By Rasaq Adebayo
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has barred billionaire businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim, and his companies, especially NICON Insurance Limited, against instituting similar court cases against the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria AMCON, in a desperate bid to evade justice over a staggering N70billion owed the corporation.
AMCON had, in November last year, seized several landed property belonging the businessman and his firms, which was sequel to a court order in relation to the N70billion debt owed the Federal Government’s debt recovery agency, which was sold to it by Union Bank as a non-performing loan in its early days.
The affected companies of the embattled businessman include NICON Investment Limited and Global Fleet Oil and Gas Limited amongst others.
Justice Tijjani Ringim of the Federal High Court, Lagos division, while giving the order Thursday, warned the businessman and his firms that the court would not tolerate the institution of multiple similar court cases on the same subject matter of N70billion debt, describing it as mere ‘forum shopping’.
Justice Ringim in granting this order, in which he also issued a stern warning to the embattled businessman and his firms, upheld the submission of AMCON’s counsel Mr Kemi Pinheiro, to the effect that the duo instituted and discontinued two identical suits it filed against the corporation within two week.
He held that the two suits – FHC/L/CS/1116/2021 and FHC/L/CS/1115/2021 were near identical with a third suit filed in Abuja; numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/760/2021, warning that the court should not be used for the duplication of same suits in differrent courts.
Pinheiro had contended that the plaintiffs had been embarking on ‘forum shopping’ in filing two suits within two weeks and withdrawing same. These other suits, numbered FHC/L/CS/1051/21 and FHC/L/CS/1052/21 were both filed at the Federal High Court Lagos and therefore prayed the court to stop this attitude by dismissing the suit and awarding punitive costs to serve as a deterrent to other recalcitrant debtors who may want to deceive the court in the future.
Although counsel to NICON Insurance, Adenrele Adegorioye, opposed him, Justice Ringim, in a bench ruling, struck out the matter.
He said: “I have listened to the various legal submissions of counsel and facts before me. I am satisfied that the proper order to make is that of striking out and, same having been withdrawn, is hereby struck out.
“However, the plaintiff is hereby warned not to embark on a voyage of ‘forum shopping’ because upon perusal of court records; which I am permitted to do under the rule, I can see that this same plaintiff filed the same two sets of suits on the 23rd of August which was withdrawn on the 28th of August.
“Subsequently, the same plaintiff filed another suit seeking the same reliefs. The court is not a forum for a game of chance. The court will frown at such if this repeats itself.”
AMCON had been entangled in a long legal battle with Jimoh Ibrahim and his companies since the loan was purchased by the government’s debt recovery agency during the first phase of Eligible Bank Assets EBA purchases from Union Bank in the early days of AMCON.
The corporation has however assured that it is not deterred in its renewed zeal to recover the nearly N70billion owed it by Ibrahim and his companies in the interest of the Nigeria’s economy and the people irrespective of the desperate bid to subvert justice .