Renowned business magnate, Oba Otudeko has renewed legal hostilities against Nigeria’s second largest telecommunications network Airtel Nigeria and 9 others before a federal high court in Lagos. He is seeking $28.7 million in damages against the communication company and several of its shareholders for alleged breach of contract.
Joined as co-defendants in the suit brought jointly by Otudeko and Broad Communications Limited are Jubril Adewale Tinubu, O & O Network Limited, Delta Ministry of Finance Incorporated, Delta State Government and Corporate Affairs Commission. Others are Econet Wireless Limited, Econet Development Corporation, Ecobank Nigeria Limited and Ecobank Transnational Incorporated.
The amended statement of claim filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by respected legal luminary Wole Olanipekun, SAN, averred that the shareholders of Airtel Nigeria (then known as Econet Wireless) had signed an agreement which conferred on the shareholders a right of first refusal in relation to the disposal of shares or interest thereon by one of their number.
They claimed that, sometime in 2001 and 2003, Jubril Adewale Tinubu, who had by then transferred his 10 percent stake in Airtel to O & O Network Limited, had acted as a front for O & O and reached an agreement with Delta Ministry of Finance Limited and Delta State Government to sell those shares to them for a premium, without first notifying the other shareholders of his intention to sell as mandated by the shareholders’ agreement.
Oba Otudeko, who owned a 15 percent stake in the Airtel before he divested in 2013, is claiming that the action of the second plaintiff breached his pre-emptive right of first refusal as a shareholder. He is therefore praying the court to award him $28.7 million, being the difference in the value of O & O Limited’s shares between when it was unlawfully sold and when the plaintiffs divested from Airtel. He is also seeking the award of N100 million as legal costs.
In its statement of defence, Airtel however averred that since the agreement in question was strictly entered into between the shareholders, it need not be a party to the legal dispute. It therefore asked the court to either dismiss the suit entirely or strike its name from the suit. The case has been adjourned to 2nd May, 2018 for hearing.
Source, The Lagos Times