A Nigerian agency, BPE, is accused of not obeying a Supreme Court ruling judiciously.
BFIGroup Corporation, the American-Nigerian consortium recently reinstated by the Supreme Court as the preferred bidder for the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, said on Friday that it has dragged UC RUSAL before a Federal High Court, Abuja for N2.8 billion damages over the bid for the plant.
The suit is demanding for compensatory damages for ‘tortuous interference’ in BFIG’s contractual relations with the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE; conspiracy to defraud; unfair competition; and interference in prospective business advantage in the acquisition of ALSCON.
Defendants in the case include all companies under the umbrella group, United Company, UC, RUSAL, consisting JSC Russian Aluminium (RUSAL); JSC Bratsk Aluminium Plant; RUSAL America; Dayson Holdings Limited, a Shell Corporation subsidiary under the Commonwealth Trust Limited, a private Trust in Tortola British Islands, and 20 others.
Hearing in the case, to be presided over by Justice Jude Okeke, is scheduled for March 25.
Frustrated by antics
BFIG President, Reuben Jaja told PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja that the company was getting frustrated over the long delay to takeover ALSCON in line with the July 6, 2012 landmark ruling by the Supreme Court.
Having waited for more than seven months without BPE’s action on the apex court’s order to retrieve ALSCON from UC RUSAL, Mr. Jaja said it was becoming obvious that BFIG needed to seize the initiative from government to enforce the order and take over the plant.
“Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, government, through BPE, should have moved immediately to enforce the order, by asking UC RUSAL to vacate the plant for an interim management to be instituted, while commencing the process to hand over the plant to the company declared the authentic owner by the Supreme Court.
“Today, the Russians are still managing ALSCON; the board has not been dissolved; the share certificate has not been retrieved from UC RUSAL, because there is no application by the Federal Ministry of Finance Incorporated at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC seeking the change of ownership,” he said.
He said the lawsuit against RUSAL and Dayson Holdings marks BFIG’s commencement of enforcement of the Supreme Court judgment, which described the Russians as trespassers in ALSCON, saying they are ready take the legal battle to any entity, foreign or local, that is not ready to respect the law.
“BFIG is determined to inflict maximum pain for them (RUSAL) to learn to have respect for the highest court in Nigeria. We will teach them that their conduct and statements since the Supreme Court judgment are unacceptable,” he said.
UC RUSAL had dismissed the Supreme Court judgment as a nullity that neither changes, nor could change its ownership of ALSCON, claiming it was not a party to the suit.
Bemoaning the lack of cooperation by BPE for a fair resolution of all the matters involved, Mr. Jaja said it has become clear that BPE has been aiding and abetting UC RUSAL’s disobedience of the order of the highest court in Nigeria on ALSCON.
He recalled that after the review of the draft SPA sent by BPE on October 8, 2012, BFIG had requested for further information considered critical to its execution, including the current financial statement and post-acquisition plan, list of liabilities, facilities, lands/plots, employees compensation scheme, employees benefit and ALSCON’s intellectual property.
Other information included list of material contracts, banks, government authorities, disclosure letter, memorandum of understanding, MoU and Article of Association as well as gas sales/purchase agreement, government gazette and power of attorney.
He said BPE’s response of October 16, 2012 deliberately left out the financial statement, which CAC records showed that the company’s assets were devalued from N129.9 billion in 2006 to about N14.7billion as at December 31, 2011.
A request for a meeting on February 8 to discuss discrepancies in the January 29, 2013 SPA was rejected, while a takeover inspection visit to the plant planned by the National Council on Privatisation, NCP, was unilaterally canceled at the last minute at the instance of the Russians.
BPE, RUSAL refused to comment
BPE spokesperson, Chukwuma Nwoko, said he had no comment over the issue; while phone calls, email, and text message to UC RUSAL’s Director of Public Relations, Albert Dyabin, were not responded to.