Alex Enumah in Abuja
The lingering battle between Bi Courtney Limited and the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) over a N132,540,580,304.00 judgment credit was on April 5 decided in favour of Bi Courtney.
The five-man panel of justices, led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, in a unanimous judgment upheld the appeal of Bi Courtney against the judgment of the Court of Appeal in favour of AMCON.
The apex court in its lead judgment delivered by Justice Amir Sanusi also dismissed the appeal of AMCON for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
The court held that AMOCN’s approach to the appeal was inconsistent with the laws of Nigeria.
According to Justice Sanusi, AMCON’s failure to seek leave at the trial court before approaching the Court of Appeal rendered its appeal incompetent and liable to be dismissed.
He said: “By the provisions of Section 243 (a) of 1999 Constitution, as amended, right of appeal is conferred on applicant from the decisions of the High Court to the Court of Appeal. This issue of seeking and obtaining leave in order to appeal as an interested party, is the first hurdle to be crossed by such applicant in addition to other conditions.
“AMCON’s application filed before the court below is therefore ab-initio, incompetent for among other reasons, failure to seek and obtain leave to appeal as party interested. The failure to seek and obtain that leave therefore deprives the lower court of the requisite jurisdiction to consider and determine the application right from the outset as required by Section 243 of the 1999 Constitution.”
It would be recalled that, Bi-Courtney had obtained a judgment against the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2019 wherein the court directed that all revenues due to Bi-Courtney under the concession agreement should be paid to the company.
The court had in May 6, 2011 assessed the outstanding money to be N132,540, 580,304.00. Bi-Courtney then approached the court to set-off this amount from any debt owed to any agency of the federal government, including AMCON.
However, not satisfied with the decision of the trial court, the agency then sought leave from the appellate court as an interested party to appeal against this judgment of the Federal High Court.
It was granted leave by the Court of Appeal, prompting Bi-Courtney Limited to approach the Supreme Court to upturn the decision of the lower court.
Bi-Courtney has always maintained that it was not indebted to AMCON. The company had severally asserted that rather than being a debtor to AMCON, it was a net creditor to the Federal Government of Nigeria and AMCON was one of the agencies of the said Federal Government of Nigeria.
It had also maintained that this was the position as at the year 2012 when the court ordered the set-off of the alleged debt of Bi-Courtney Limited from the judgment credit of N132, 540,580,304.00
When contacted, a spokesman for Bi-Courtney Limited confirmed judgment of the apex court and asserted that the amount due to Bi-Courtney Limited from this act was now over N250billion as FAAN continued to breach the terms of the contract upon which the courts had awarded damages to Bi-Courtney Limited.