The Court of Appeal in Lagos State has dismissed an appeal filed by Jimoh Ibrahim, the chairman of Global Fleet Group who is challenging the seizure of 12 of his assets by Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and the freezing of all his accounts over his alleged N69.4 billion debt.
Jude Nwauzor, AMCON’s head of corporate communications department said that the ruling was another victory for AMCON on the recovery drive of the government recovery agency.
“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,” Nwauzor said.
Nwauzor explained that the case between Ibrahim and AMCON has been ongoing 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, according to him, is not deterred from recovering the money Ibrahim and his companies are owing in the interest of the nation’s economy and the Nigerian people.
The judges at the Court of Appeal in Lagos upheld the arguments of Kemi Pinheiro, AMCON’s lead counsel and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Pinheiro had prayed to the court to dismiss Ibrahim’s application.
Ibrahim who is a senator-elect (first defendant) and his company (second defendant) were also represented by two SANs, Niyi Akintola and Bolaji Ayorinde, respectively.
In response to the order of Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos issued on November 18, 2020, AMCON took possession of all 12 properties through its Debt Recovery Agent – Pinheiro Legal Partners.
These 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.
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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 Expressway, Lagos; Energy House located on No. 94, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; NICON Building at No. 40, Madeira Street, Maitama, Abuja; a residential apartment at Road2, House A14, Victoria Garden City, Lagos; NICON Hotels Building at Plot 3, Road3, 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 lower court had 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 were defendants in suit No. FHL/L/CL/776/2016.
AMCON, in November 2020, following a court order seized the properties of Ibrahim over the debt which was sold to AMCON by Union Bank as a non-performing loan in the early days of AMCON.
Following the execution of the order, NICON Investment Limited, Global Fleet Oil & Gas Limited, and 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 were 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 on the 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.
At the hearing of the appeals on September 30, Pinheiro 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 on Friday, the appellate court upheld the preliminary objection of AMCON and dismissed both appeals.