Court jails BPE boss 30 days for contempt

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday jailed the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Alex Okoh, for contempt of court.

Justice Anwuli Chikere ordered that Okoh be remanded in prison for at least 30 days for his disobedience to the June 6, 2012 judgment of the Supreme Court which affirmed Bancorp Financial Investment Group as the true owner of the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria.

The tussle of ownership of the Akwa Ibom-based aluminum plant between the indigenous BFIG and a Russian firm, Rusal, dates to 2004.

BFIG had filed a suit to reclaim the ownership of ALSCON, which it claimed was re-awarded to Rusal after winning the bidding for it in the aftermath of its privatisation by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

Rusal was said to have participated in the bidding.

BFIG, through its lawyer, Mr Patrick Ikwueto (SAN), prayed the court to make an order for the enforcement and crystallisation of the mutually agreed Share Purchase Agreement.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal had ruled in favour of BFIG as the owner of ALSON.

Okoh, as the DG of BPE, was said to have serially disobeyed the court decisions.

In April 2019, the BFIG instituted contempt proceedings against Okoh for disobeying the courts’ judgments.

Justice Chikere upheld BFIG’s case by BFIG as she held that Okoh’s conduct was contemptuous and ordered his remand in prison for 30 days to be purged of his contemptuous acts.

Meanwhile, BPE, in a statement signed by the Head Public Communications, Amina Othman, said on Tuesday that it had filed a motion for stay of execution and Notice of Appeal against the judgment.

A committal proceeding was instituted against BPE and Okoh following an allegation that the bureau failed to fully execute the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Court of Appeal in the matter of BFIG v. BPE.

The statement said BPE had at all times complied with all judgments in respect of ALSCON.

“However, BFIG has serially defaulted in meeting its financial commitments as directed by the courts to pay the bid price of $410m as submitted by BFIG in 2004.”

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