All steps taken from April 25, 2018 in respect of ownership transfer of Etisalat International Nigeria Limited (9mobile) to Teleology Nigeria Limited were yesterday voided by a Federal High Court in Abuja which set aside the sale of the telecommunication firm.
Justice Binta Nyako voided all steps taken in relation to the exchange of ownership of Etisalat, despite pending orders for maintenance of status quo, restraining parties to a suit involving investors and other stakeholders from destroying the res (subject matter).
Justice Nyako, who noted that parties were all aware of the suit, the defendants having been served between April 24 and 27, 2018 with the originating process, faulted the sale, as claimed by the plaintiffs in a motion filed on November 16, 2018.
The judge held: “Any action that has been taken concerning the res of this litigation from the 25th day of April, which is earlier in time, should revert to the position, as of the res, to 25th day of April 2018.”
The April 1 ruling (a copy of which was sighted yesterday) was in a suit filed on April 6, 2018 by two major investors in Etisalat —Afdin Ventures Limited and Dirbia Nigeria Limited.
Afdin and Dirbia, whose investment in Etisalat is estimated at $43, 033,950, had approached the court to retrieve their investments on the grounds that they were aggrieved, having been excluded from the company’s decision making process.
Defendants in the suit are: Karington Telecommunication Ltd, Premium Telecommunications Holdings NV, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Central Bank of Nigeria, Etisalat International Nigeria Ltd and Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC).
The plaintiffs stated, in a supporting affidavit to the motion dated November 16, 2018, that they resorted to praying the court to void the sale of Etisalat, upon learning that the defendants have proceeded to conclude the transfer the company’s ownership despite the restraining orders made earlier by the court.
They said: “In 2009, the plaintiffs/applicants purchased a total of 4,303,391 class “A” shares from the 1st, 2nd and 5th defendants (Karlingtton, Premium Telecommunication and Etisalat International) at the rate of $43, 033,950 only, and were issued with share certificates.
“In 2010, the defendants rebranded Etisalat Nigeria Limited to 9mobile and entered into negotiations with Smile.com and Glo Network to transfer its licence without recourse to the plaintiffs.
“When the plaintiffs became aware of the purported transaction, they filed this suit along with two applications namely: motion ex-parte and motion on notice, seeking for an order of injunction to restrain the defendants from going ahead with the transaction.
“When this suit came up for hearing on the 17th of April, 2018, this honourable court ordered parties to maintain status quo-pending the determination of the motion on notice.
“Notwithstanding the aforementioned order, the defendants continued negotiations with Smile.com and Glo Network in defiance to the subsisting order of this court.
“When the plaintiffs/applicants discovered that the defendants were bent on selling Etisalat Nigeria Limited “rebranded 9moile” despite the subsisting order of court, they instructed their Counsel Mahmud A. Magaii (SAN) to write and caution the defendants of the implications of their actions.
“Upon receipt of the above letters, the 3rd and 4rd respondents (First Bank and Central Bank), through their counsel Olaniwun Aiayi wrote to the applicants, through their counsel on the 24th August, 2018 and 31th August, 2018, denying the existing of the order of status quo made by this honourable court on the 17th April, 2018 and 31th August, 2018.
“When this matter come up on the 10th of October, 2018, counsel to the plaintiff Okechukwu Edeze, informed the court of the attempts mode by the defendants to sell Etisalat Nigeria Limited.
“Consequently, this honourable court made another order of status quo, directing parties to refrain from tampering with the subject matter of the suit.
“Despite the orders of this honourable court made on the 10th of October, 2018, the defendants went ahead and sold Etisalat Nigeria limited, rebranded 9moible to Teleology Nigeria Limited with impunity.
“It will be in the interest of justice to set aside the sale of Etisalat Nigeria limited rebranded 9moible to Teleology Nigeria Limited and commit the defendants to prison for disobeying the lawful orders of the court.”
Justice Nyako adjourned hearing in the substantive suit to June 12.
Ownership transfer intact, says firm
Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Ltd. (trading as 9mobile) management yesterday refuted reports that a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has nullified the sale of EMTS to Teleology Nigeria Limited.
The telco described the reports as incorrect, misleading, mischievous and a total falsehood.
Company Secretary/Legal Adviser Ore Olajide said the Federal High Court did not nullify the sale of EMTS, adding that the court had on April 1, 2019 made an order for parties to maintain status quo as at April 25, 2018. As at the said date, 9mobile was not a party to the suit before the court.
Olajide said the action before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court was not about the sale of EMTS (9mobile) but rather, the transfer of its licence even without locus standi.
He said EMTS (9mobile) has, however, appealed the order and also sought an injunction pending appeal at the Court of Appeal.
Olajide said: “The sale of 9mobile to Teleology Nigeria Limited has not been nullified. The court made an order to maintain status quo as at April 25, 2018 when EMTS was not a party to the suit and we have appealed the ruling as well as sought an injunction pending appeal at the Court of Appeal.”
Assuring its subscribers and all stakeholders to remain calm, the company secretary said: “We are working with our team of legal counsels to follow through as deemed necessary. EMTS remains focused on providing best in class telecoms services to its subscribers and will provide necessary updates in due course.”