The founder of Arise Television and Chief Executive Officer of Leaders and Company Limited publishers of THISDAY Newspaper, Nduka Obaigbena, is living on debt, according to his lawyer, Samuel Zibiri.
Mr. Zibiri disclosed this on May 7 while responding to the Garnishee Order Nisi filed by Noble Ifeme Esq in respect of N19,723,854.61 and N200,000.00 (being the cost of the garnishee proceedings) in the judgement debt entered against Mr. Obaigbena and Leaders and Company Limited in the suit instituted by Paul Ibe, a former editor of THISDAY.
The National Industrial Court had in February in suit number NICN/ABJ/26/2011 awarded N1 million in general damages and other succeeding relief running into several million Naira to Mr. Ibe in the suit against Mr Obaigbena and Leaders & Company Limited.
The presiding judge, Justice M. N. Esowe had directed the Judgment Creditor (Paul Ibe) to return to court in the event that the Judgment Debtors (Leaders & Company Limited and Nduka Obaigbena) refuse to implement the judgement of the court.
However, following the refusal of the judgment debtors to pay Mr Ibe as ordered by the court, his lawyer filed an application for Garnishee Nisi against the monies of the judgement debtor in account with the following banks: Access Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc.
Mr. Esowe on April 21, 2015 granted the following orders:
-That the said sum of N19,723,854.61 sitting in the Judgment Debtors accounts domiciled with the Garnishees aforementioned (Access Bank, FCMB, GTB and Zenith), and the sum of N200,000.00 being the cost of the Garnishee Proceedings be attached to this court forthwith;
– The court further orders/directs the 4 (four) Garnishees to appear in Court on the 7th May, 2015 to show cause why this Order Nisi should not be made absolute upon each of them for payment to the Judgment Creditor/Applicant the amount owed it by the Judgement Debtors and
-Three of the Garnishees, Access Bank, FCMB and Zenith, however, filed affidavits to show that the accounts of the Judgment Debtor are in the red and the order as it relates to them was vacated.
Access Bank in its Garnishee affidavit to show cause deposed to by Oyorokoto Oghenerume Emmanuel of M/S Thames Partners, the 1st Garnishee said that the 1st Judgment Debtor (Leaders & Company Limited) maintains four accounts with insignificant credit balances but indebted to the tune of N2,155,000,000.00 comprising Term Loan Facility in the sum of N1,705,000,000.00 and BOI/CBN Intervention Fund Facility of N450,000,000.00.
In its affidavit in response to the Garnishee Nisi, FCMB stated that a search of its records confirms that the Leaders & Company Limited is indebted to the bank to the tune of N17,590,703.19.
Zenith Bank, which is the fourth Garnishee confirmed that the Leaders & Company maintains two accounts with the bank but as at 24th April 2015, the accounts had debit balances of N0.00 DR and -N195,010,639.16 DR, respectively.
Although the GTB was not present in court, the affidavit it has filed with the court showed that the Leaders & Company Limited has a credit of balance of less than N500,000.00 with it.
Mr. Zibiri had informed the court that his clients filed a notice of Appeal.
There are indications at the Court of Appeal that the company and Mr. Obaigbena are yet to compile and transmit the records of proceedings at the NIC.
Mr. Ifeme, counsel to Mr Ibe (Judgment Creditor/Applicant) had contended and the presiding judge, Justice Esowe had agreed that Ibe should not be denied the “fruits of his judgment” which is the law.
Mr. Esowe had urged Leaders & Company Limited and Mr. Obaigbena to ensure that they pay to Mr Ibe the N1 million, three months in lieu of termination of his employment and pave the way for the former Editor of the Saturday Newspaper of THISDAY to access his pension from the designated Pension Administrator which the Judgment Debtors had deducted over the years as contained in the judgment of February 18.
But Mr. Zibiri who has filed two separate applications, one for an injunction to restrain the execution of the Order Nisi put at N19,723,854.61 and N200,000.00 and the second to set aside the same order informed the court that as long as the Court does not vacate the order that it will be difficult for his clients to discharge their financial obligations.
He informed the judge that Mr. Obaigbena, who is also the President of Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, lives on debt as attested to by the affidavits deposed to by three of the four Garnishees.
Mr. Zibiri, who brandished a letter, informed the court that he had written to the judgment debtors, urging them to abide by the court’s order to ensure payment of the N1m general damages, three months in lieu of termination and payment of his pensions to Mr. Ibe.
The court adjourned to May 27 for the conclusion of the Garnishee proceedings.