Airtel shares forfeiture claims are false, Ecobank Group subsidiary claims 

The management of a special purpose outfit owned by the Ecobank Group, O&O Networks Limited, has debunked certain media reports that there is no forfeiture order from the Federal High Court of Nigeria in its legal proceedings against Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) or Ecobank Nigeria Limited.

O&O Networks Limited is defending a long-standing suit before the Federal High Court relating to its ownership of shares in Airtel Networks Limited that were once owned by it. The company which is a special purpose vehicle previously owned by Oceanic Bank formed part of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) in 2011 after the acquisition of Oceanic Bank.
Legal proceedings were first initiated against O&O Networks Ltd in December 2006 by Broad Communications Ltd (plaintiff), in the Federal High Court of Nigeria.

According to a statement issued by O&O Networks, there is no forfeiture order of the Federal High Court of Nigeria in the proceedings that is directed against ETI or Ecobank Nigeria Limited as there have been no material legal developments in the plaintiffs substantive claim for monetary compensation since 2017, though a trial date on the substantive merits was recently fixed for May 28, 2019.

The statement reads: “Contrary to certain press reports, there is no forfeiture order of the Federal High Court of Nigeria in these proceedings that is directed against ETI or Ecobank Nigeria Limited, and neither ETI nor Ecobank Nigeria Limited has made or is required by law to make any payment to the Federal High Court of Nigeria in relation to this long-standing litigation. There have been no material legal developments in the plaintiffs’ substantive claim for monetary compensation since 2017.

“In 2006, the plaintiffs’ claim was grounded on an alleged right of first refusal over shares in Airtel Networks Limited that O&O Networks owned.  The plaintiff claimed ownership of the Airtel shares based on its right of first refusal, in 2017, the plaintiff amended its claim to seek monetary compensation of USD equivalent of Naira 10 billion (approximately US$28 million) in place of its claim of ownership of the Airtel share. Since the matter was filed in 2006, it has not proceeded to trial on the substantive merits of the claim to date though a trial date on the substantive merits was recently fixed for May 28, 2019.
“In August 2018, O & O Networks sold its shares in Airtel Networks Limited for Naira 22.5 billion (approximately US$62.5 million) with the permission of the Federal High Court on 7 June 2018 and subsequently in September 2018, the plaintiff filed an interlocutory application requesting the Federal High Court of Nigeria to grant an order directing O&O Networks to place Naira 22.5 billion (approximately US$62 million) – the entire proceeds of the sale of the Airtel shares and an amount which is significantly in excess of the plaintiffs total monetary claim – into an escrow account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the court, pending the final determination of the substantive claim.  The Federal High Court of Nigeria granted the plaintiffs interlocutory application on March 7, 2019.

“O&O Networks has filed a notice of appeal and an application for stay of execution to this ruling. O&O Networks appeal to the interlocutory order is currently pending, and it intends to prosecute the appeal vigorously. O & O Networks Limited believes the substantive claim of the plaintiff is without merit and will continue to vigorously defend all proceedings interlocutory and substantive in relation to the plaintiffs’ long-standing claim,” the organisation claimed.

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