By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja has nullified the sale of telecommunications firm, Etisalat International Nigeria Limited (9mobile), to Teleology Nigeria Limited.
Two major investors in Etisalat — Afdin Ventures Limited and Dirbia Nigeria Limited — had in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/288/2018 challenged the sale of Etisalat to Teleology.
In the suit filed on April 6, 2018, the plaintiffs whose investments in Etisalat is estimated at $43,033,950, had instituted the legal action to retrieve their investments on the grounds that they have been excluded from the decision making process of the company.
Delivering ruling on April 1 in the suit, Justice Nyako, who nullified the transaction, also voided all steps taken in relation to the exchange of ownership of Etisalat despite pending orders for parties to maintain the status quo in relation to the sale of the company.
The court held that the parties went ahead with the sale of the company when they were all aware of the existence of the suit, adding that the defendants were served with the originating process between April 24 and 27, 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, before April 25, 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 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 of 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 April, 17, 2018, this honourable court ordered parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of the motion on notice.”
The plaintiffs said despite the orders of the court made on October, 10, 2018, the defendants went ahead and sold Etisalat Nigeria limited, rebranded 9moble to Teleology Nigeria Limited with impunity, adding that: “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.”