An Abuja based mining company, Granite and Marble Ltd, (GML) has dragged Zenith Bank Plc, Zenith Bank UK, First Investment Development Company (FIDC) and Prudential Mortgage Bank (PMB) before a federal high court in Abuja over alleged forgery, illegal conversion of equity, illegal operations of bank account, economic sabotage and threat to life.
The mining firm is claiming a sum of N635billion as specific and general damages for the alleged infractions committed against it by the four banks and others.
Apart from the banks, others listed as defendants in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1455/2021 are the Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Ebenezer Onyeagwu; the Managing Director of FIDC, Adebisi Adebutu; the Managing Director of PMB, Eyo Asuquo; the Deputy Managing Director Zenith Bank, Mrs Adaora Omeoji; Yewande Esan and others.
In the writ of summons filed on behalf of GML and others by Messrs Sebastine Hon (SAN), Anthony Malik (SAN) and Paul Harris Ogbole (SAN), the plaintiffs are claiming the N635 billion as specific and general damages for the series of infractions committed by the defendants against them.
In the particulars of the suit, Zenith Bank is accused of diverting the sum of N1billion approved for GML by the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN and routed through Zenith Bank.
The plaintiffs also claimed that Zenith Bank and its officers allegedly connived with Adebutu, Asuquo, FIDC and PMB to illegally change signatories to GML accounts without the authorization of the actual signatory to the accounts.
FIDC and PMB are alleged to have forcefully taken over the operations of the quarry site of GML despite not paying for the shares of the company they had proposed to buy.
GML also claimed that Zenith Bank held unto its verified assets for four years as collateral without disbursing the N1billion Real Sector Support Funds (RSSF) approved for it by the CBN.
In the suit which is accompanied by a 126 point statement of claim, GML and its Directors highlighted their ordeal in the hands of the institutions and individuals, which they claimed resulted in massive revenue losses, arrest of members of their families, denial of access to their business premises and transferring their accounts to persons not properly and legally authorized to do so.
GML further claimed that sometime in 2016, it’s Managing Director was on President Muhammadu Buhari’s delegation, as a representative of the mining sector, on the President’s first trade visit in China.
It added that while on the trip, the President signed an agreement with SBM China Ltd, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of mining equipment, to establish the biggest mining processing plant in Africa to be located in Abuja.
According to the company, it was on the strength of the agreement that they approached and got approval for a N1billion facility from the Real Sector Support Fund (RSSF) operated by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The plaintiffs claimed that not only did Zenith Bank refuse to release the funds which were GML’s counterpart commitment, it frustratingly held on to the company’s assets and wrote several approval and offer letters without disbursements.
At a point, Zenith Bank was said to have claimed, in a letter, that the funds will be disbursed by their UK subsidiary, Zenith UK Ltd.
The refusal by Zenith to release the funds was said to have jeopardized the agreement signed in China to reduce cost of construction.
The plaintiffs stated that Messrs Eyo Asuquo, FIDC and PMB approached GML to purchase shares in the company (GML) valued at an agreed combined sum of N700million.
Despite not paying for the shares, the plaintiffs alleged that they illegally tampered with the company’s documents at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and introduced names of themselves and substituted the names of other directors and the Company Secretary based on forged board resolutions.
The plaintiffs averred that with the altered documents, they connived with Zenith Bank to change the signatory to the account.
Adebutu and his team were also alleged to have forcefully taken over the sites of the company and conspired with Zenith Bank to draw down from the RSSF facility using the instrumentality of a forged deed of debenture.
They also claimed that while the quarry site was taken over by the purported new owners, illegal trade in unlicensed explosives were carried out thereby endangering residents of the neighbourhood.
The plaintiffs further averred that evidence of illegal trade in explosives by the defendants are before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
For the trauma experienced by the families, the cancelation of the contract occassioned by the activities of Zenith bank and the massive loss of revenues occasioned by the illegal take over of the company, the plaintifs are making a claim of N635billion or $1.2billion from the defendants.
Meanwhile, Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo of thE Federal High Court, Abuja on January 21, 2022 granted the plaintiffs’ request for substituted service of court documents on Zenith Bank, UK through DHL, a courier firm.
The judge granted the substituted service order while ruling on an ex-parte application filed and argued by lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Chief Sebastine Hon SAN.
Justice Ekwo consequently fixed March 8, 2022 for the hearing of the suit.