The Federal High Court, Abuja has stopped the planned sale of 9mobile (formerly Etisalat Nigeria) following the opposition to the transaction raised by some aggrieved shareholders of the company.
Justice Binta Nyako gave the order stopping the sale on Wednesday while ruling on an ex parte motion brought by the shareholders.
The order is a major blow to telecom firm, Teleology, which had already paid a $50 million non-refundable deposit after emerging preferred bidder in the sale process for 9mobile.
The firm had been given 90 days to pay the balance of $450 million to conclude its acquisition.
But Afdin Ventures Limited and Dirbia Nigeria Limited, who claimed to be “major investors” in Etisalat Nigeria complained of being left out in the firm’s decision making and are demanding a refund of their investment in 9mobile to the tune of $43,330,950.
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 Communications Commission (NCC) as defendants.
In a statement of claims, the plaintiffs said that they bought shares in Etisalat from the 1st and 2nd defendants (Karlington Ltd and Premium Holdings) through a private placement memorandum in which the 3rd defendant (First Bank) served as the custodian of the plaintiffs’ share certificates.
According to them, the 1st plaintiff (Afdin Ventures) bought 1,300,391 Class A Shares at $13,003,910, which it paid for on August 14, 2009; the 2nd 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 1st and 2nd defendants’ First Bank accounts.
In a supporting affidavit, the general manager of the 1st plaintiff and a director in the 2nd plaintiff, Sani Ibrahim, claimed that the problem with 9mobile resulted from:
- The mismanagement of its funds
- Its inability to declare dividends from 2009 to date
- The attempt by the defendants to conduct a clandestine sale of the company to the detriment of the plaintiffs.
Ruling on the ex parte moved by plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), the court held that “an order is made for the maintenance of status quo as at today”.
The judge however added that the defendants ought to be heard and consequently ordered the service of processes on the defendants, including the 3rd and 5th (First Bank and 9mobile/Etisalat), whose addresses are outside the jurisdiction of the court.
In a tweet on Wednesday, the NCC said the commission as well as the CBN “have taken serious steps to protect the millions of 9mobile network subscribers and stakeholders.”