Forfeiture claim on Airtel’s shares false, misleading, Ecobank subsidiary, O&O Networks Limited, insists.
A special purpose vehicle (SPV) owned by the Ecobank Group, O&O Networks Limited, says contrary to media reports, there is no forfeiture order of the Federal High Court of Nigeria in its proceedings against Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) or Ecobank Nigeria Limited.
O&O Networks Limited is defending long-standing proceedings in the Federal High Court relating to its ownership of shares in Airtel Networks Limited that were once owned by it.
The company which is a special purpose vehicle previously owned by Oceanic Bank formed part of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated’s (ETI) in 2011 after the acquisition of defunct Oceanic Bank International.
Broad Communications Limited (the plaintiff) had instituted legal proceedings against O&O Networks in December 2006 at the Federal High Court.
A statement issued by O&O Networks stressed that there was no forfeiture order of the Federal High Court in the proceedings against ETI or Ecobank Nigeria Limited.
According to the statement, there have been no material legal developments in the plaintiff’s substantive claim for monetary compensation since 2017, though a trial date on the substantive merits was recently fixed for May 28, 2019.
“Contrary to certain media reports, there is no forfeiture order of the Federal High Court of Nigeria in these proceedings that is directed against ETI or Ecobank Nigeria Limited, and neither ETI nor Ecobank Nigeria Limited has made or is required by law to make any payment to the Federal High Court of Nigeria in relation to this long-standing litigation.
“There have been no material legal developments in the plaintiff’s substantive claim for monetary compensation since 2017.
In 2006, the plaintiff’s claim was grounded on an alleged right of first refusal over shares in Airtel Networks Limited that O&O Networks owned. The plaintiff claimed ownership of the Airtel shares based on its right of first refusal.
“In 2017, the plaintiff amended its claim to seek monetary compensation of United States Dollar (USD) equivalent of N10 billion (approximately $28 million) in place of its claim of ownership of Airtel shares.
“Since the matter was filed in 2006, it has not proceeded to trial on the substantive merits of the claim to date though a trial date on the substantive merits was recently fixed for May 28, 2019.
“In August 2018, O & O Networks sold its shares in Airtel Networks Limited for N22.5 billion (approximately $62.5 million) with the permission of the Federal High Court on June 7, 2018 and subsequently in September 2018, the plaintiff filed an interlocutory application requesting the Federal High Court to grant an order directing O&O Networks to place N22.5 billion (approximately $62 million).
“That amounted to the entire proceeds of the sale of Airtel shares and an amount which is significantly in excess of the plaintiff’s total monetary claim into an escrow account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the court, pending the final determination of the substantive claim. The Federal High Court of Nigeria granted the plaintiff’s interlocutory application on March 7, 2019.
“O&O Networks has filed a notice of appeal and an application for stay of execution to the ruling. Its appeal to the interlocutory order is currently pending and it intends to prosecute the appeal vigorously.
“It believes the substantive claim of the plaintiff is without merit and will continue to vigorously defend all proceedings–interlocutory and substantive–in relation to the plaintiff’s long-standing claim,” the statement explains.