Symbol of justice
By Davidson Iriekpen
Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court in Lagos has agreed to hear the suit instituted by Mrs. Maiden Alex-Ibru, wife of the late Publisher of the Guardian Newspapers, Mr Alex Ibru, seeking to wind up Federal Palace Hotel despite the appeal by elder statesmen, Chief Edwin Clark and John Papper Clark to mediate in the matter.
Mrs Ibru, who is suing on behalf of Omamo Investment Corporation, her husband’s firm, wants Tourist Company of Nigeria Plc, operators of the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos, owned by Mr Goodie Ibru, to be wound up for refusing to repay the N2 billion extended to him by her late husband.
When the case came up before him yesterday, Justice Liman agreed to hear the application seeking an order to grant leave to Omamo Investment Corporation to advertise the winding up petition of the Tourist Company of Nigeria Plc in a gazatte, one national newspaper or any other newspaper circulating in Lagos where the hotel has its registered office and its principal place of business.
The judge reached the decision after he heard the counsel to the petitioner, Dr Tunji Braithwaite who requested the court to move the application because complaints from his clients, which indicated that the respondent was going ahead 'to dissipate the assets of the hotel despite the pendency of the suit.
At this juncture counsel to the respondent, Onyebuchi Aniakor objected to the motion, reminding the court that his client had filed an objection to the application which was pending in court.
He also complained that the petitioner had not served him with its response to his preliminary objection.
But the court in its ruling, elected to take the winding up petition and the respondent's objection in order to strike a balance between the right to advertise and the collateral effect the advertisement would have on the respondent should it find that the order was unmeritorious.
According to the judge, though the order to advertise is to bring to the public and the shareholders to know of the petition, there was no authority as to the mode of which the application should be made.
Justice Liman, who agreed with Braithwaite’s submission on the condition of ex-parte application which stipulates that the respondent is not entitled to be heard during such session, said the court in exercising its discretion in its exercise, should therefore strike a balance by allowing the respondent to be put on notice.
He, however, refused to make an order for parties to maintain status quo over complaints that the directors are still taking actions that might dissipate the respondent's assets on the ground that there was no proper application on that issue before the court.
Earlier during the proceeding, Braithwaite moved a motion seeking court's leave for the extension of time to regularise the petitioner's motion, which was granted by the court since the respondent did not raise any objection to the application.
Braithwaite also thwarted the move by the respondent to get a long adjournment on the excuse that they had not been served with the response to his objection.
He had in his submission told the court that it is in the interest of justice for the court to hear the petitioner's motion filed since November 19 last year because of what he called recent happenings which includes a letter by busy bodies seeking for the matter to be adjourned indefinitely.
At Thursday’s proceedings, Mrs Alex-Ibru, who was accompanied to court by her first daughter and son, brother, Dr Alex Thomopolous and friends and relations, agains raised her hand to speak during the court session but Justice Liman who is a new judge in the case, did not permit her.
The judge told her in plain terms that in his court, litigants are only allowed speak through their lawyers.
At the last adjourned date last month, the former judge, Justice Okechukwu Okeke had informed the parties in court of a letter from Chief Clark and his brother, J.P Clark, asking for an adjournment to enable them mediate in the matter.
That position was however rejected by the petitioner, who described them as busy bodies, which led to the transfer of the matter to present judge upon the petitioner's request.
The judge consequently adjourned the case to May 3.