The Federal High Court, Abuja on Monday reviewed and set aside a January 4, 2021 interim order for the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to seize properties belonging to Lagos businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, over alleged N69.4 billion debt.
In reviewing the earlier order, the court presided by Justice Okon Abang also vacated all consequential orders made by the Federal High Court, Lagos.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa on February 17, 2021 declined to vacate the order that empowered AMCON to seize Mr Ibrahim’s property in lieu of the debt.
Mr Ibrahim, along with NICON Investment Limited and Global Fleet Oil and Gas Limited had prayed the court to set aside the order for “non-disclosure and misrepresentation of material facts” in the case.
They further prayed the court to order AMCON to pay Mr Ibrahim and other defendants in the case N50 billion indemnity for alleged failure to conduct due diligence before obtaining the said court order and for misrepresentation and concealment of fact.
But Justice Aikawa upheld the argument by AMCON’s counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) that AMCON made “full and substantial disclosure of all material facts” at the time of obtaining the orders on November 4, 2020.
In giving his ruling in the case on Monday, Justice Abang said he was reviewing the order without prejudice to the power of AMCON to appoint a Receiver to the property in dispute.
Section 48 of the AMCON Act (as amended) empowers AMCON to appoint a Receiver to manage the disputed assets belonging to Mr Ibrahim, who is also the Chief promoter of Global Fleet Oil & Gas Limited and NICON Investment Limited.
Also, Justice Abang did not challenge the possessory powers of AMCON through a subsisting court order over the seized assets of Mr Ibrahim whose current indebtedness to AMCON stands at nearly N70billion.
On November 4, 2020, Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, had granted AMCON the powers to take possession of some assets belonging to Jimoh Ibrahim and Company over alleged debt of N69.4billion.
Despite stiff resistance by Mr Ibrahim, the debt management agency said it was determined to recover the debt from him irrespective of the long and frustrating legal battle he fought.
AMCON spokesperson, Jude Nwauzor said it was characteristic for most of the agency’s top recalcitrant debtors to engage it in several legal battles hiding under some legal technicalities designed to delay justice and make the recovery of the debts difficult.
“Often, these big debtors resort to all manner of legal technicalities to frustrate the effort by AMCON to recover the debts they owe. However, AMCON is determined to stay on course and ensure that it does its job, because this is the money the country’s economy requires to rebound,” Mr Nwauzor said.
Mr Nwauzor said Jimoh Ibrahim has been battling to get the court to set aside the possessory order as well as the Receiver appointed by AMCON to oversee the assets pending the final hearing of the substantive suit.
In November 2020, AMCON activated a court order that empowered it to seize properties belonging to Mr Ibrahim over alleged debt of N69.4billion sold to AMCON by Union Bank as a non-performing loan in the early days.
The affected businesses owned by the embattled businessman include NICON Investment Limited and Global Fleet Oil and Gas Limited.
The matter between Mr Ibrahim and AMCON has dragged for years since the loan was purchased from Union Bank since the early days of the debt recovery agency during the first phase of Eligible Bank Assets (EBA).