The Federal High Court in Abuja has halted the plan to sell the telecommunication firm, Etisalat, now called 9Mobile.
This followed an application by some aggrieved shareholders who are demanding that the planned sales should not be allowed to take place until they are paid the sum of $43.33m which they allegedly invested in the troubled company.
Justice Binta Nyako had, on Tuesday, granted the interim restraining order following an ex parte application moved during the proceedings by the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN).
The judge ruled that “an order is made for the maintenance of status quo as at Tuesday.”
She, however, noted that “the defendants ought to be heard” and therefore ordered the service of the plaintiffs’ processes on them.
The defendants sued in the suit are Karlington Telecommunications Ltd, Premium Telecommunications Holdings NV, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Central Bank of Nigeria, Etisalat International Nigeria Ltd (now 9mobile) and the Nigerian Communications Commission.
The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CR/288/2018 was filed on March 22, 2018 by some aggrieved Afdin Ventures Limited and Dirbia Nigeria Limited who claimed to have shares in Etisalat.
They claimed to be major investors in the company but left out in the firm’s decision making.
In their main suit, the plaintiffs asked the court to, among others, declare that the planned sale of Etisalat to Smile.Com and Glo Network, without paying the them the money with which they bought the shares, is unlawful.
They also urged the court to order the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th defendants to refund to the plaintiffs a total of $43,330,950 with which they bought their 4303395 shares at $10 per share.
The plaintiffs equally prayed the court to award N1bn in general damages against the defendants and in their favour.
The plaintiffs said, in a statement of claim, 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 a custodian of the plaintiffs’ share certificate.”
They said while 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, Sani Ibrahim, the General Manager of the 1st plaintiff and a director in the 2nd plaintiff, stated that problem with Etisalat resulted from the mismanagement of its funds.
He said the plaintiffs’ grouse arose from not only the firm’s mismanagement, but also from its inability to declare dividends from 2009 till date and the move by the defendants to conduct a clandestine sale of the company at the detriment of the plaintiffs.
Ibrahim stated that “in 2015, the 1st, 2nd and 5th defendants took several loans from 13 Nigerian banks with a view to expanding and boosting their telecommunication business, but that the money was not properly utilised, leading to heavy indebtedness on the 1st, 2nd and 5th defendants.”
He added that, owing to the resultant heavy indebtedness, the 1st and 2nd defendants “rebranded the 5th defendant (Etisalat) and changed its name to 9Mobile with a view to selling it off and obtaining money to pay its numerous debts.
Ibrahim stated, “The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th defendants have failed to declare dividends on the shares of the plaintiffs since 2009 till date.
“The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th defendants have completed arrangement to sell the rebranded 9Mobile to Smile.Com and Glo Network without the knowledge of the plaintiffs, who are its major investors.
“If not restrained, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th defendants will sell Etisalat International (also known as 9Mobile) and disappear with the plaintiffs’ investment.”