Court fixes Jan. 24 for determination of Jimoh Ibrahim’s N69bn debt case
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday fixed Jan. 24, 2022 for determination of a suit filed by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), seeking a stay of execution of orders it granted the businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, over alleged N69 billion debt.
Justice Okon Abang fixed the date, following AMCON’s appeal filed against the order at the Court of Appeal.
Justice Abang ruled that the adjourned date would either be to mention the suit or abide by the Appeal Court decision on the matter.
Although counsel to AMCON was not in court, Mr Ibrahim was represented by Oladele Oyelami, who held brief for Chief Adeniyi Akintola, SAN.
Oyelami told the court that the matter was slated for hearing the notice of appeal served on the defence on Sept. 30 by AMCON.
But the judge said he could only adjourn to wait for the outcome of the Court of Appeal on the matter.
Abang, who adjourned the matter at the instance of the parties, held that the sitting would be to await the decision of the appellant court.
AMCON, through its lawyer, Ade Adedeji, SAN, had filed a motion for stay of execution before the Court of Appeal against the orders made in favour of Ibrahim and his companies by Justice Abang.
Justice Abang had, on Feb. 22, vacated the orders obtained by AMCON in aid of Taiwo Lakanu, the receiver/manager, it appointed to manage the assets of two seized companies owned by Mr Ibrahim over the alleged N69 billion debt.
The seized companies are NICON Investment Ltd and Global Fleet Oil and Gas Ltd.
The judge, in a ruling, held that it was an order made without jurisdiction because there was a subsisting order by a court differently constituted on the matter.
Justice Abang said that AMCON misled the court by withholding material facts from the court to obtain the interim ex-parte order.
Justice Nkeonye Maha of a Federal High Court, Abuja, had, on Jan. 4, granted the AMCON exparte order.
The court had restrained the defendants, their directors, shareholders, officers, employees, agents or privies from interfering or obstructing Taiwo Lakanu (4th plaintiff) in the course of performing his duty as receiver manager whether by himself and or other persons employed by him over the 2nd and 3rd plaintiffs’ assets pending the determination of the originating summons, among others.
The judge made further consequential orders directing the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and other security officers named in the application, to provide Lakanu with all the needed assistance to execute his task.
While AMCON is the 1st plaintiff, NICON Investment Limited (in receivership), Global Fleet Oil and Gas Ltd (in receivership) and Taiwo Lakanu (appointed as receiver of 1st and 2nd plaintiffs) are 2nd to 4th plaintiffs in the suit.
In the matter with suit number: FHC/ABJ/001/2021, Ibrahim, NICON Insurance Ltd, Nigeria Re-Insurance Hotels Ltd, Abuja International Hotels Ltd and NICON Hotels Ltd are 1st to 5th defendants.
But in a ruling, Justice Abang vacated the main order and the accompanying consequential orders made by Justice Maha on the grounds that AMCON withheld facts from the court and that the orders were made without jurisdiction.
Abang noted that AMCON failed to disclose that the purported debt owed by NICON Investment and Global Fleet to Union Bank, which it bought, was the subject of a pending suit before the High Court of Lagos State in a suit marked: LD/1074/2010.
He added that AMCON also withheld from the court, in obtaining the said Jan. 4 orders, that a Federal High Court in Lagos presided over by Justice J. Oguntoyinbo, granted an order on Oct. 2, 2019, staying further proceedings in a similar case, marked: FHC/L/CS/776/2016, pending the outcome of proceedings in the suit before the High Court of Lagos.
Justice Abang added that since the order for stay of proceedings made on Oct. 2, 2019 by the Federal High Court, Lagos was not appealed, it was still subsisting and as a result, the Federal High Court in Abuja was without jurisdiction to have made the orders of Jan. 4.
The judge noted that the issue at stake was not about AMCON’s power to appoint a receiver/manager, but whether AMCON deposed to the court in Abuja, before obtaining the Jan. 4 orders, that there was a subsisting order made by the Lagos division on Oct. 2, 2019, staying proceedings.
“This is a clear case of concealment of material facts before the ex-parte order was made.
“This is a case of non-disclosure and suppression of material facts. AMCON cannot pretend that the order made on the Oct. 2,, 2019 does not exist, having not appealed.
“As far as the ex-parte order, limited to the 4th of January, 2021 is concerned, it is a nullity.
“Where a trial court lacked jurisdiction to make an order, a judge of coordinate jurisdiction has jurisdiction to set same aside,” the judge held.
He added that although AMCON’s power to appoint receiver/manager, under Section 48 of its Act, was not in doubt, the issue of whether it (AMCON) could appoint a receiver/manager over NICON Investment and Global Fleet in respect of a debt that has not been ascertained would only be determined at the hearing of the substantive suit.
The judge ordered the five defendants in the suit, including Jimoh Ibrahim to file their defence to the substantive suit and adjourned until March 15 for parties to first address the court on whether it could proceed with further hearing of the suit in view of an earlier ruling it gave on Feb. 25, 2011 in a related case, marked: FHC/L/CS/1359/2010 between Union Bank and NICON Investment and six others.
AMCON had, in applying for the Jan. 4 order, stated that sometime in 2008 and 2009 NICON Investment and Global Fleet were granted loan facility of N26 billion by Union Bank, and that the facility was secured with £125 million jointly owned by both companies, kept in the NICON Investment’s fixed deposit account with the bank.
It added that when the loan was due and both companies failed to repay, Union Bank later sold the debt to it (AMCON) as non-performing loan, adding that as at Nov. 30, 2020, the outstanding loan, with accrued interest stood at N69 billion.
AMCON said it later acted, pursuant to Section 48 of its Establishment Act, to appoint Lakanu as a receiver/manager over the assets of NICON Investment and Global Fleet in order to manage the assets and prevent them from wastage.
In a counter affidavit Ibrahim and other defendants stated among others, that the issue of whether there is a valid debt owed to Union Bank by NICON Investment and Global Fleet the companies alleged to be in receivership, is the subject of suit: LD/1074/2010 pending before the High Court of Lagos.
They added that Union Bank, which claimed to have sold the purported debt to AMCON, admitted in the suit before the Lagos High Court that it is in custody of £125 million held in favour of NICON Investment.
The defendants stated that AMCON suppressed material facts before the interim ex-parte orders were obtained on Jan. 4.