Court orders firm to repay N53m loan, interests

The Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt has ordered Joexpora Nigeria Ltd to pay a businesswoman, Adaugo Mary Ebinyasi (trading as Qualitaire Resources), N53 million, being loans it obtained from her firm.

In a judgment on the suit numbered PHC/204/2016, Justice Suzzette Nyesom-Wike held that the defendant breached their contract.

She ordered Joexpora Nigeria to pay the claimant N15,550,000 being the total outstanding accrued interest on the principal sum of N53million.

The judge ordered the firm to pay 2.5 per cent interest on the N53million and the N15,550,000 from January 29, 2016 until judgment, and 2.5 per cent interest on the sums post-judgment and until they are liquidated.

The claimant, through its counsel Mr. John Dare Oloyede, who led K.C Atuenyi and Laide Safiu, sued the company and its Managing Director John Nwobi, for failing to the repay loan.

After several unsuccessful efforts to get its money back, the claimant petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged dud cheques issued to her by Joexpora Nigeria.

Several meetings were held, following which parties agreed to a reviewed interest rate on the outstanding principal sum.

The claimant said it was agreed that N19,050,000, being accrued interest from March to July and August to October 2015, be paid in weekly installments.

She said they agreed that the principal loans of N40million and N13million be paid on or before November 6, 2015 and December 4, 2015.

The claimant said it was agreed that every additional interest that accrued from the capital in November 2015 be paid on or before January 29, 2016.

“The defendants failed to comply with the aforesaid terms and have no intention of liquidating the set of loans and interests,” Oloyede told the court.

The defendants argued that the interest rates imposed on the loans violated Money Lenders Law of Rivers State.

“The interest rates/terms agreed by the parties in the loan agreement are illegal, invalid and unenforceable against the defendants,” Joexpora Nigeria said.

The company contended that the interest rates charged by the claimant were in excess of the statutory simple interest rates of 48 per cent per annum or four per cent per month.

But, Oloyede argued that the claimant did not breach the Money Lenders Law of Rivers State, as the loans ought to have been repaid on or before October 22, 2014.

Besides, he submitted that a plea of illegality could not exempt the defendants from liability after having fully benefitted from the transaction complained about.

Justice Nyesom Wike held that Joexpora Nigeria “must be presumed to have knowledge of the illegality in the transaction at hand, but had gone ahead to draw benefit therefrom”.

She struck out the defendant’s counter-claim for lacking in merit and Nwobi’s name for being improperly joined.

“I hold that it would be inequitable for the defendant to approbate and reprobate at the same time, to take the benefit of the contract in question and as the same time plead that the contract is illegal.”

Justice Nyesom-Wike referred to a Supreme Court Judgment delivered by Mohammed Muntaka Coomassie, in which it was held: “A man who with his eyes open and without the other party committing fraud against him, enters into an agreement with another should be prepared to abide by the terms of the agreement, illegal or otherwise unenforceable in law.

“I cannot allow the appellants, after collecting money from the respondent to do business to now turn around to plead the Money Lenders Law in order to escape the refund of the said money.”

 

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