The Court of Appeal in Lagos has affirmed billionaire businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim as the legal owner of Newswatch.
In a unanimous judgment read by Justice Tijjani Abubakar, the three-man panel of justices upturned a judgment of the Federal High Court delivered on October 20, 2014, affirming that lbrahim’s appeal “is meritorious and it is hereby allowed.”
The justices further said that the trial judge misdirected himself on the issue of the payment of N510 million for the shares of the company.
They further ruled that the issue of payment for the share “becomes res judicata “since the payment was already litigated upon and Justice Abang has ruled that payment of the said sum was made by Jimoh Ibrahim to the former owners of the company, in accordance with clause 6.0 of the share purchase agreement..
In the light of the above, they declared that the company was validly acquired.
The court further held that all the conditions of the Share Purchase Agreement, particularly clause 6.0, were adequately complied with before Jimoh Ibrahim was admitted into the board of the company and subsequently elected as chairman.
“lt is without any doubt that the lower court erred when it held that N510 million was not paid for the shares, “the justices said.
Justice Abubakar declared: “I think the learned trial Judge apparently missed the point when he only considered questions submitted via originating summons without considering the other processes filed wherein which constitute an integral part of the records before him, particularly the defendant affidavit.”
The Appeal Court also ruled that the trial judge, Buba J of the Federal High Court, erred when he held that the “doctrine of estoppel” is not applicable in the present case.
Ibrahim won the ownership case at a Federal High Court. The matter was re-litigated by the defendants before another Federal High Court Court presided over Justice Buba J, who ruled in favour of Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed and others.
Ibrahim then appealed against the judgement. In a unanimous decision, the appeal court declared that the trial judge ought to have respected the judgement of his learned brother of co-ordinate jurisdiction.
Justice Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo said: “Ipso facto, l agree with the reasoning expressed in the lead judgement that where a judgement has been delivered by a court, same cannot be subject to review by another court of co-ordinate jurisdiction.”
An elated Ibrahim, in his reaction, yesterday, said the judgement has now settled the issue of Newswatch ownership.
“It is now beyond contest that the ownership validly rests in me,” he said.
Ibrahim also commended the Appeal Court and said “he lost no sleep on the ownership of the company for a day” and that the judgement has resolved what he called “the noisy convergence of complexities arising from the sale and acqisition of Newswatch.
Nigerians now know the truth,” he said, and added that “the magazine will soon return to the news stands.” He dedicated the judgement to Newswatch staff, vendors, readers and advertisers “who are the victim of the denial of the N510 million payment.”