Daily Times; Court Clears Ikechukwu Obiorah, condemns Folio

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja presided over by the Chief Judge, Justice Lawan Gumi yesterday ruling on the Daily Times Share Scandal dismissed Folio’s case against Senator Ikechukwu Obioray with costs against Folio. The Court cleared and discharged the leave earlier granted the Inspector-General of Police (IG) to investigate Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah whom Folio Communications Limited alleged to have issued dud cheques to it.

The court said it found out that the facts upon which the leave was earlier granted were false and misleading and that no properties passed to the applicants (Obiorah) as claimed by Folio Communications.

Recall that The Nigeria Police had earlier issued an interim report from their investigation of how Folio Communications acquired the privatised Daily Times of Nigeria Limited (DTN) with a bank loan, sold the shares of DTN in the Nigerian Stock Exchange to settle part of the loan secured in acquiring the DTN‘s shares, and then disposed off several properties of the company situated in Nigeria and another at Cold Harbour Lane, London and diverted the proceeds in a blatant/fraudulent case of Asset Stripping.

Justice Gumi said the court had jurisdiction to ask the police or any other agency to investigate an allegation against an individual, but maintained that whereby it is discovered that the order was granted in error, out of misleading or suppressed facts, the appropriate thing was to vacate the order.

He said Folio Communications and its counsel Alex Izinyon’s Chambers were economical with the truth and did not disclose full facts on the transaction, adding that even if an agreement was reached to buy the properties, the applicants decided to stop payment when they realised that the properties had passed to other buyers and leasors. 

He consequently cleared Obiorah of any wrongdoing and discharged the order with N20,000 in his favour.

Justice Gumi, who last month, listened to the submissions by the counsel to the parties, reserved ruling till last Friday, but had to adjourn again because the ruling was not ready.

Other applicants – DSV Limited, Harslesden Engineering Limited and Corporate Ideals Properties Limited – had claimed that the properties for which they are been alleged of issuing dud cheques were not conveyed to Obiorah after collecting N100 million from him.

In their motion on notice, the defendants admitted that it was true that they struck an agreement with the complainant to buy five properties in different locations in the country. They had paid N100 million for the transaction, but discovered that the properties had either been leased or sold and that leasors such as the Zenith Bank Plc had already taken possession of the properties.

The properties that were to be conveyed to the applicants for N760 million are: No 35 Warehouse Road, Apapa, Lagos; No 15 Copper Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; No 3 Wuraola Esan Close, Ashogbon, Ikeja Lagos; Houses 5, 7, 9 and 11 Gowon Estate, Ipaja, Lagos; and No 63 Ikwere Road, Port Harcourt. 

They submitted that the ex-parte application brought by the respondent upon which the order for leave was granted was based “on fraudulent misrepresentation, blatant falsehood and a gross suppression of facts”.

In the supporting affidavit deposed to by Obiorah, the applicants averred that the entire application by the complainant was a gimmick to frustrate and truncate the enforcement of a judgment delivered by the Federal High Court in a suit they filed against the complainant.

“That the parties had then agreed that the respondent would sell its factory at Abuja to the Daily Times of Nigeria Plc for the sum of N880 million, while the 2nd applicant would sell its own factory to the company (DTN Plc) for the sum of N600 million. 

“That the 3rd and 4th applicants were to purchase five named properties of the company valued at N76O million, the understanding being that since the respondent had claimed the stock exchange building was sold for N720 million and had held on to the money, it was to bring its said factory in Abuja into the company (DTN) to cover the said sum, and would now receive the difference of N160 million, from the 3rd and 4th applicants in addition to the N720 million to make up the sum of N880 million which the respondent had claimed is the value of the said factory,” said the applicants. 

Obiorah admitted that he issued post-dated cheques in the sum of N160 million with the understanding that the cheques would be drawn when he received title documents and possession of the properties.

He said when he eventually discovered that the respondent did not own any print work factory in Abuja or anywhere, and having been shown an uncompleted, unroofed and abandoned building, and that the respondent had sold the stock exchange building for about N900 million and not N720 declared, he had to warn his bank.