Business/Finance

Otudeko fires back at Ecobank, says ‘Supreme Court didn’t award N13.5bn judgment debt’

Oba Otudeko, chairman of Honeywell Group, has asked First Bank Nigeria (FBN) Holdings to disregard Ecobank’s request for it to reject his acquisition of 4.77 billion shares.

 

Recently, Honeywell Group, through its affiliate, Barbican Capital Limited, acquired a total of 4,770,269,843 units of FBN Holdings’ shares.

 

The purchase brought the stake held by the company in the premier bank to 13.3 percent, making it the majority shareholder.

 

Few days after the purchase, Ecobank wrote a letter to FBN Holdings, asking the bank to reject the Otudeko-led Honeywell’s bid to become the company’s largest shareholder.

 

Ecobank further claimed that Honeywell owes it a debt of N13.5 billion, adding that the debt was affirmed by the supreme court on January 27, 2023.

 

Responding to the bank’s claim, Wole Olanipekun, lawyer of Otudeko and Honeywell Group, said the N13.5 billion debt stated in Ecobank’s letter is/was not contained in the supreme court decision or any extant court decision in Nigeria or elsewhere.

 

According to Honeywell, no order of court has awarded the amount or any judgment sum (as debt owed) at all in favour of Ecobank.

 

Honeywell’s reply was contained in a letter dated July 10, 2023, and addressed to the managing director FBN Holdings.

 

“We write at the instance of Dr. Oba Otudeko, CFR and Honeywell Group Ltd. (our Clients), whose attention have been drawn to a letter dated 7th July, 2023 (written on the instruction of Ecobank Nig. Ltd.) with the above subject,” the letter reads.

 

“Even though, the author(s) of the letter refused to deliver copies to our clients, and/or the other entities referred to in the letter (which has been widely circulated in the media space), it is our instruction to respond as follows:

 

“Whereas, the letter falsely alleges that there was a decision of the Supreme Court in SC/CV/210/2021 made on 27th January, 2023 “affirming the indebtedness” of our clients and that the decision also ‘commanded’ our above stated clients to perform certain acts, neither Dr. Oba Otudeko, CFR nor Honeywell Group PIc was a party to the Supreme Court decision/proceedings and no order was made against them.

 

“Thus, the further statement in the letter that ‘…the actions being taken by Dr. Oba Otudeko is (sic) … in order to frustrate the enforcement of the judgment of the Supreme Court against him’ is without any factual or inferential basis arising from the express terms/contents of the judgment.

 

“Ecobank was the defendant in the claim at the Federal High Court which culminated in the decision of the Supreme Court in SC/CV/210/2021.

 

“The Bank had no counterclaim right from the Federal High Court through to the Supreme Court and, naturally, the Supreme Court could not have,

and, indeed did not grant or award any claim in favour of the Bank.”

 

Honeywell urged FBN Holdings to ignore and decine all the requests contained in Ecobank’s letter.

 

“As you are aware, the duties of the Chief Executive Officer of a financial institution are statutory and they do not extend to the various actions Ecobank’s

letter requested you to perform, including but not limited to intervention in transactions between third parties on the Nigerian Exchange,” the letter adds.

 

“The level of seriousness to be ascribed to the letter can easily be appreciated from its title which has referred to “SHARES …… IN FBN HOLDINGS PLC OR IN ANYOTHER ENTITY” as if the responsibilities of your office extend to the outfit(s) vaguely/nebulously referred to as “ANY OTHER ENTITY”.

 

“We are convinced that you also appreciate the confidentiality obligations incumbent on your person, office and institution which are inconsistent with the requests in Ecobank’s letter; especially when there is no express order of Court mandating such disclosures.”

 

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