This is just funny though. Is there any plot of land that churches wont buy? Now the church will possess part of Dunlop’s head office? Can you picture that? Aren’t buildings supposed to be zoned anyways? How could anybody approve a church buying this land? This just boggles my mind. Only in Nigeria, I tell you!
A seemingly innocuous transaction between Dunlop Nigeria Tyres and Rubber Plc and Sterling Bank Plc has gone awry, leading to the lease of a portion of the company’s sprawling head office to a religious organisation, OYETUNJI ABIOYE writes.
Dunlop Nigeria Tyres and Rubber Plc is battling to repossess a portion of its expansive Ikeja facility, which its creditor, Sterling Bank Plc, has allegedly sold to the Triumphant Christian Centre, investigation by our correspondent has revealed.
However, a senior official of Dunlop said the sale of the property to the church was contrary to a land lease agreement between the company and Sterling Bank.
Dunlop said it leased a portion of the expansive premises to Sterling Bank as part of arrangements to liquidate a loan granted the company by the bank.
The Company Secretary, Dunlop, Mrs. Olufemi Babayemi, who confirmed the development, however, noted that the matter was still in court.
She said the company would make an official statement on the matter very soon because any comment on the matter now would amount to contempt of court.
Babayemi said, “We did not sell the land to any church. The matter is actually in court. We are tying to resolve it. I hope we will be in a position to make a statement on the matter very soon.
“I cannot comment too much on it for now. We hope to be in a position to do that very soon.”
However, Sterling Bank’s Group Head, Corporate Communications, Mr. Shina Atilola, said the matter was no more in court as the bank had asked its lawyers to withdraw it.
He said the bank had acquired 12,500 square metres of Dunlop’s land at Oba Akran Avenue, Ikeja, in settlement of a loan facility it obtained from the bank.
Sterling Bank, he said, agreed to buy the land after several efforts made to recover the loan from Dunlop failed.
According to Atilola, the bank later sold the land it bought from Dunlop to the church in order to recover its money.
When Triumphant Christian Centre was contacted, the church said it had all the relevant documents in its possession to prove that Dunlop sold the property to the bank and that the bank had in turn sold the land to it.
An official of the church, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Although the property belonged to Dunlop, we have all documents to show that Dunlop sold it to Sterling Bank, which later sold it to the church. Really, the matter is not between us and Dunlop. We bought the property from the bank about two years ago.
“Dunlop tried to harass us with policemen when we went to take possession of the property but they later withdrew. We have taken possession of the property. We even held a service there on Easter Monday. We have withdrawn from the matter in the court because we felt we have no issue with Dunlop.”
The official also said the church would make a statement on the matter soon.
When our correspondent visited the controversial property on Tuesday, security men working for the church were seen manning the site.
When our correspondent requested to go inside to see Dunlop officials, he was directed to go to the other side of the property to access the company’s gate.
When our correspondent got to the Dunlop gate and asked to see TCC officials, they security men on duty directed him to to the other side where the church’s gate is located.
Further investigation by our correspondent revealed that the company and the bank conducted the land sale transaction between 2009 and 2010.
Documents sighted by our correspondent revealed that in August 2010, Dunlop wrote to Sterling Bank seeking to reverse the sale of the land.
The company explained in the letter that it would need the land for production purposes.
According to the letter, Dunlop advised the bank to apply for the Central Bank of Nigeria’s intervention fund to the manufacturing sector on its behalf.
It also explained that the Federal Government’s bail out of the automotive industry would also help to re-engineer the company.
The request, however, is believed to have been tuned down by the bank.
In July 2011, Dunlop Nigeria Plc, which is quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, announced plans to substantially scale down its activities in the country.
After producing tyres in Nigeria for 45 years, Dunlop said it would be closing its N8bn ($68.3m) tyre plant and would start importing tyres from South Africa and other Dunlop factories around the world.
The fate of several hundreds of Nigerian workers was affected by the decision as a sizeable number of them were sacked over reported high cost of production and the global economic recession.
Dunlop is not the only company that considered taking such route to maximise its industrial capacity.
Michelin, another tyre manufacturing company, also closed down its business in Nigeria after 30 years of operations in the country. When the tyre company folded its local production plant in the country, it took to the more lucrative option of full-scale importation and is said to be considering returning to the West Africa sub region via Ghana to stay in competition.
However, Dunlop said then that it was not planning to relocate to Ghana, but would rather establish a sister branch in the country.
The company said it was spending more than $800,000 annually on power generation and was paying half that amount to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria as electricity bill annually.
At the end of July 2011, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, an umbrella body of all manufacturers in the country, put capacity utilisation at 38 per cent, dropping from 42 per cent eight months earlier.