The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and Bi-Courtney Nigeria Limited yesterday disagreed over the import of a Supreme Court judgment delivered on April 5, 2019, allowing an appeal by the aviation services company and dismissing the cross appeal by the asset management company.
Bi-Courtney had in a statement made available to THISDAY on Tuesday claimed that the implication of the judgment was that AMCON was liable to netting off what the aviation services company was owing it from a judgment credit of N132,540,580,304 it had secured against the federal government in April 2012.
But AMCON in a statement to THISDAY last night said the Supreme Court did not order it to pay Bi-Courtney the sum of N132billion, adding that it was the aviation services firm that is indebted to it in excess of N119billion.
Bi-Courtney has always maintained that it was not indebted to AMCON.
The firm had severally asserted that rather than being a debtor to AMCON, it was a net creditor to the federal government and that the corporation was one of the agencies of the said federal government.
In the statement by its Head, Corporate Communication, Mr. Jude Nwauzor, AMCON said it did not owe Bi-Courtney any amount; instead, it was the aviation services firm that owes it N119billion.
It said it would continue to explore every legal avenue to recover the said sum of N119billion in the national interest and interest of the bond owners.
The corporation argued that there was never an issue of its liability with Bi-Courtney before the Supreme Court.
It added that the decision of the Supreme Court did not deal with the merits of the appeal nor the substantive matter resulting in the exparte decision of the Federal High Court.
AMCON said the appeal before the Supreme Court was only in respect of the leave granted it by the Court of Appeal to appeal as an interested party and for which the apex court held that the application ought to have been filed at the Federal High Court first before the Court of Appeal.
It noted that this was the sole issue submitted and determined by the Supreme Court while the substantive matter is still with the lower court.
The corporation disclosed that the appeal against the judgment of the federal government/Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), who are parties to the substantive case that gave rise to the enforcement order is still pending at the Court of Appeal, adding that the said appeal is strictly between the federal government/FAAN and Bi- Courtney and has nothing to do with AMCON.
It noted that Bi-Courtney is struggling to tie the matter to its debt obligation in the company when the whole matter of N132billion is strictly a case between the aviation services company and the Federal Government of Nigeria/FAAN.
AMCON said: “The whole matter of N132billion is strictly a case between Bi-Courtney Limited and the Federal Government of Nigeria/FAAN. Bi-Courtney is struggling to tie the matter to their debt obligation in AMCON.
“The only import of the judgment is that AMCON seeks the leave of the Federal High Court first to appeal the enforcement order before approaching the Court of Appeal. The net effect of the above is that AMCON was never ordered to pay Bi-Courtney N132billion nor any other amount. AMCON has never been a party to any of the proceedings pending at the court of Appeal.
“As far as AMCON is concerned, Bi-Courtney, owned by Wale Babalakin, is still indebted to the corporation in excess of N119billion and the corporation would continue to explore every legal avenue to recover the said sum in the national interest and interest of the bond owners.”
Bi-Courtney had obtained a judgment against the federal government in 2012 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.
AMCON Lacks Understanding of the Law, Says Bi-Courtney
Bi-Courtney repudiated AMCON’s position last night, in a statement by Ndudi Okpaleke, accusing the asset management firm of lacking the understanding of the law.
It explained: “As early as April 2012, the Federal High Court awarded N132bn to Bi-Courtney Limited against the Federal Government and directed that this amount of money should be used to pay any liability owed to any government agency, including AMCON.
“AMCON was specifically mentioned in the court order. All attempts to set aside this order have failed in all courts in Nigeria.
“AMCON, who at best is a busy body in this transaction, obtained the leave of the Court of Appeal to appeal against this order as an interested party. Bi-Courtney objected very strongly stating that AMCON had no interest in the matter.
“Furthermore AMCON’S appeal was incompetent because it did not comply with the laws of Nigeria.
“The Supreme Court threw AMCON’s appeal out on the grounds that the appeal by AMCON was incompetent. The effect of this was that there was nothing stopping the implementation of the court order.”
According to Bi-Courtney, “It is elementary law that from the day the set off was ordered, the debt of the obligor, Bi-Courtney, became extinguished. In effect, Bi-Courtney ceased to exist in the books of AMCON. For this reason, no interest could be debited into Bi-Courtney’s account from that date. This is very elementary law.”
It said AMCON had continued to debit interest into Bi-Courtney’s account without legal basis hence its fathom believe that a debt that had already been paid is now so high.
The aviation services firm said it is important that the asset management firm should stop misleading the federal government that it has money to collect from non-existent debtors.
It stated: “In a related matter AMCON bought an equity transaction as debt from a lender. It did not appreciate the deep ignorance in this course of action until trial in court after wasting government’s resources in pursuing the action. The court held that the company did not owe the N20billion that AMCON alleged and awarded N3billion to Resort International Limited for libel.
“This amount of N3billion was more than the N2.7billion that the company owed. The said company, Resort International Limited, is in credit with AMCON. In a more enlightened environment the lender and AMCON would have been seriously sanctioned. Such level of ignorance and carelessness should not exist in financial institutions.
“It is time for the appropriate authorities to look into the activities of AMCON and save the Nigerian tax payers from the unlawful and ignorant waste of government resources while claiming to be pursuing non-existent debts.
“The libelous statement issued by AMCON will receive appropriate attention.”