At long last, the Court of Appeal Lagos Division has dismissed an appeal by the Chairman of Global Fleet Group, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, challenging the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON)’s seizure of his 12 assets and freezing of all his accounts over his alleged N69.4billion debt.
The latest development was contained in a press release issued immediately after the appellate court’s decision by Jude Nwauzor, Head Corporate Communications Department of AMCON. He described the ruling as ‘another victory for AMCON and the needed good news’ to the recovery drive of the government recovery agency.
Recall that the appellate court had upheld the November 18, 2020, order of Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, which authorized AMCON to take over Barrister Ibrahim’s assets over his huge debt to AMCON, which the businessman has been contesting in court. Following AMCON enforcement of Ibrahim’s assets and businesses, the embattled businessman has been fighting AMCON in court and claiming in the contrary in the media.
However, the development may have taken another turn today because the Justices upheld the arguments of AMCON’s lead counsel, Dr Kemi Pinheiro SAN, who prayed the court to dismiss Ibrahim’s application. Chief Niyi Akintola, SAN, is the counsel to the 1st defendant Jimoh Ibrahim while chief Bolaji Ayorinde SAN is for 2nd Defendant, Global Fleet Group.
AMCON, following Justice Aikawa’s order, took effective possession of all 12 properties through its Debt Recovery Agent – Pinheiro Legal Partners. The assets include the building of NICON Investment Limited 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 the building of NICON Lekki Limited also at No. 5, Customs Street, Lagos.
Other properties are the building of Abuja International Hotels Limited 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 located 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 the suit No. FHL/L/CL/776/2016. AMCON in November 2020 following a court order seized the properties of the barrister Jimoh Ibrahim over an alleged debt of N69.4billion, which was sold to AMCON by Union Bank as a non-performing loan in the early days of AMCON.
AMCON had sometime on November 4, 2020 through their lawyers Kemi Pinheiro SAN obtained an ex-parte order (Under Sections 49 & 50 of the AMCON Act as amended) against NICON Investment Limited, Global Fleet Oil & Gas Limited and Jimoh Ibrahim freezing their accounts in various banks as well as attaching various properties of the Companies, which properties included: NICON Investment Limited’s Building at Plot 242, Muhammadu Buhari way, Central Business District, Abuja, NICON Hotels Limited’s Building, Plot 557, Port-Harcourt Crescent, off Gimbiya Street, Abuja, NICON Lekki Limited’s Building, No. 5, Customs Street, Lagos, Abuja International Hotels Limited’s Building – No. 3, Hospital Road, Lagos, Residential Apartment, at Road 2, House A14, Victoria Garden City, Lagos, NICON Hotels Building, Plot 3, Road 3, Victoria Garden City, Ajah, Lagos and NICON Luxury Hotel’s Building, Garki 1, Abuja.
Following the execution of the order, NICON Investment Limited, Global Fleet Oil & Gas Limited and Jimoh Ibrahim through their lawyers Chief Adeniyi Akintola SAN filed a motion dated November 19, 2020, seeking to discharge/set aside the order, which was made by Justice R.M. Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos. Some other entities, which AMCON alleged was linked to Jimoh Ibrahim to wit: NICON Insurance Limited, Nigerian-Re-Insurance Limited, Abuja Hotel Limited and NICON Hotels Limited also filed an application to discharge the said order of 4th day of November 4, 2020. After hearing the two applications and the arguments canvassed by parties through their respective counsel, Hon. Justice R.M. Aikawa proceeded to dismiss both applications by his ruling of February 16, 2021.
As a follow up to that decision, both sets of Applicants filed independent appeals in the Court of Appeal, Lagos division. AMCON was represented in the appeals by Kemi Pinheiro SAN, while the first set of Appellants were represented by Chief Adeniyi Akintola SAN and the second set by Chief Bolaji Ayorinde SAN. At the hearing of the appeals on September 30, 2021, Kemi Pinheiro SAN for AMCON raised a preliminary objection to the appeal contending that the appeal was incompetent because the Appellants failed to seek leave prior to the filing of the appeal.
In a unanimous decision today December 10, 2021, the Court of Appeal upheld the preliminary objection of AMCON and accordingly dismissed both appeals. The implication of this is that AMCON remains in possession of the properties attached by the order of Hon. Justice R.M. Aikawa on November 4, 2021.
The matter between Barrister Jimoh 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. AMCON is however not deterred to recover the nearly N70billion owed it by Barrister Ibrahim and his companies in the interest of the Nigerian economy and the public in general.