Supreme Court of Nigeria has reaffirmed its 2012 judgement handing over the ownership of the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) to BFIGroup.
The Supreme Court also affirmed a minimum of 30 days jail term and N10 million fine on Mr. Alex Okoh who until recently was the Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprise, (BPE).
The Supreme Court had in 2012 sacked DHL/UC Rusal as owners of ALSCON affirming earlier judgements of the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal.
Ín December 2019, Anwuli Chikere, judge of a Federal High Court, Abuja, ordered the arrest and imprisonment of Okoh for flagrant violation of court order and the execution of the Supreme Court judgement delivered on July 6, 2012 in Case No. SC. 1212/200.
The judge had blamed Okoh of serial disobedience of the supreme court order on the ownership controversy of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) and asked BPE to effect the handing over of the plant to BFIGroup, the preferred bidder.
The BFIGroup, a Nigerian-American consortium, had emerged winner of the BPE bid for ALSCON in 2004 but was disqualified BPE forcing BFIGroup to go to court winning all the legal battles which Okon and BPE declined to comply.
Okoh and the BPE had gone to the Appeal court challenging the lower court decision but lost and later headed to the Supreme Court challenging the judgement of the Appeal court which upheld the Ruling / Committal Order of Justice Chikere of the sentence issued by the Federal High Court.
Thus the Supreme Court on Friday, January 26, 2024 in a unanimous judgement by Justice Tijani Abubakar, delivered judgments on the appeals filed by Okoh and the BPE and condemned their actions disobeying several court orders on the matter.
The judge said their actions is “scandalously shameful and disgraceful…above application leaves no one in doubt that the appellant disobeyed the other of this court, especially the order that restrained the appellants or their agents from reselling, negotiating, or transferring the company. This is a flagrant disobedience to the order of this court.
“This appeal deserves to be dismissed and it is thereby dismissed. The judgment of the appeal court is affirmed. The cost of N10m is awarded against the appellants. The cost is to be paid personally by the second appellant (Okoh) in addition to going to prison”.
The Institute of Professional Economists and Policy Management (IPEPM) in a statement issued at weekend by the Director, Emerging Knowledge, Policy and Partnership, Friday Udoh made available to Pillar Today in Calabar, hailed the judgment of the Supreme Court that upheld the appeal court judgement verdict committing the ex Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprise to prison.
The Institute described the verdict as a victory for the rule of law saying, “the victory is not just for the Dr. Reubin Jaja led BFIGroup but is for the rule of law, our democracy and Nigerians and the country in a plant together with it’s value based activities it’s value based supposed to earned. ”
The Institute added that: “the economy is deeply constraints having to bear the higher import cost which makes it a must to borrow or selling of real financial assets to foreign buyers for payment of import coupled to high debt profile and unemployment
“The January 26, judgement apex court decision , has bolsters our confidence in the country’s judicial system which investors will take advantage”.
He said, “we commend the good effort of the judges for the painstaking effort and detailed judgment. They explained the reasons that led them to their conclusions on the case. We thank the Appeal Courts and the Federal High Courts judges for their firm commitment to the principle of fairness and justice in a matter that has lasted for 20 years.
“We want to specially commend the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, for his neutrality on the matter considerably a positive credentials to the administration”
“For us, our roll was not to witch hunt Dayson Holding/UC Rusal nor to undermine the Russian interest in Nigeria, but at securing the economic vitality of the country and the $3.2b plant operation is not jeopardize. The judgement will now allow the new leadership and President Tinubu’s administration to accelerate and complete the handing over of the plant to the preferred bidder, BFIG Corporation in a short time to support the economic revitalization and development program of the Government”.
According to the Institute, “the ruling of the Supreme Court has ended years of protracted and unnecessary litigation over the ownership of the plant.