The Federal High Court in Lagos has deferred ruling till May 15, 2017 on two preliminary objections stemming from the takeover of Arik Air Limited by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria.
AMCON had on February 8, 2017 following a Court Order announced its takeover of Arik Air Limited.
Mr. Oluseye Opasanya (SAN) of the law firm of Olaniwun Ajayi LP, was appointed as the Receiver/Manager of Arik Air Limited following the takeover by AMCON. AMCON’s position for taking over Arik Air Limited is to save the Airline from collapse in the best interest of the general public and the creditors amongst others in the aviation sector.
AMCON on February 8 2017, secured by an Exparte application, an injunction restraining Arik Air Limited’s shareholders, directors, creditors, managers, officers, employees, servants, consultants, agents, representatives, privies from interfering with Mr. Opasanya (SAN)’s power to manage Arik Air Limited.
However the shareholders and Directors of Arik Air Limited acting through Sir Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide, Chris Ndulue, Dr. Michael Arumemi-Ikhide and Engineer Sangowawa Olubiyi filed a preliminary objection through their lawyers, Mr. Babajide Koku (SAN) and Barr. Emeka Nwigwe contesting the jurisdiction of the Court to have ordered the takeover of Arik Air Limited on the 8th of February 2017 on the basis that the law firm of Olaniwun Ajayi LP representing the Receiver/Manager and AMCON is conflicted.
They accused the lawyer representing AMCON and Opasanya, Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN), of engaging in professional misconduct in complete disregard of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners and urged the court to void all the processes so far filed by Ajayi on behalf of AMCON and Opasanya including the Order allowing the Receiver/Manager to take over Arik Air Limited.
The preliminary objection asked the Court to disqualify Prof Koyinsola Ajayi(SAN) and the law firm of Olaniwun Ajayi LP as they are conflicted and incompetent to act as solicitors for AMCON and Receiver/Manager.
The grounds of their objection was that Mr. Opasanya (SAN) is a partner in law firm of Olaniwun Ajayi LP representing AMCON and as such there is conflict of interest which amounts to a professional misconduct liable to punishment as provided in the Legal Practitioners Act.
Barr. Nwigwe argued that by virtue of Rule 1,17(5)&(6) and 55 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007, neither Prof Ajayi nor any other lawyer from the law firm of Olaniwun Ajayi LP could appear in a case where Mr. Opasanya (SAN) is a party.
Prof Ajayi in opposing the preliminary objection however argued that there was a distinction between Mr. Opasanya (SAN) and the law firm of Olaniwun Ajayi LP where Opasanya works and as such was not conflicted.
Prof Ajayi also filed a preliminary objection challenging the locus standi of the shareholders of Arik Air Limited through Sir Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide, Chris Ndulue, Dr. Michael Arumemi-Ikhide and Engineer Sangowawa Olubiyi to file a Motion for Injunction against the Receiver. He argued that they were not parties in the suit in question and should not be heard. To that end he urged Justice Mohammed Idris who is hearing the case to dismiss the preliminary objection by Mr. Koku (SAN)’s clients.
Mr Koku (SAN) in response to the preliminary objection filed by Prof Ajayi asked the Court to disregard the submissions made by Prof Ajayi as same was merely academic given that the Motion for injunction on which the Preliminary Objection was predicated had been withdrawn and struck out.
After hearing both preliminary objections, Justice Idris adjourned till May 15, 2017 to deliver Ruling which may lift the takeover of Arik Air Limited by the Receiver/Manger and AMCON.
It will be recalled that yesterday 23rd March 2017, Aviation unions shut down the Airline and demanded the removal of the the Receiver/ Manger appointed by AMCON. The unions, which include the National Union of Air Transport Employees, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, accused the new management of intolerance to unionism.
If the application filed by the shareholders of Arik Air Limited succeeds, disciplinary action may be commenced against him by Nigerian Bar Association against the firm of Olaniwun Ajayi for professional misconduct.