A customer of the Access Bank Plc, Isaac Dare, has accused the bank of breach of the duty of care to him by losing the Certificate of Occupancy for his property located in Oshodi/Isolo, Lagos State.
In his suit filed against the bank at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Dare described the loss of the document by the bank as “reprehensible” and “unpardonable”.
He claimed a total of N112m against the bank.
He said in his suit that he deposited the original copy of the Certificate of Occupancy with the bank on October 24, 2013, preparatory to using the property, which he said was valued at about N123.758m as of October 2009, as collateral for a loan he sought to obtain from the bank.
He claimed that the bank was to conduct legal search on the property at the Lands Registry of Lagos State and return it to him after the exercise.
He, however, alleged that the bank had been evasive on the status of the title document since the time it was deposited with the bank.
His statement of claim filed on behalf of his lawyer, Mr E. A. Adedeji, read in part, “The claimant avers that the defendant was to discuss the terms and condition of the loan with him after conducting the legal search.
“The claimant avers that the defendant became evasive on the status of his Certificate of Occupancy over No. 7A&B, Oronna Street, off Owoseni Street, Oshodi/Isolo, Local Government Area, Lagos State, since he deposited it with the defendant.”
He said he orally demanded his document from the bank all to no avail.
He added that he wrote a letter dated July 12, 2017, to the bank requesting his Certificate of Return but that the bank did not respond “until he engaged the service of his lawyer who wrote the defendant (the bank) on his behalf.”
He said the bank, upon receipt of his lawyer’s letter, dated September 4, 2018, responded through a letter dated December 14, 2018.
He added, “The claimant avers that the evasiveness and refusal to return his certificate of Occupancy …frustrated every prospect of getting loan for his business proposal.
“The claimant avers that he lost business opportunities due to unavailability of fund and every effort to get fund was frustrated by his inability to get collateral.”
He stated that he could no longer obtain another original Certificate of Occupancy “which implied that he could no longer use the property as collateral for loan as banks only accept Certificate of Occupancy as collateral for loan.”
“The claimant avers that the conduct is reprehensible, indefensible and unpardonable,” he added.
He prayed for N100m as “general damages” against the bank for “breach of duty of care” to him and “the irreparable loss” he suffered as a result of the alleged breach.
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He also asked for N10m as “exemplary damages” for “its reprehensible conduct,” and N2m as the cost of prosecuting the suit.
He also urged the court to order the bank “to make publication in two reputable national dailies” stating that the Certificate of Occupancy” numbered, 11/11/2013, was lost in its custody.
In its statement of defence, the bank, through its lawyer, Mr Onwuchekwa Onwuchekwa, admitted that the document got lost in its custody “due to remodeling works” that affected its “filing system.”
Describing the suit as frivolous and gold digging, however, the bank stated that it had offered him the Certified True Copy of the document which it claimed “is as good as” the original copy, but the claimant rejected it.
The bank’s statement of defence read in part, “The defendant in further answer to paragraphs 1 to 22 of the statement of claim avers that if the claimant had accepted the offer of Certified True Copy of the said Certificate of Return, the defendant would have been prepared to give a bond or a guarantee should that have been requested by the claimant.
“The defendant in further answer to paragraphs 1 to 22 of the statement of claim avers that Certified True Copy of the said Certificate of Return is as good as the original of the Certificate of Occupancy.”
It added that contrary to the plaintiff’s claim “banks accept the offer of Certified True Copy of the said Certificate of Occupancy, share certificate” and other collaterals as security for loan.
“The defendant in further answer to paragraphs 1 to 22 of the statement of claim avers that the claims of the claimant are frivolous and amount to gold digging,” the bank stated.