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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Alleged N69b debt: Court voids AMCON’s orders on Jimoh Ibrahim’s firms


A Federal High Court in Abuja has set aside the orders obtained on January 4, 2021, by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) for Taiwo Lakanu, the Receiver/Manager it appointed to manage the assets of NICON Investment Limited and Global Fleet Oil and Gas Limited over alleged N69 billion debt.

The two companies belong to businessman Jimoh Ibrahim.

In a ruling yesterday, Justice Okon Abang held that AMCON misled the court by withholding material facts to obtain the interim ex parte order granted by Justice Evelyn Maha of the Federal High Court in Abuja on January 4, 2021.

Justice Maha had granted AMCON’s ex parte application to, among others, restrain Jimoh Ibrahim, NICON Insurance Limited, Nigeria Re-Insurance Hotel Limited, Abuja International Hotels Limited and NICON Hotels Limited, and their agents from interfering or obstructing Lakanu from performing his responsibilities as Receiver/ Manager for NICON Investment and Global Fleet.

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 necessary assistance to execute his task.

But, in a ruling yesterday, Justice Abang vacated the main order and the accompanying consequential order made by Justice Maha on the grounds that AMCON withheld facts from the court and that the orders were made without jurisdiction.

Justice Abang averred 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.

He held that AMCON also withheld from the court in obtaining the January 4 order that a Federal High Court in Lagos – per Justice Oguntoyinbo – granted an order on October 2, 2019, staying further proceedings in a similar case, pending the outcome of proceedings in the suit before the High Court of Lagos State.

Justice Abang added that since the order for stay of proceedings, made on October 2, 2019, by the Federal High Court in Lagos was not appealed, it was still subsisting.

The judge said as a result, the Federal High Court in Abuja was without jurisdiction to have made the orders of January 4.

He averred that the issue at stake was not about AMCON’s power to appoint a receiver/manager, but whether AMCON disclosed to the court in Abuja before obtaining the January 4 orders that there was a subsisting order by the Lagos Division on October 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 October 2, 2019, does not exist, having not appealed.

“As far as the ex parte order, limited to the January 4, 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,” Justice Abang said.

The judge ordered the five defendants, including Jimoh Ibrahim, to file their defence to the substantive suit.

He adjourned till 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 February 25, 2011 in a related case between Union Bank and NICON Investment and six others.

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