Shebah Exploration & Production Company Ltd, Allenne Ltd and its president, Dr Ambrosie Orjiako have been ordered to pay African Export-Import Bank, Diamond Bank Plc and Skye Bank Plc a sum of $144.2 million.
The order was given by a Federal High Court sitting Ikoyi, Lagos. The court backed the judgment delivered by the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
Certifying the court judgments on March 28, the court ordered the defendants to comply with the judgment and denied the defendants permission to appeal it.
The payment of $144.2 million, according to the court, is the outstanding and accrued interest of a credit facility granted to the defendants in 2011.
How it all started
The first defendant, Shebah Exploration & Production Company Ltd is a Nigerian company engaged in oil exploration and production while the second defendant, Allenne Ltd is the guarantor of the borrowed loan.
The third defendant, Dr. Ambrosie Orjiako, is the President of Shebah and a personal guarantor of the liabilities of Shebah and Allenne pursuant to a Deed of Guarantee and Indemnity dated July 1, 2011.
The claimants had dragged the defendants before the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division in order to be able to recover an outstanding of the facility loan granted to them.
The claimants had applied for a summary judgment against the defendants for sums outstanding under a syndicated loan facility agreement totalling over $144.2 million, together with interest on those sums.
They had prayed the court to determine whether it is arguable that, in entering the Facility Agreement, the parties were contracting on the claimants’ written standard terms of business so as to engage section 3 of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1997 (‘UCTA’).
In a judgment delivered by Justice Phillips of the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division on February 19, 2016, the court said Shebah had taken the loan for purpose of discharging certain of its existing borrowing and to provide working capital for its operations, including funding for a work-over programme to stimulate production at oil wells in the Ukpokiti oil field.
According to the court, the defendants never denied that the claimants advanced $150 million to Shebah pursuant to the Facility Agreement, nor dispute that apart from paying one instalment of $6,111,111.11 in June 2012 but Shebah has failed to meet any further repayment instalment, despite the claimants agreeing to the deferral of several instalments.
The judge said in a previous proceeding, which commenced on March 11, 2014, the defendants agreed that, in exchange for the claimants’ discontinuing the proceedings, Shebah would repay all sums outstanding under the Facility Agreement in two tranches: $49.999,999.86 (with accrued interest) by April 30, 2014 and the balance of the loans and interest by July 1, 2014.
Justice Phillips added that Shebah failed to pay any part of the sum due on April 30, 2014.
“The claimants were therefore entitled, under the terms of the Discontinuance Agreement, to commence fresh proceedings in respect of their claims.
These proceedings were commenced on June 2014, repeating the claims previously made and adding a claim against Shebah in respect of the $49.999,999.86 due under the Discontinuance Agreement”, the Judge said.
Phillips stated that notwithstanding their previous stance, the defendants now contended that no sums whatsoever are due to the claimants, adding that they (the defendants) have arguable defence to the claim.
The judge, however, ruled that there is no merit in the defendants’ contention on the issues on the ground that there is simply no basis for inferring that the claimants, or any of them, habitually put forward the LMA form (or a tailored version of it) as a basis for their syndicated loan transactions.