Billionaire lawyer, Dr Bolanle Olawale Babalakin SAN, became N3billion richer on Wednesday after defeating the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) in a long-drawn legal battle to take ovèr the Federal Secretariat Complex in Ikoyi.
NewsmakersNG reports that the case, which has been before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, in Lagos, since 2012, was decided in favour of Babalakin as the Court answered all his prayers and ordered AMCON to pay N3billion for damages caused by publishing his name as a chronic debtor in This Day Newspaper.
Babalakin and his company, Resort International Limited sued AMCON and the Attorney General of the Federation demanding compensation over the libellous print and online newspaper publication that listed him as a debtor, when the Federal Government still owe him a judgement debt of N132, 540, 580, 304.
The N132.5billion judgement was given by the same Justice Ibrahim Buba in 2011.
The Court also dismissed AMCON’s debt recovery suit filed against Babalakin.
The judge specifically awarded the sum of N3billion damages against the Federal Government and AMCON and in favour of Babalakin for publishing his name in ThisDay Newspaper of February 5, 2016 as a chronic debtor.
AMCON had dragged Babalakin and one of his companies, Resort International Ltd to court in November 2012, seeking an order for the repayment of the sum of N20.5bn comprising principal sum and accrued interest as at October 2011 on various loan facilities allegedly granted to the lawyer/businessman and personally guaranteed by his company.
AMCON was also seeking an order granting it the power of sale or disposal of a parcel of land known as Alma Beach property, and the parcel of land known as the Federal Secretariat Complex, Phase 1 & 2, Ikoyi in partial or final liquidation of the debt.
AMCON also wanted the Court to grant it the power of sale or disposal of all the fuel hydrant tanks situated at the Domestic Wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, owned by the Ist defendant and given as security for the debt, or in the alternative, an order of the Court appointing AMCON as Receivers over the business and assets of Resort International Ltd and Wale Babalakin for the purpose of managing same to fully realize the alleged judgment debt.
But in a counter-claim, Babalakin and his company contended that they were not indebted to AMCON but that a N4 billion facility offer to the company was an equity contribution which was wrongly classified as a loan from First Bank Plc,.
They also claimed that it was not a loan that they were obligated to repay with interest and same could not be acquired by AMCON.
They, therefore, asked the court to set aside the purported loan for being inconsistent with the provisions of the AMCON Act (2010) as amended and the CBN guideline for the operations of AMCON and to declare same as illegal , null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
The Counter-Claimants further contended that the publication of their names and that of their Directors by the AMCON in the list of delinquent debtors in relation to loan facilities purportedly acquired by the 1st Defendant which were the subjects of pending suits between the Counter-Claimants and the Defendants is unconstitutional, illegal, an infringement of the rights of the Counter-Claimants and an affront to the judicial powers of the Honourable Court and the administration of justice system.
In his judgment, Justice Buba agreed with the arguments of the counter-claimants and dismissed the claims of the Federal Government and AMCON.
The court ordered the claimants (FG and AMCON) to publish a full and complete retraction and apology to the counter-claimants (Babalakin and his company) in three national dailies and to forward to them a written undertaking that it will cease from publishing similar allegations.
Justice Buba also ordered the Federal Government to comply with the terms of the arbitral award rendered on December 3, 2015 which awarded N55 billion to the counter-claimants.
The judge also held that the counter-claimants is not indebted to AMCON in the sum of N21 billion or any sum whatsoever arising from the facility purportedly acquired from Zenith Bank Plc. and First Bank of Nigeria Plc.
The court further declared that the Loan Purchase and Limited Servicing Agreement entered into between Babalakin and First Bank of Nigeria PLC on April 6, 2011 for the purported acquisition of the Loan Rights of First Bank of Nigeria PLC in the sum of N18,843,081,673. is inconsistent with the provisions of the AMCON Act 2010 (as amended) and the CBN Guidelines for the Operations of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria issued on 15th November 2010 and therefore illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
The Court, therefore, set aside the Loan Purchase and Limited Servicing Agreement for being illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
Justice Buba also ordered AMCON to immediately discharge and release to Babalakin all collaterals, guarantees and assets held by it and / or any of the Banks in connection with the facility and ensure the return of the original title documents in respect of such collaterals to the Counter-Claimant.
The collaterals ordered to be returned by the Court included: leasehold interest in the Federal Secretariat Complex Phase I and II Ikoyi, Lagos for a term of 99 years, domiciliation of proceeds from the sale of luxury apartments from the Federal Secretariat Complex Phase I and II Ikoyi, Lagos and fixed Charge over Fuel Hydrant Tanks situate at the Domestic Wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
Babalakin’s victory today might spell more trouble for AMCON, an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and a statutory corporation created pursuant to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria Act, 2010, to stabilize, revive and re-vitalize the Nigerian financial system by absorbing and managing non-performing loan assets of banks, operating within the Nigerian economy, and their underlining security.