The Group Managing Director of Suru Worldwide Ventures Nigeria Limited, the owner of Best Western Hotels, Allen, Ikeja, Mr. Edward Akinlade saturday alleged that the mobile policemen that were sent by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to enforce the takeover of the hotel tear-gassed him and members of his staff during the exercise.
Akinlade, who spoke during an interview at his residence in Lagos, said he was also injured during the process as he showed THISDAY a minor injury on his leg.
But a source at AMCON who pleaded to remain anonymous, described as blatant lies the allegation by Akinlade.
Akinlade explained that on Friday morning, at about 4.30 am, about 100 mobile policemen invaded his hotel to forceful take over the asset from him. He insisted that AMCON did not follow due process.
He explained: “I was actually on my way to Abuja that morning, when I was informed about what was taking place at the hotel. By the time I got there, which was around 5.30am, all my staff were outside.
“So, I had to force myself in. I opened the door and took my staff in. And the next thing that happened was tear gas everywhere. They tear-gassed my staff outside. They went inside the hotel, a five-storey building and all the guests from international organisations and from other countries were there and they tear-gassed the whole place.
“One of the tear gas, as it was passing burnt my leg and they discharged ammunition. They said they had the order of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take over the hotel. No matter what I did to try and stop them, it didn’t work. So, I had to be carried to the hospital until Saturday morning.”
Akinlade argued that his loan ought not to have been sold to AMCON by the then Oceanic Bank as it was performing.
“AMCON went to Justice Idris in August 2016 and got a court judgment, which is between AMCON and the IGP. They then listed our property and quoted three registered mortgages which I signed for the old Oceanic Bank, and when we obtained the certified true copies, we discovered they were forged.
“The whole saga is that we were in court with AMCON in July this year on the compensation fight we have with Oceanic Bank and Ecobank. Our loan should never have been sold to AMCON because it was a performing loan.
“AMCON sued us and said we owed them N15 billion, but Justice Idris dismissed the case. They (AMCON) said they bought the loan for N15 billion, they adjusted the total amount to N10 billion with effect from January 2011,” he said.
Akinlade said the matter has been on since 2014, when Mustapha Chike-Obi was the CEO of AMCON. According to him, when Ahmed Kuru took over as CEO, he held a meeting with him at the end of 2015 and the current AMCON boss said his firm should pay N6.3 billion.
“I told him that we are in court with Oceanic Bank to the tune of N39 billion, for the mess they did about our loan. And the case is in the court.
“I have told them to put my name on the judgment and I will leave. So, we have now filled a case against their action and we waiting for a date. Our prayer is that they need to return our hotel back to us, go to court and follow due process. They fired tear gas and bruised my leg. They discharged bullet.
“This is a civil matter. We are saying the people we owe money to is Oceanic Bank. We do not owe AMCON. But in good faith, we are still working with them,” he added.
He said his firm has filed a fresh suit on the matter, which, according to him, would soon come up for hearing.
However, the AMCON source described all the allegations by Akinlade as fallacious, saying AMCON since its creation has never used tear-gas to execute a court judgment, even in more difficult cases.
“You know AMCON does not just wake up and take over a company. We would have gone through a very long process, culminating with a court order. The court would not give an order unless it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
“It is not true. All those allegations are not true. Even when our people went there the first time, with the court bailiff, he offered resistance and because we didn’t want to create a scene, our people could not effect the court order. They had to go back several days later.
“We made an agreement with him, based on his request, that he would be part of the management. We agreed because we didn’t want to lock up the place. So, he also agreed.
“But by the time our people got there on Friday, he locked himself inside the hotel. It is not true that he was not there when we got there. We blocked the gate until he realised that the court people would not go until they implemented the court order, then he came out.
“He wanted to create a scene, which we avoided. This man in the last six years has refused to pay and he continues to lie and hide,” he said.
Speaking further, the source said: “It is not true that he was tear-gassed. Have you ever hear of AMCON going on enforcement anywhere and we were spraying tear gas? There was nothing physical in the process at Best Western. It is the bailiff that enforces the court order,” he said.
The source challenged the management of Suru Worldwide to approach the court to vacate an earlier judgment that was in favour of the corporation.
He added: “Can a responsible government agency be parading a fake court judgment? If that judgment is kangaroo, you can overturn it the following the day.
“If it was a kangaroo judgment, Akinlade should have gone to court immediately, instead of being resistant, to embarrass AMCON. Any judgment that is kangaroo cannot stand the test of time because it is illegal.”