The Federal Government has filed a charge against Fidelis Anosike and Noel Anosike and their firm, Folio Communications Limited, accusing them of fraudulently acquiring the Daily Times of Nigeria (DTN).
The management of Folio Communication has however accused the lawyer, who filed the charge, Festus Keyamo (SAN) and Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah of mocking the Judiciary by allegedly engaging in forum shopping.
The charge marked: CR/222/18, was filed before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Keyamo (SAN), for the Nigeria Police Force.
The defendants were charged with conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, criminal misappropriation, cheating and theft of property belonging to the DTN.
In the charge, it was alleged that pursuant to the Federal Government’s privatisation programme in 2004, its 96.05% shares in the DTN were put for sale by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), bid for which Folio Communications emerged the highest with a bid of N1.250 billion, but had no money to pay.
It was alleged that what Folio did in the circumstances was to obtain a co-investment of N500, 000,000.00 from DSV Ltd (owned by Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah in exchange of 40% of the said shares. DSV paid the sum of N500m directly to BPE.
The prosecution alleged that:” In order to raise the remaining N750, 000,000.00, Folio resorted to the following; it illegally created fixed and floating debentures over the assets of DTN in favour of Hallmark Bank and collected N750, 000, 000 from the Bank.
“Folio was unable to repay Hallmark Bank. The Bank obtained a Court Order appointing a a receiver/manager over DTN. This precipitated law suits culminating in the consent judgment entered by the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/L.CP/594/2005 wherein Folio was ordered to pay Hallmark Bank the sum of N950m consisting of the original N750, 000,000.00 and accumulated interest.
“Instead of using their own money to pay the N950,000,000.00 as mandated by the consent judgement, the defendants (Fidelis Anosike, Noel Anosike and Folio Communications Ltd) once again resorted to DTN’s assets as follows:
They were also accused, among others, of converting N500,000,000.00 belonging to DTN (realised from sale of DTN’s interest in Stock Exchange Building, Lagos) in defraying part of the N950,000,000.00 leaving outstanding the sum of N450,000,000.00.
Folio, in its statement, signed by the Managing Editor of Daily Times newspaper, Bonaventure Melah, said the current case filed by the Police and on which ground the fake news was being bandied around, is about the 15th of its kind that Ikechukwu Obiorah had instigated the Police to initiate against Folio and its management, all of which he said fell flat on their belly before the courts because they are not only baseless but also lack merit.
“This case is not the first, not the second, not the third but about the 15th different cases Ikechukwu Obiorah has instigated the Police to institute against Folio Communications Plc on Daily Times. They have gone from High Court to Magistrate Court, back to High Court and to Magistrate Court. Today, they will run to the Federal High Court, tomorrow, they will run to FCT High court and then to Magistrate Court in Mpape, a suburb of Abuja and to Magistrate Court in Igbosere, Lagos, all in bare-face contempt and disrespect for both the judiciary and mockery of the respected legal profession.
“This same case has gone to the Court of Appeal where in 2010 the Court of Appeal ruled that the matter was purely civil with the no criminal ingredients. Inspectors General of Police have investigated the case severally and put it in black and white that it is a civil case of ownership. But, Ikechukwu Obiorah, finding a willing ally in the current IGP has been using the Police to intimidate Folio and its management,” Bonaventure wrote.
“Our initial reaction to the information that court papers are being circulated as news, (an act that sub judus) was a very long laugh. However, because the main characters in this funny drama are lawyers who should know, it therefore became necessary to react to it.
“In the first place, privatisation is different from commercialisation. Federal Government of Nigeria through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) advertised to sell Daily Times. Folio, like many other companies bided to acquire Daily Times and after very rigorous but transparent process, Folio emerged the preferred bidder. Folio went ahead to fully pay for Daily Times and the government duly handed over the company to Folio.
“Privatisation is about offer, acceptance and payment. It is not commercialisation where conditions are stated. Privatisation is buying and selling. Government advertised, Folio bided and won and went ahead to pay in full the value of the transaction. What has forging of documents got to do with the business? Who forged document and for what? Or are they saying that the money Folio paid and which government received was fake or forged money?
“The next question is who is alleging forgery on the transaction? Is it the Police or the BPE that advertised, supervised the process of bidding, declared Folio as the preferred bidder, accepted the money paid and handed over Daily Times to Folio? What is the interest of the Police that is being used to institute criminal charges against Folio and its management when BPE that conducted the sale and handed over Daily Times to Folio is there and has never complained about the transaction?” the statement wondered.”