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By Ismail Omipidan
An Anambra High Court has asked Senator Andy Uba, representing Anambra South, to refund a N50 million loan granted him by Oranto Petroleum Limited.
The company had dragged the senator to court, following his refusal to pay back the said loan, on the grounds that it was a gift and donation to his political campaign, and not a loan, as being claimed.
During the proceeding before the trial judge, C. N. Mbonu-Nwenyi, counsel to Oranto Petroleum, Mrs. Ugochi Ohajekwe, marshalled out arguments to support the position that senator Uba, indeed, took the loan, and refused to pay back.
To this end, she prayed the court for a summary judgment to be entered into, in favour of her client, Oranto Petroleum Limited.
She supported her position with a 15-paragraph affidavit, deposed to by the chairman/MD of Oranto Petroleum Limited.
Responding, Uba’s counsel, G. N. Onovo, also filed a 14-paragraph affidavit, deposed to by one Priscilla Ezebilo, where he, among other things, contested the claim that the said money was a loan. He went further to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case, since, according to him, Uba not only resides in Abuja, but also the said “gift” was handed to him, in Enugu, which is outside the jurisdiction of the court.
He also argued that there was no resolution of the company authorising the suit. While referring to section 167 (d) of the Evidence Act 2011, he urged the court to hold that the failure to produce the said resolution in court meant it would have been “unfavorable “to the person pursuing the case against Uba.
Onovo further relied on Section 133 (1) and (2) of the Evidence Act 2011, to argue that the company “has failed to establish or lead cogent evidence,” to show that the N50 million given to Senator Uba was, indeed, a loan facility, and not a gift.
In his reply, counsel to Oranto Petroleum, Ohajekwe, argued that the issue of money lending not being part of the objectives of the company was a new “assertion” being put by Senator Uba, adding, “it is incumbent on the defendant (Uba) to prove same by producing a copy of the memorandum and Articles of Association of the company, which is a public document.”
Relying on section 131 (1) of the Evidence Act, Ohajekwe further argued that assuming the claim that the company was not into money lending business was correct, senator Uba would not be allowed to benefit from “his unlawful act, knowing full well that the plaintiff (company) has no power to advance such money,” adding, “the onus is on respondent (Uba) to prove that there was no intention to repay.”
On the issue that there was no evidence from the company that it authorised the suit, Ohajekwe argued that there was no law that insists on “front loading of the resolution to sue.”
To this end, she urged the court to hold that senator Uba had failed to offer real defence to the suit, and that having failed in that regard, the court should enter judgment against him in the sum of N50 million, being refund of the money he (Uba) took as loan.
Delivering judgment, the trial judge held that he did not agree with senator Uba’s counsel that granting “interest free friendly loan,” was an offence under the Bank and Other Financial Institutions Act Cap B3, LFN 2004.
He further said: “The defendant did not deny receiving the money from the plaintiff. The interest-free loan was not granted to the defendant by Prince Authur Eze, rather all the cheques in respect of the said money were issued by Oranto Petroleum Limited.
“I have gone through the statement of defence the defendant is putting up in defence to this case. The defendant has not disclosed any good defence to the suit, and in such circumstances, the plaintiff is entitled to judgment.
“The plaintiff has sufficiently shown that she granted interest-free friendly loan to the defendant, which has not been denied and same have not been paid. In the circumstances I enter judgment for the plaintiff in the sum of N50,000,000.00 being refund of interest-free loan granted by the plaintiff to the defendant at the defendant’s request.”