By Bassey Udo
The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on Friday told the Chairman, Global Fleet Group, Jimoh Ibrahim, that the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) was right to have confiscated 12 of his assets, apart from freezing all his accounts, over his over N69.4billion indebtedness.
In November 18, 2020, Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, gave a ruling which authorized AMCON to take over Ibrahim’s assets over his indebtedness to AMCON.
Following AMCON enforcement action against Ibrahim’s assets and businesses, the embattled businessman resisted, following an appeal he filed to contest the ruling.
But the Appeal Court in a unanimous verdict on Friday upheld the arguments of AMCON’s lead counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), for the dismissal of Ibrahim’s application.
Apart from upholding the preliminary objection of AMCON, the Appeal Court also dismissed the applications by both Niyi Akintola, SAN, counsel to Ibrahim, and Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, for Global Fleet Group, to appeal the ruling of November 18, 2020.
On November 19, 2020, both legal counsels filed a motion seeking to discharge/set aside the order by Justice R.M. Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, authorizing AMCON to take over assets with links to Ibrahim.
Some of the assets included NICON Insurance Limited, Nigerian-Re-Insurance Limited, Abuja Hotel Limited, and NICON Hotels Limited, which also filed an application on November 4, 2020, against the order.
After hearing the two applications and the arguments canvassed by parties through their respective counsels, Justice R.M. Aikawa, in his ruling on February 16, 2021 dismissed both applications.
As a follow-up to that decision, both applicants proceeded to file independent appeals in the Court of Appeal, Lagos division.
At the hearing of the appeals on September 30, 2021, counsel to AMCON raised preliminary objections to the applications, contending that the appeals were incompetent, considering that the appellants failed to seek leave prior to their filing of the appeal.
Following Justice Aikawa’s order, AMCON took immediate steps to take effective possession of all 12 properties through its Debt Recovery Agent, Pinheiro Legal Partners.
The assets include the NICON Investment Limited building at Plot 242, Muhammadu Buhari Way, Central Business District, Abuja; NICON Hotels Limited building at Plot 557, Port-Harcourt Crescent, off Gimbiya Street, Abuja, and NICON Lekki Limited the building at No. 5, Customs Street, Lagos.
Other properties were the Abuja International Hotels Limited building located at No. 3, Hospital Road, Lagos; another Property at Plot 242, Muhammadu Buhari Way, Abuja; the former Allied Bank Building on Mile 2, Oshodi Express Way, Apapa Road, Lagos; Energy House on No. 94, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; NICON Building at No. 40, Madeira Street, Maitama, Abuja; a Residential Apartment at Road 2, House A14, Victoria Garden City, Lagos; NICON Hotels Building at Plot 3, Road 3, Victoria Garden City, Lagos as well as the NICON Luxury Hotel’s Building, Garki I, FCT, Abuja.
In addition to the takeover of the properties, the court also ordered the freezing of all accounts belonging to Ibrahim and his companies, including Global Fleet Oil & Gas Limited and NICON Investment Limited, all of whom are defendants in suit No. FHL/L/CL/776/2016.
In November 2020, the court ordered AMCON to seize Ibrahim’s properties over a debt of N69.4billion sold to by Union Bank as a non-performing loan in the early days of AMCON.
On November 4, 2020, AMCON, through their lawyers, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, obtained an ex-parte order (Under Sections 49 & 50 of the AMCON Act as amended) for the feezing of accounts in various banks belonging to NICON Investment Limited, Global Fleet Oil & Gas Limited and Jimoh Ibrahim as well as several properties belong to them.
Spokesperson of AMCON, Jude Nwauzor, said the implication of the latest ruling is that AMCON remains in possession of the properties attached by the order of Justice R.M. Aikawa on November 4, 2021.
“This ruling as ‘another victory for AMCON and the needed good news to the recovery drive of the government recovery agency,” he said.
Nwauzor said the matter between Ibrahim and AMCON has been interminable since the loan was purchased by the government debt recovery agency during the first phase of Eligible Bank Assets (EBA) purchases from Union Bank in the early days of AMCON.
He said the latest victory was a confidence booster in its effort to recover the nearly N70billion owed AMCON by Ibrahim and his companies in the interest of the Nigerian economy and the public in general.