Henry Ojelu, Daniel Ekugo
Veteran journalist and one of the founding members of Newswatch publication title, Ray Ekpu has described the court verdict which upturned the takeover of the publication by Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, as victory for the late founding editor, Dele Giwa.
The purchase deal of the publication by controversial businessman, Jimoh has been a subject of litigation as some minority shareholders of the publication queried his full takeover of the company.
The minority shareholders who filed the suit were Mr. Nuhu Aruwa and Prof. Jibril Aminu while the respondents were Newswatch Communications Limited, Global Media Mirror Limited, Jimoh Ibrahim, Newswatch Newspapers and Corporate Affairs Commission.
Ruling on the suit yesterday, Justice Buba Ibrahim, of the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos upturned the Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) which transferred ownership of Newswatch Communications Limited to Global Media Mirror Limited owned by businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim.
The court also awarded N15.7 million damages against Jimoh Ibrahim and other co-defendants as well as an order halting further publications of Newswatch Daily among other reliefs sought by the petitioners.
Reacting to the development Ray Ekpu attributed the judgment to the spirit of their late co-founder Dele Giwa whose dead anniversary was celebrated on Sunday, October 19.
The late Dele Giwa was killed via a letter bomb in home Lagos resident on Sunday of October 19, 1986
Ekpu described Jimoh Ibrahim alleged takeover of the Newswatch title as pure fraud and an attempt to destroy the legacy of the publication founders
“What Jimoh did was typical 419. And there is nothing to worry about because this judgement, has nullified what ever judgement he had.”
Ekpu who further described Jimoh as an insincere person said the businessman had in an advertorial some time last year claimed that he bought The Newswatch 51 per cent share because of the late Dele Giwa.
“He said he bought the publication because of Dele Giwa. How could that happen? It’s ok for him to lay claims of association with Dele Giwa. But I knew that Dele Giwa would be turning in his grave that this man wasn’t what he said he was. We just laughed, because throughout all of those negotiations, he never mentioned Dele Giwa,” he said.
Noting that: “When we gave our own response it was titled: Mr Jimoh Ibrahim’s Litany of Lies which was robust. He chickened out after our response because it was all lies.”
Ekpu said he felt sorry for the hundreds of the current Newswatch staff who will be out of job soon as court would soon appoint a receiver manager for the publication.
“He has bills to pay to us. Our external auditor said he was making about N5 million per month starting from the October period he shut it down. He is supposed to pay the company, that was part of the judgement,” Ekpu stated
In yesterday’ judgment, Justice Buba said that the respondents could not prove that they paid up for the shares. “The Petitioners gave evidence to show that the second to third Respondents have blatantly failed to pay for the Shares in the Company. They have not showed how and when they paid for the said Shares. Nothing in paragraph 11 and 18A of the Respondents’ Statement of Defence shows how they have paid for the Shares. There is no evidence in paragraph 3.0 that the Respondents have paid on or before 5th May, 2011.
“The Respondents have only given their interpretation to that paragraph. Whatever monies they spent was spent on Daily Mirror and was confirmed by DW2 during cross examination. The N510million was supposed to be paid for Shares and not for any other purpose, there is no evidence to show that the Shares have been paid for. Besides, it was a company called ‘Global Fleet’ that paid the N14million, not any of the respondents who contracted with the first respondent”, the judge ruled.
Justice Buba stated that the case of the Petitioners have merits. “The court grants all the reliefs as set out on the petition at the inception of this case as follows: an order setting aside the contract entered into between the first and and Respondent Companies by virtue of document titled “Share Purchase Agreement” between Newswatch Communications Limited “Seller” and Global Media Mirror Limited “Buyer” and executed by the parties therein on or about May, 2011.
“A Consequential Order setting aside the Form CAC2 – Statement of Share Capital and Return of Allotment of Shares of the 1st Respondent company dated the 27th day of August, 2012 presented for filing by one Gloria A. Ukeje.
“An Order directing the 2nd and 3rd Respondent jointly and severally to pay special damages in the sum of N15.7million to the 1st Respondent Company being loss of Business profits since August 2012 till October 2012 when the 1st Respondent’s operations were unilaterally shut down by the 2nd and 3rd Respondents and to pay an average sum of N5million per month for every month that the 1st Respondent is shut down without production of its weekly magazine until the determination of this Suit.”
The court held that it has come to the inevitable conclusion that the petitioners have discharged the burden placed on them and have proved their case while the first to fourth Respondents have failed woefully to discharge the burden placed on them.
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