The Federal High Court Lagos Division has granted an interim injunction against Afrijet Airlines Limited, owned by Chief Vitalis Ibe on the application of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). The injunction was delivered by Hon, Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor. The obligor owes AMCON nearly N10billion.
AMCON purchased the Eligible Bank Assets (EBAs) sometime in 2011 from the defunct FinBank and Bank PHB. The order also affects Chief Ibe Continental Aviation Services Limited. AMCON has since appointed Prof. Gbolahan Elias, SAN as Receiver/Manager.
The Receiver/Manager simultaneously took possession of the assets of Chief Ibe including Afrijet Plaza, the corporate head office of the airlines located on Sheraton-Opebi Link Road Ikeja, Opebi, Lagos; his asset at Plot 22, Jimoh Odutola Street, off Eric Moore Road, Surulere, Lagos as well as his office at the Airport.
The Court order mandated the Receiver/Manager to also take over on behalf of AMCON and any other offices, branches, stores, warehouses, factories of Chief Ibe and his companies located and/or traced for the purpose of satisfying the indebtedness. Justice Obiozor, the presiding judge while granting the order on the application of Prof. Gbolahan Elias, SAN counsel to AMCON, restrained Chief Ibe and his companies, directors, agents, servants and/or privies from operating, withdrawing from or otherwise tampering with the funds belonging to and/or deposited in any of his bank accounts under whatever name or guise in any bank or financial institution in Nigeria.
According to a statements from AMCON, “Chief Ibe who could not repay the huge debt owed the Corporation has been in protracted negotiations with AMCON”.
The Court therefore ordered the Inspector General of Police, Assistant Inspectors General of Police, and the Commissioner of Police in charge of Lagos State, its Deputy and all other Police Officers under them to assist the Receiver/Manager and the Bailiffs of the Federal High Court in the enforcement of the orders of the Court.
However, no incident was recorded during the enforcement exercise. Afrijet Airlines formally operated from the NAHCO Building on the grounds of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Ikeja, Lagos. At some point in the history of the airline, it also operated regional cargo operations high profile security flight operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The airline later moved to its corporate headquarters in Opebi, Lagos, which was one of the assets AMCON took over. Afrijet Airlines still maintains an aviation maintenance shop with its sister company Elite Aviation. It would be recalled that the Nigerian government set a deadline of April 30, 2007 for all airlines operating in the country to re-capitalise or be grounded, in an effort to ensure better services and safety.
The airline satisfied the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) criteria in terms of re-capitalization and was re-registered for operation. AMCON had continually maintained that it would not be business as usual for all top debtors of the Corporation because some 400 obligors of the Corporation account for more than N4.5 trillion, which is approximately 80 per cent of the total outstanding loan balance of the Corporation over twelve thousand accounts.
To deal with the situation however, the Ahmed Kuru-led AMCON recently increased the tempo of its recovery activities using firmer negotiation strategies as well as utilizing the special enforcement powers vested by the AMCON Act to compel some of its recalcitrant debtors especially those that are politically exposed and business heavyweights to repay their debts.