The Chairman of the Honeywell Group, Dr. Oba Otudeko, has told the Federal High Court in Lagos that his companies owed Ecobank Nigeria Limited individually.
He, however, said the debt had been repaid.
In his witness statement on oath filed before Justice Mohammed Idris, the business mogul said the firms jointly negotiated with the bank on the repayment terms.
Ecobank denied applying for a bench warrant to compel Otudeko’s appearance.
Justice Idris had at the instance of Ecobank’s lawyer, Mr. Divine Agbua, subpoenaed Otudeko to testify in an alleged N5.5bn debt suit between three of his companies and the bank.
The companies – Anchorage Leisures Limited, Siloam Global Limited and Honeywell Flour Mills Plc – are praying the court to hold that they were not indebted to Ecobank.
The bank’s lead counsel, Kunle Ogunba, was stripped of his rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) for filing multiple suits against Otudeko’s companies.
The Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC), acting on Honeywell Group’s petition, concluded that Ogunba allegedly abused the court process by filing multiple suits against Otudeko’s companies over the same issues.
But, Ogunba had claimed that the suits were against the individual companies and did not amount to an abuse.
In his witness statement on Oath, Otudeko said: “The plaintiffs were individual customers of the defendant and had personal outstanding exposures to the defendant.
“In view of the fact that Honeywell Group Limited is the parent company of the plaintiffs, the plaintiffs under the auspices of the Honeywell Group, led by me, opened up negotiations to settle the then outstanding indebtedness of the plaintiffs to the defendant.”
Agbua had urged the court to adjourn the case to await the outcome of an application for stay of proceedings which he filed at the Court of Appeal.
But the companies counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), opposed the request for an adjournment, an objection which the judge sustained.
Otudeko maintained that his companies had paid N3.5bn as of December 12, 2013 as the full and final payment for the N5.5bn debt as agreed by the parties at a July 22, 2013 meeting.
Justice Idris adjourned the matter till March 12 for continuation of hearing.