The Federal High Court in Abuja has, in an April 1, 2019 ruling, set aside the sale of a major telecommunications firm, Etisalat International Nigeria Limited, now 9mobile, to Teleology Nigeria Limited.
However, the Management of Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Limited (9mobile) said that the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had not nullified the sale of EMTS to Teleology Nigeria Limited. An enrolled order made by Justice Binta Nyako was sighted on Thursday.
The judge held that the steps taken in relation to the exchange of ownership of the company were in violation of subsisting court orders that parties to the pending suit should maintain the status quo.
The court had by the orders restrained parties to the suit, involving investors and other shareholders in the company, from destroying the “res”, the subject matter in dispute in the suit.
The plaintiffs, who are major investors in Etisalat, Afdin Ventures Limited and Dirbia Nigeria Limited, had via a motion filed on November 16, 2018, asked the court to nullify the steps taken by the defendants with respect to the sale of the company, which violated the April 17, 2018 order.
They recalled that orders flouted by the defendants were made by the court the April 17, August 31, and October 10, 2018.
In her ruling, the judge noted that between April 24 and 27, 2018, the defendants had been served with the plaintiffs’ originating process challenging the sale of the company, but in defiance, the defendants went on with the sale. She, therefore, directed that the status of the company from April 25, 2018, should be restored.
“Any action that has been taken concerning the rest of this litigation from the 25th day of April, which is earlier in time, should revert to the position, as of the res, to its 25th day of April 2018,” the judge ruled.
The hearing in the substantive suit has been fixed for June 12. Afdin and Dirbia had filed the substantive suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/288/2018, on April 6, 2018.
The 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 Communications Commission.
The plaintiffs laying claim to an estimated $43,033,950 investment in Etisalat had said that they were aggrieved by what they described as exclusion from the decision-making of Etisalat.
On that basis, they had filed their suit to retrieve their investments in the company. They stated in an affidavit filed in support of their November 16, 2018 application that they learnt that the defendants had proceeded to conclude the transfer of the ownership of the company despite the court restraining orders.
They said following the defendant’s disobedience, they resorted to praying the court to void the sale of Etisalat.
They stated, “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.