Court permits AMCON to retain seizure of Jimoh Ibrahim’s assets over unpaid N69.4b debt

Justice John Tsoho, CJ, FHC.

By Editor, (Judiciary).

A Federal High Court, sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on Tuesday vehemently refused to accede to the request made by a known Nigerian business mogul and legal practitioner, Jimoh Ibrahim to vacate an interim order the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) obtained from the court to seize his valuable properties for allegedly owing the sum of N69.4billion unrecovered debt. 

His assets the court asked AMCON to seize pending the time the court will make a final order either for total forfeiture to the Federal Government or release them to him based on substantial evidence, include among others: ‘The NICON Investment Ltd building, Plot 242, Muhammadu Buhari Way, Central Business District, Abuja; NICON Hotels Ltd Building at Plot 557, Port-Harcourt Crescent, Off Gimbiya Street, Abuja and the Building of NICON Lekki Ltd at No. 5, Customs Street, Lagos.

Justice Aikawa made the interim order on November 4, and on November 18, AMCON announced that it had effectively taken over 12 properties belonging to the businessman and his firms.

Ibrahim, NICON Investment Ltd and Global Fleet Oil and Gas Ltd, had contended that the court granted the interim order of forfeiture in error, alleging that AMCON concealed material facts in its ex-parte application that led to the order of court.

They prayed the court to set aside the order for “non-disclosure and misrepresentation of material facts” and sought N50billion indemnity against AMCON for, among others, alleged failure to conduct due diligence before obtaining the said order. 

But AMCON’s counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, (SAN), opposed Ibrahim, who on Tuesday appeared in his legal robes, and asked the court to dismiss the Motion on Notice, contending that AMCON’s counter affidavit revealed “copious reasons” why the order should not be set aside. 

He argued that AMCON’s exhibits established that the properties attached belongs to Ibrahim, “therefore he cannot claim innocence of them.” 

Pinheiro stated further that AMCON made “full and substantial disclosure of all material facts in relation to the subject matter of this suit,” at the time of obtaining the order on November 4, 2020. 

Justice Rilwan Aikawa, in a nearly two-hour ruling, upheld Pinheiro’s arguments saying:

“I have carefully studied the respective applications and arguments for or against the parties.

“I agree totally with the counsel for the claimant, Kemi Pinheiro, SAN, that this suit is sui generis as Section 49(1)(2) of the AMCON Act says that the order made on the 4th of November, 2020 can be made ex-parte on mere suspicion that the res is about to be dissipated.”

He also agreed with the claimant that the order could not be discharged on the ground that it was made in contravention of the order of FHC judge, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo made on October 2, 2019 which has no bearing with the case before him.

Aikawa added: “In my opinion, we have a unique situation here. The application that led to the ex-parte order made on the 4th of November 2020 was brought pursuant to the provisions of AMCON Act which defines this court as a Federal High Court. 

“I do not think that based on the above reasons, that this application has made a case out for the order of this court to be vacated. 

“The appropriate order to be made in this circumstance is to dismiss same and, accordingly, this application is hereby dismissed.” 

The judge adjourned further proceedings in the matter to March 9, 2021.