Court dismisses winding-up proceedings against Aiteo, awards N8m against petitioner

By our Correspondent.

A Federal High Court, Lagos, today, dismissed a winding-up suit against an indigenous oil company, Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited (AEEPC).

The court presided over by Justice Olufemi Oguntoyinbo, dismissed the winding-up suit, following an application made by AEEPC’s counsel, Mr. Emeka Ozoani, to dismiss the application in opposition to withdrawing of the application made by  A. A. Adekeye, lawyer to Charlietam International Services Limited (CISL), the petitioner in the suit.

The petitioner, CISL in a suit filed through its solicitors, Anthony Enyindah, Victor Okezie and Dr Dickson Omukoro of Ntephe Smith & Wills Chambers, had urged the court to windup AEEPC, over alleged inability to pay N259, 068,753.00 million debt.

The petitioner, a Rivers State based oil servicing company, in the suit numbered FHC/LA/CS/1818/2019, accused Aiteo of failing to pay the money for services rendered to the respondent between December 2017 and March 2019.

The petitioner had told  the court that the application to to wind-up the company was on grounds of insolvency, pursuant to sections 408 and 409(a) of the Company and Allied Matters Act.

At the resumed hearing of the matter today, Adekeye, who claimed to be representing the petitioner, informed the court that she has an undated application, seeking to discontinue the petition against AEEPC.

She said: “We have a notice of discontinuance, we have served the respondents and its aware of the application”.

In adopting the notice of discontinuance, Adekeye told the court that it was in consonant with the company and its allied subsidiaries .

 Responding, AEEPC’s counsel, Mr. Emeka Ozoani (SAN) who led Mr. Joseph I. Nwatu and and Mrs. Mmesoma Unaeze, while admitting being served with the application, told the court that he was served with the notice of discontinuance while in court this morning. He however, told the court that there is opportunity for parties to address the court on the petitioner’s application as ordered by the court.

Ozoani (SAN) also told the court that the petitioner had gone to press, especially,  October 19, 2019 edition of This Day newspaper, without court order, the development, he said had caused apprehension to the clients of the respondent, which his clients considered as ‘injurious falsehood’.
Ozoani while citing the authority of Air Via Limited Vs Oriental Airlines Ltd (2004) 9 NWLR (Part 878) 298, at 342 B-C to support his arguments that winding up petition cannot be used to establish a disputed debt.
He also urged the court to dismiss the petition on the authority of Abayomi Babatunde Vs Pan Atlantic Shipping and Transport Agencies & Ors (2007) 13 NWLR (pt. 1050) 113.  He also asked for cost of N10 million against the petitioner for injuring the reputation and corporate image of Aiteo by jumping the rules of court and publishing the petition on October 19, 2019 without the leave of court.

Delivering her ruling on the parties’ submissions, Justice Oguntoyinbo held that: “I have listened to the petitioner’s counsel who prayed the court to withdraw the petition after she had adopted it. 
“The undated process is defective. The learned Silk have asked that the petition be dismissed. Parties cannot ask for anything else because once a petition is filed issues are joined.
“The petitioner went against the rule of the court by having the petition published in ThisDay newspaper when the matter has not been heard by the court. The petitioner did not take necessary caution.

“It is hereby ordered that the petition is hereby dismissed and the cost of N8 million awarded in favour of the respondent against the petitioner”.

Justice Oguntoyinbo also congratulated Ozoani (SAN) for his attainment on the rank of the Senior advocate, since he is appearing before her for the first time since he was conferred with the rank.