Sequel to the news in print and online media of the contempt of court case, file number CA/L/35/2004 instituted at Court of Appeal, Lagos Division on Monday January 26, 2022 against Muiz Banire, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN and former All Progressive Congress, APC National Legal Adviser; Banire has been running from pillar to post in frantic efforts to bully journalists into suppressing the story upon threats of a libel case.
One of his media allies, Enitan Olukotun, made series of calls to many online news platforms, threatening them that “Banire is a big man and he will use his influence to punish them if they don’t drop the story”.
While some media thrashed the story, others including Guardian, Daily Trust, and Vanguard published it. Some online media platforms could not justify removing the story from their websites as there is evidence that Banire was charged to court for contempt of the Appeal Court’s judgment.
SEE SCAN COPIES OF CONTEMPT OF COURT CHARGE AGAINST BANIRE
The report in issue is however neither false nor fabricated. Mr. Banire, stands sued at the Court of Appeal as earlier reported for contempt of court and “conduct unbecoming of a Senior Advocate” bordering on obstruction of justice and denigration of the judiciary according to Abah Onah, a legal practitioner and Receiver Manager appointed by NICON Trustees over the charged assets conveyed in the 1991 Debenture Trust Deed.
The substantive case is one of breach of agreement between NICON Trustees and Alma Beach Estates (formerly Grand Alma Nigeria Limited) which by its clause 7.01 conveyed 150 plots of land out of the larger parcel of land to secure a loan and gave the creditor by clause 16 powers to appoint a Receiver over 150 plots and realize the debt upon default.
Following breaches of the covenants in the Trust Deed, NICON Trustees Limited appointed a Receiver in the person of the now late Mogbeyi Sagay, SAN who gave notice of his appointment to the Alma Beach Estates, the debtor company, and with the co-operation of the debtor company, surveyed the 150 plots of land out of the larger Estate.
Suddenly along the line, Alma Beach Estates filed a legal action against NICON in 2003 claiming that it had no right to appoint a Receiver over the conveyed assets before the Lagos High Court. Alma Beach succeeded in obtaining injunctions from the High Court restraining NICON and its Receiver from acting.
NICON appealed the Lagos High Court decision, claiming it is an infraction of the Law. And in case number: CA/L/365/2004, the appeal which lasted for 13 years, on 25th October, 2016 upheld the Receivership of NICON. The appeal court struck out the originating Suit by Alma Beach Estate Limited, ruling that a debtor loses locus standi to sue or deal with the assets upon the appointment of a Receiver. This Judgment, according to NICON “has not been set aside or appealed till date. Instead, Muiz Banire, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria is hired and acting in a manner totally strange to the law of our land by obstructing the wheel of justice”.
SCAN COPY OF THE APPEAL COURT JUDGMENT
This is the news item that was published in the media last week and over which Mr Banire is understandably distressed. Some of the medium that refused to drop the story are SECURITY MONITOR and Momentous Magazine who are now being intimidated by Banire and his handlers.
On Thursday, January 28, 2021, Kunle Adegoke, writing as solicitor for Banire, emailed Security Monitor and Momentous Magazine and attached a letter of claim dated January 27, 2021 with the subject “LIBELOUS PUBLICATION AGAINST DR MUIZ ADEYEMI BANIRE, SAN – PRE-ACTION PROTOCOL WRITTEN MEMORANDUM.” In said letter, he demanded retraction, public apology and compensation of N500m (five hundred million naira) within fourteen days failing which he threatened to sue the media houses for libel on same claims and for N1b (one billion naira) in damages.
Some of the investigative journalists who have been following the story maintained that they will closely monitor the case to logical conclusion. They argued that if the country is serious about attracting foreign investors into the country, Nigerians must learn to honor simple business agreements instead of hiding under loopholes of the laws to breach contract terms.
According to Abah Onah, Banire’s view of the case, wherein he referred to NICON Trustee and its Receiver Manager as “armed thugs” and “hudlums”, challenged the authority of the Police and threatened break down of law and order as carried on Monday, January 18, 2021 in the Punch newspapers on page 4 and 5 in the Metro section, among other publications, is already in the public domain
Onah advises that Banire should be robustly contending with his fellow legal practitioners, and proving his lawyerly mettle to his client and the world and not embarking on a campaign of misinformation and calumny against NICON Trustees and its Receiver’s Manager in the media and court of public opinion.
Meanwhile, maintaining that SECURITY MONITOR will consistently go the extra mile to dig out and unravel the truth about any story, Ademola Abdullahi, Security Monitor’s Editorial Director, stated that “It is instructive that rather than challenging the standing Appeal Court ruling against his clients who have been adjudged to be wrongfully holding land validly conveyed to NICON Trustees by the failure of his clients’ to repay their debts at the courts of law, Banire is trying to intimidate journalists doing their lawful duty of reporting all sides with an unfounded libel case”.
Abdullahi added that Muiz Banire, SAN, needs not wait for 14 days. “He is at liberty to proceed to court with his libel suit as no amount of threats will stop principled journalists from doing their jobs of reporting the truth and unbiased news”. Security Monitor and other publications that featured the story are willing and ready to meet Mr. Banire and his team in court, and he will soon be hearing from the publications’ lawyers.