The Federal High Court in Lagos has nullified the appointment of an interim board for telephone firm 9Mobile.
Justice Ibrahim Buba made the order based on an application by Spectrum Wireless Communication Ltd, which invested $35million in 2009 in Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service (EMTS)/Etisalat, the fourth largest telecommunications service operator in Nigeria.
The judge ruled: “An order is hereby granted discharging the ex-parte order made by this court in this suit in favour of the respondent on the 3rd day of July 2017.
“The order made pursuant to motion ex-parte dated 3rd day of July 2017 was a nullity, made without jurisdiction and obtained by misrepresentation of facts. Same be and is hereby discharged and vacated as prayed.
“The motion for stay is struck out, having set aside the order. The respondent shall reverse all steps taken by it since the order was a nullity.”
The order nullifies the appointment of Dr Joseph Nnana of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as chairman, Mr Boye Olusanya as Managing Director, Mrs Funke Ighodaro as Chief Financial Officer, Mr Seyi Bickersthet and Mr Ken Igbokwe on the EMTS board.
The nullification follows Justice Buba’s dismissal of a preliminary objection filed by United Capital Trustees Ltd in response to the application by Spectrum Wireless, a shareholder of EMTS.
United Capital comprises a consortium of local banks that provided funding for Etisalat.
Spectrum Wireless claimed that the order was obtained by misrepresentation of facts that alienated its interests in the company.
The interim board of EMTS, which has the support of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), received bids from five bidders in its intended sale of the company, which was to be concluded by last December 31, but was moved to January 16.
Spectrum Wireless Communication’s lawyers warned that any institution or company who transacts business for the purpose of sale or acquisition of EMTS or 9Mobile does so at his or her own risk.
EMTS, popularly known as Etisalat, secured a telecommunications licence in 2007.
It has equity participation by local and foreign investors. In 2011, it secured N115.6billion and $235million from a consortium of domestic banks under the auspices of United Capital Trustees.
EMTS’ alleged default to service the facilities led to a recovery by United Capital.
To avert possible negative impact on the economy and the financial system, the CBN and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) intervened.
Following the exit of Etisalat and its directors in June 2017 from EMTS, United Capital obtained the ex-parte order of July 3, 2017 to appoint a Transitional Board to superintend over the company’s affairs.
The Transitional Board rebranded the company 9mobile and announced a bid for its sale to interested investors. Concerned that United Capital’s action did not consider their stake in EMTS, other non-bank investors in EMTS, led by Spectrum Wireless, challenged last December the ex-parte order granted United Capital.
Justice Buba nullified the order, approved for the board’s appointment on the grounds that it was granted based on misrepresentation of facts.