Daily Times Newspapers has got deeper into the muddy waters of controversies as the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) on Tuesday took over its assets via court order.
The foremost newspaper has been enmeshed in court cases and controversies since the Federal Government sold it to private investor in 2004.
The court order came following huge outstanding loan to AMCON.
AMCON in a statement signed by its Head, Corporate Communications, Jude Nwauzor, Tuesday, said the takeover was in continuation of AMCON recovery activities in the new financial year. The statement said AMCON took over the assets on February 13, through Gbenga Fayose (SAN).
It said the takeover followed the Federal High Court ruling on Feb. 1, 2018, in which Justice I.N Buba ordered AMCON to take over the paper.“But having exhausted all avenues of peaceful resolution over the huge outstanding debt owed AMCON by the Daily Times Plc, the Federal High Court on February 1, 2018, presided over by Honourable Justice I. N Buba ordered AMCON to take over the Daily Times,” it said.
The statement said the court by the said order restrained the directors, shareholders, agents, servants, privies and /or employees howsoever described from preventing AMCON from taking possession of the Daily Times.
It added that AMCON had complied by effectively taking over the Daily Times on Feb. 13, 2018.
The statement said AMCON was interested in the recovery of the debt and not the ownership of the media empire.
The Federal Government of Nigeria once held 96.05 percent share in Daily Times through NICON Insurance Plc.
The government, during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004, called for bids from the general public as it sought to divest its stake in the oldest newspaper conglomerate.
Consequently, Folio Communications Ltd, owned by Fidelis Anosike and his brother Noel Anosike tendered a bid for the said shares and was confirmed by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), as the most preferred bidder for the shares.
The BPE sold to Folio at the cost of N1.25bn.
The statement said since the 2004 privatisation exercise, Folio Communications had been trapped in court cases following a loan of N750m from Hallmark Bank Plc, which it secured to enable it pay for the newspaper company.
“Folio also got DSV Limited promoted by Sen Ikechukwu Obiorah to invest the sum of N500m in the purchase of the shares with the understanding that upon concluding the transaction, DSV would be entitled to 40 per cent of the shareholding of the media empire.
A year after the sale, Hallmark Bank Plc (now defunct), Folio Communications Ltd, promoted by the Anosike brothers/Daily Times of Nigeria Plc and DSV Limited, promoted by Obiorah commenced several legal battles over the real ownership of the newspaper.
In 2010, AMCON purchased the loan from the then Afribank Plc, which later became Mainstreet Bank.
Consequently, Folio Communications Limited also dragged AMCON to court on several claims while Mr. Obiorah commenced an action against the Corporation in the name of Daily Times Plc at the Federal High Court vide suit no: FHC/L/CS/ 1254 /15 – the Daily Times Nigeria Plc vs AMCON”, it said.