Court stops AGF, AMCON from tampering with Aero Contractors' assets

By The Citizen

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has restrained the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) were Thursday from further tampering with the assets and properties of Aero Contractors Company of Nigeria allegedly taken over by AMCON.

The Court gave the order as the presiding judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, ruled on the complaint by Mr. Ted Iseghohi-Edwards, lawyer to former Managing Director of the now defunct Oceanic Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru.

Iseghohi-Edwards had informed the court that the AGF and AMCON were tampering with Aero Contractor’s assets and operations in a way likely to ground it.

He said that despite the pendency of a suit by Ibru and five others, accusing the AGF and AMCON of acting outside the plea bargain agreement she entered with the Federal Government on her conviction in October 2010, the defendants had moved into Aero and taken steps to ground it.

While praying the court to order parties to maintain the status quo and allow things to remain as they were as at the time of filing the suit, Iseghohi-Edwards argued that should the court allow the defendants to carry on the way they were going, the res would have been destroyed and there would be nothing left to protect.

AMCON’s lawyer, Abayomi Okubote, in his response to the complaint , argued that his client acted within its powers under the AMCON Act and by virtue of a November 12, 2013 order by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Lagos division of the court,. But Justice Mohammed held that there was no evidence that Aero Contrators formed part of Ibru’s assets covered by the order.

While ordering parties to the suit to maintain status quo pending the next adjourned date of September 17, the judge held that since his earlier order that the defendants should come and show cause why the interlocutory injunctions sought by the plaintiffs should not be granted still subsists, it was wrong for the defendants to take further steps in respect of the case.

He also held that since the order to show cause had not been set aside, and the defendants having also not taken steps to have it set aside, such order ought to serve as stay of all activities in relation to the suit until it was determined.

Justice Mohammed however ordered Ibru to sign an undertaking in the court promising to compensate the defendants should any of them sustain any loss as a result of the order for maintenance of status quo, and should it turn out that Aero Contractors was covered in the order made by Justice Idris.

Apart from Ibru, other plaintiffs in the suit are Sidochem Industries Ltd., Edgar Sido and Dr. Francis Sido.

They had claimed that AMCON did not disclose material facts to the court in Lagos as regards its consent to the plea bargain and settlement agreement where she, the Ibru Group and the other plaintiffs in the suit forfeited properties listed under the forfeited assets part of the plea bargain.

Ibru argued that the debts owed the defunct Oceanic Bank by Sidochem formed part of the issues resolved in the plea bargain agreement which formed the judgment of the court.

Ibru therefore wants the court to, among others, compel the AGF and AMCON to limit their dealings within the confine of the 2010 agreement. She is also praying the court for a declaration that the plea bargain and settlement agreement that she entered with the Federal Government in 2010 is a valid and enforceable agreement between the parties and more particularly valid against the Fed Govt and its agents, including AMCON.

Ibru also seeks a declaration that the stripping of the assets and the subsequent sale of Oceanic Bank to Ecobank Plc was not part of the plea bargain and settlement agreement she signed with the government, and to declare the sale of the bank ‘a sham, misconceived, mischievous and of no legal consequences.’

She wants the court to declare that Aero Contractors Nigeria Limited was also not on the list of assets she forfeited to the Federal Government as part of her plea bargain and that the court should declare any attempt by AMCON to take over the airline or attach its assets as ultra vires and of no legal consequences.