Friday Olokor, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday vacated the orders obtained by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria to manage the assets of two seized companies owned by a businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, over alleged N69bn debt.
The assets included the NICON Investment Limited Building on Plot 242, Muhammadu Buhari Way, Central Business District, Abuja; NICON Hotels Limited Building at Plot 557, Port-Harcourt Crescent, off Gimbiya Street, Abuja and the building hosting NICON Lekki Limited at 5, Customs Street, Lagos.
Delivering his ruling, Justice Okon Abang, held that it was an order made without jurisdiction because there was a subsisting order by another court 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.
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.
Justice Abang said, “The first plaintiff (AMCON) did not disclose to this court, differently constituted, that this court on October 2 2019, sitting in Lagos Division, in suit number: FHC/L/CS/776/2016, stayed proceedings in the subject matter of this suit, which is the same with the one pending at the High Court of Lagos State, pending when forensic audit of the disputed debt between the parties, is ascertained.
“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 October 2, 2019 does not exist, having not bben appealed.”
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 address the court on whether it could proceed with further hearing of the suit.
AMCON had, in applying for the January 4 order, stated that sometime in 2008 and 2009 NICON Investment and Global Fleet were granted loan facility of N26bn by Union Bank, and that the facility was secured with £125m jointly owned by both companies, kept in the NICON Investment’s fixed deposit account with the bank.
The agency added that when the loan was due and the 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 N69bn.
But in a counter affidavit, Jimoh Ibrahim and other defendants stated among others, that the issue of whether there was a valid debt owed to Union Bank by NICON Investment and Global Fleet the companies alleged to be in receivership, was the subject of suit: LD/1074/2010 pending before the High Court of Lagos