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NIGERIA: Appeal Court orders retrial of DSV case

Court of Appeal sitting in LagosCourt of Appeal sitting in Lagos, yesterday, ordered retrial in the case by DSV Limited, a shareholder in Daily Times Nigeria Limited, who had alleged gross and illegal sale of Daily Times assets.

The appellate court in its judgment in the appeal by Folio Communications Limited and four others, against the nullification of their acquisition of the majority shares of DTN by Justice Okechuwku Okeke of a Federal High Court, Lagos in 2010, also ordered that the
matter be taken back to the Federal High Court and be re-assigned to another judge to hear afresh.

Presiding judge, Justice Amina Augie on the issue of jurisdiction raised by the appellants, held that the lower court erred in not considering the issue before delivering judgment in the matter.

The court said: “Having not considered the issue of jurisdiction raised by the appellant, every decision taken by the lower court is accordingly declared a nullity.”

It noted that it was trite, and that no matter the pressure, the court should have listened to the objection, rule on it before moving forward knowing that its outcome was of serious importance to the entire matter.

The lower court, in its judgment, had held that Folio Communications Limited, owned by Fidelis Anosike, did not pay for the majority shares of DTN and that it was unlawful for the company to still parade itself as a shareholder of DTN.

The trial court, consequently, held that the acquisition was null, void and of no effect whatsoever and reverted the shares acquired by Folio Communications Limited back to DTN.
The plaintiff at the lower court had argued that Federal Government, represented by NICON Insurance, held 96.05 percent of DTN shares and that pursuant to the privatisation programme of the government, bids were invited from prospective investors.

Anosike had also argued that Folio Communications later emerged the preferred bidder for the Federal Government’s shares in DTN, but because Folio was not able to make immediate payment for the shares, it resorted to borrowing the sum of N750 million for the purchase of DTN.

The plaintiff added that immediately the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, handed over the business and undertakings of DTN to Folio Communications, Fidelis Anisoke and his brothers, Charles and Noel, pounced on the assets of DTN to the detriment of other shareholders of the newspaper house.

Not satisfied with the judgment of the lower court, the appellants appealed against same, praying the appellate court to set aside the judgment, contending that the lower court judgment was delivered without hearing the issue of jurisdiction raised by them.

The Anosike brothers had contended that the trial judge erred in law when he dismissed their application for leave to raise the issue of jurisdiction which challenged the locus standi of DSV Limited before the delivery of the judgment.

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