Jimoh Ibrahim Not Owner of Newswatch, Says Ray Ekpu

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Bennett Oghifo

Four of the founding members of Newswatch Communications Limited have said Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim does not own the company, because he never paid for 51 per cent shares of the company, as he claims.

In a statement issued yesterday, the founders, Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed and Soji Akinrinade, said their attention was drawn to a story on October 31, 2017, that was “planted by Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim in several newspapers” about a court decision that took place seven months ago, precisely on March 27, 2017.

The said judgement of the Court of Appeal on the ownership of Newswatch Communications Limited was delivered by Justice Tijani Abubakar and supported by Justice Garba Abubakar and Justice Abimbola Obaseki.

The Newswatch founders said Ibrahim had done everything imaginable since 2011 to falsely claim 51 per cent shares of Newswatch Communications Limited, “which he never paid for.”

They said: “The judgement, which was given based on the fact that the judges misdirected themselves on the facts of the matter, has since been contested by two of the shareholders of the company.
The shareholders, Mr. Nuhu Wada Aruwa and Professor Jibril Aminu, have asked the Supreme Court to rectify the error of the court.”

The Newswatch founders continued: “On May 5, 2011, the directors of Newswatch Communications Limited signed a Share Purchase Agreement with Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim and his Global Media Mirror Limited for the sale of 51 per cent shares of Newswatch Communications Limited to him and his company. The share purchase price was N510 million which he was to pay not later than May 5, 2011, the date of the completion board meeting.

“Ibrahim never paid the said N510 million before that day; he never paid it on that day and he never paid it after that day. Up till today, he has not paid for the said shares. But he has tried by hook and crook to own the shares of a company he never paid for.

“He took four of us-Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed and Soji Akinrinade-to the Federal High Court in Lagos, claiming that we had retired from the company on May 5, 2011, and we were no longer directors of the company.
“The truth of the matter is that we retired from the company and were reappointed as non-executive directors at the very meeting in which he was chosen as chairman of the board of the company.”

According to them, Ibrahim went with them to the Newswatch newsroom on that day and “told our staff that we had been reappointed as directors of the company. The news was published in several newspapers, including his National Mirror the next day being May 6, 2011. Yet Ibrahim denied it.”

They explained that “for the 15 months that the magazine was published with him as the chairman, our names were listed every week as directors of the company. We submitted certified true copies of the magazines to Justice Okon Abang who handled the case. Curiously, Justice Abang accepted Ibrahim as chairman but refused to accept us as directors, even though we were all listed as such in the same document. In fact, throughout the case, the judge showed open hostility to our lawyer, Kunle Oyesanya (SAN). We kept wondering what happened.

“When he gave his controversial judgement against the weight of evidence we went on appeal. The more intriguing part of his judgement was his claim that if Ibrahim had not paid for the shares, we would not have made him chairman of the company. But the suit before him which was initiated by Ibrahim was only about our directorship of the company and not about share purchase. He only dragged the issue of share purchase into his judgement when he realised that two of Newswatch directors had gone to court asking for an abrogation of the share purchase agreement because of Ibrahim’s failure to comply with the terms.”

The statement said they contested the “controversial judgement given by Justice Abang,” but that “while this was going on, Ibrahim secretly registered a company called Newswatch Newspapers Limited and gave his company, Global Media Mirror Limited, 900,000 shares and Newswatch Communications Limited only 100,000 shares.

“It was when the newspaper hit the newsstands that we knew that he was cooking a sinister plot.”
On account of this, they said two of their directors, Mr. Nuhu Wada Aruwa and Professor Jibril Aminu, filed a suit asking for an injunction to stop the publication of the Newswatch newspaper.

They said the judge, “Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, said he would rather hear all the parties and resolve the case within one month. By a series of time-wasting tactics, Ibrahim dragged the case for two years. However, on October 20, 2014, Justice Buba gave judgement on the matter.

“In that judgement, the Judge said: ‘the respondent (Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim and Global Media Mirror Limited) were fraudulent in the formation and constitution of the Newswatch Newspapers Limited for not seeking or obtaining the consent of the other shareholders on the shareholding.”

They stated that “the judge set aside the contract entered into based on the Share Purchase Agreement between Newswatch Communications Limited and Global Media Mirror Limited and awarded special damages against Ibrahim and his company to Newswatch Communications Limited for loss of business profit since August 2012.

“He gave an order of perpetual injunction restraining Ibrahim and his company from further interfering in or assuming management and control of Newswatch.

“Immediately after the judgement by Justice Buba, Ibrahim registered a new company called Newswatch Times Limited to circumvent the judgement of the court all in the attempt to publish a newspaper with the name Newswatch which the court had asked him to stop publishing.”

Jimoh, they said: “Changed the name from Daily Newswatch to Newswatch Times. Our lawyer, Kunle Oyesanya, wrote a letter on November 12, 2014, to Ibrahim’s lawyer, Mr. B. Ayorinde (SAN), complaining of this act of lawlessness.
“The next thing Ibrahim and his company did was to remove Newswatch delivery vans and other assets and took them away from our No. 3 Billingsway, Oregun, in Ikeja, Lagos, premises.”

They added that “even though Justice Buba’s judgement had returned Newswatch to its original owners, Ibrahim employed the service of an Estate Surveyor and Valuers, Messrs Goke Owamoboye and Co of No 82, Kudirat Abiola Way, Oregun, Ikeja, to try to trespass into the property. The valuer placed a notice board on the wall of Newswatch premises seeking to let out the property. Our lawyer had to write a letter to the Estate Surveyor to warn him of the criminality of his action.”

They said from their investigations, “we discovered that Ibrahim was more interested in the choice property at No. 3, Billingsway than an enduring publishing enterprise. We then published a Caveat Emptor in the Vanguard newspaper on February 16 and 19, 2015, stating that the place (No. 3, Billingsway, Oregun, Ikeja) is not for let, lease or sale.

“All these efforts did not stop Ibrahim on his desperate, maniacal mission to acquire by all means property that he is not legally or legitimately entitled to.”

The Newswatch directors alleged that Ibrahim then changed tactics and “tried to use some policemen at Alausa Police Station, Ikeja, to commit a trespass on the premises of Newswatch. We wrote a petition on February 17, 2015, to the state Commissioner of Police complaining about him.

“We were expected to meet with the police on the matter but he refused to turn up, however, we made our case to the police. He brags openly about the fact that he has the police in his pocket. This is of no interest to us but as law-abiding citizens, we will use all lawful means to keep our property from being stolen by anyone, no matter how rich he is.”

Also, they said the publication of October 31, 2017, earlier referred to, contained a number of inaccuracies and discrepancies, explaining that the statement that “Ibrahim won the ownership case at a Federal High Court and the matter was relitigated by the defendants before another Federal High Court presided over by Justice Buba who ruled in favour of Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed and others” is false.

During their negotiations before the share purchase agreement was signed, they said: “Ibrahim mentioned the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo several times as his mentor.

“Since we are also friendly with the former president, we decided to report Ibrahim to him. Obasanjo asked us (Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed and Soji Akinrinade) what we wanted. We said we wanted him to invite Ibrahim for a meeting so he can state before him whether he paid us the money or not. Obasanjo told us later that he had invited him a couple of times but he never turned up for the meeting with us.”

“We believe that despite the rot in the Nigeria system, there are still judges with a conscience who will not sell their conscience for a mess of pottage,” the statement said.