates to a voting interest of 7.21 per cent.

The transaction took place in London and a notice of the transaction was sent to the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE).

In the notice, the Chief Financial Officer of SEPLAT, Roger Brown, said the shares sold at an average price of 114.5 pence per share.

Mr Brown said the shares were “registered in the name of Vitol Energy Limited held for the benefit of Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited, which is an entity controlled by Dr. A.B.C. Orjiako and members of his family”.

SEPLAT Petroleum Development Company is a Nigerian independent oil and gas company which operates a portfolio of assets in the Niger Delta region. It is a leading supplier of processed gas to the domestic market.

SEPLAT was formed in June 2009 through the partnership of Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited and Platform Petroleum Joint Ventures Limited.

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