Court Halts Planned Sale of 9Mobile

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By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja has stopped the planned sale of 9Mobile (Etisalat) telecommunication company,
following opposition to the move by some aggrieved shareholders.
Justice Nyako gave the order stopping the sale of the telecommunication firm while ruling on an exparte motion brought by the aggrieved shareholders.
Afdin Ventures Limited and Dirbia Nigeria Limited, who claimed to be major investors in Etisalat, complained of being left out in the firm’s decision making and have demanded a refund of their invested funds estimated at $43,330,950 million.
The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/288/2018 has Karlington Telecommunications Ltd, Premium Telecommunications Holdings NV, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Central Bank of Nigeria, Etisalat International Nigeria Ltd and Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) as defendants.
Delivering ruling on the exparte moved by the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), the court ruled that, “an order is made for the maintenance of status quo as at today.”
Justice Nyako, however, held that the defendants ought to be heard and consequently ordered the service of processes on the defendants, including the third and fifth (First Bank and Etisalat), whose addresses are outside jurisdiction.
The court in addition ordered that “the writ be marked as concurrent” and adjourned to May 14 for mention.
In a statement of claim, the plaintiffs said that they bought shares in Etisalat from the first and second defendants (Karlington Ltd and  Premium Holdings) through “a private placement memorandum in which the third defendant (First Bank) served as a custodian of the plaintiffs’ share certificate”.
According to them, the first plaintiff (Afdin Ventures) bought 1,300,391 class A shares at $13,003,910, which it paid for on August 14, 2009; the second plaintiff (Dirbia Ltd) acquired 3,300,004 class A shares at $30,030,040, for which it made payment on September 3, 2009.
The plaintiffs said they paid for the shares through the first and second defendants’ First Bank accounts.
In a supporting affidavit, the General Manager of the first plaintiff and a director in the second plaintiff, Sani Ibrahim, claimed that problem with Etisalat resulted from the mismanagement of its funds.
He said the plaintiffs’ grouse arose from not only the firm’s mismanagement, it includes its inability to declare dividends from 2009 till date and the move by the defendants to conduct a clandestine sale of the company at the detriment of the plaintiffs.
Ibrahim said: “In 2015, the 1st, 2nd and 5th defendants took several loans from 13 Nigerian banks with a view to expanding and boosting their telecommunication business, but that the money was not properly utilised, leading to heavy indebtedness on the 1st, 2nd and 5th defendants.”
He added that owing to the resultant heavy indebtedness, the first and second defendants “rebranded the fifth defendant (Etisalat) and changed its name to 9Mobile with a view to selling it off and obtaining money to pay its numerous debts”.
“The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th defendants have failed to declare dividends on the shares of the plaintiffs since 2009 till date.
“The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th defendants have completed arrangement to sell the rebranded 9Mobile to Smile.Com and Glo Network without the knowledge of the plaintiffs, who are its major investors.
“If not restrained, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th defendants will sell Etisalat International (also known as 9Mobile) and disappear with the plaintiffs’ investment,” Ibrahim said.
The plaintiffs want the court to, among others, declare that the planned sale of Etisalat to Smile.Com and Glo Network, without paying the plaintiffs the money with which they bought the shares, is unlawful.
They also urged the court to order the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th defendants to refund to the plaintiffs a total of $43,330,950 with which they bought their 4303395 shares at $10 per share.
The plaintiffs equally prayed the court to award N1 billion in general damages against the defendants and in their favour.