By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A N6.7 billion lawsuit has been instituted against Union Bank of Nigeria by a multinational oil company, Petrocam Trading Nigeria Limited.
The firm accused the lender of negligence and breaching a contract between them and filed the suit before a Lagos High Court.
Petrocam wants the court to compel Union Bank to credit its current account with N6.7 billion plus interest on the sum at the rate of 22 percent per annum from commencement of suit to date of judgement, with N50 million in general damages.
Counsel to Petrocam, Barrister Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), claimed Union Bank flouted the joint venture agreement entered with his client to jointly collaborate in opening letters of credit confirmation lines for the importation of petroleum products.
The joint venture accounts are domicile with the bank and in executing the letter of credit confirmation lines, the bank is expected to use the Naira sum in the account in bidding and purchasing foreign exchange for liquidation of mature letters of credit.
Sometimes in 2014, the company was said to have approached the bank for an import finance facility line of $45 million in its favour to finance the importation of petroleum products, upon securing the finance facility, various letters of credit were raised to utilize the dollar facility. The import finance facility was later increased to $100 million.
The letters of credit were to be paid back with sales proceeds and subsidy reimbursement and bank guarantee was provided as security for the sale proceeds.
However, the bank was alleged to have failed, neglected and refused to perform its duty as an agent between the company and Central Bank of Nigeria and as a bank to secure foreign exchange for the liquidation of matured letters of credit as at when due.
The bank, rather than make bids on behalf of the company within the period of 2014/2015 in the first quarter of the transaction when the letter of instructions were given by the company, was only able to purchase forex to liquidate these mature letters of credits within the period of 2016/2017,whereas 90% of the transactions were done in 2014/2015 when dollar was at the rate of N155-N160 per Dollar.
However, the company failed to bid on these transactions until when foreign exchange has moved to N288-N320 per dollar.
The company averred further that over N4 billion was domicile with the bank in the joint venture account as at February, 2015 and over N2.4 billion in Petrocam current account for purchase of foreign exchange to liquidate these matured letters of credit, but that the bank was only able to secure bid for $21,625,935.30 within the period of 90 days when they were expected to liquidate the full value of $76,369,569.30 which exposed the company to heavy losses as a result of the failure to bid as at when due by the bank within the transaction cycle.
By reason of the several acts of gross negligence and breach of the banker-customer relationship subsisting between the company and the bank, the company joint venture account maintained with the bank for the funding of trade facility has been allegedly unlawfully debited with a total sum in excess of N6,704,918,533.71.
The company also averred that the various exorbitant charges made on the company’s account by the bank was revealed by the report of the independent consultant engaged by the company.
As a result of these alleged breaches, Petrocam wants an order directing Union bank to credit or reverse the wrongful debit on the company’s current account maintained with the bank for the funding of the letter of credit totaling the sum of N6,704,918,533.71 arising from the bank’s breach of its duty to the company, interest on the said sum of N6,704,918,533.71 at the rate of 22%per annum being the prevailing interest rate from commencement of this suit to the date of judgement, and thereafter 7% interest from the date judgement is given till the final liquidation of the judgment sum as well as N50 million as general damages in favour of the Petrocam company.
But Union bank did not file any defence to this suit, rather it has filed another suit against Petrocam Trading Company Limited and its Managing Director, Mr Patrick Ilo, before a Federal High Court in Lagos, claiming the sum of N10,062,643,928.72 and $5,247,693.82 plus interest at the rate of 27% per annum and N20 million as cost of instituting the said legal action against Petrocam Trading company and its Managing Director.
This has forced Petrocam and its Managing Director to file a preliminary objection against this suit, drawing the attention of the court to their pending suit against the bank at a Lagos High Court.
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