AMCON refuses to obey Supreme Court judgment on Best Western Hotel, Lagos


Left: Best Western Hotel as it was before takeover by AMCON and its present state

By Nehru Odeh

Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, seems bent on taking possession of Best Western Hotel, a four star hotel located at Allen Avenue, Lagos, thereby disobeying a Supreme Court order halting them from taking over the property and vandalizing it.

The hotel, owned by Suru WorldWide Ventures Limited IS still closed for business, massive while renovation is being carried out on the building by unknown people without the consent of its owner.

Recall that recently the Supreme Court gave a judgment against AMCON and in favour of Suru WorldWide Ventures Limited halting the further vandalization of the hotel, thereby confirming the order of an appellate court and upturning that of a lower court.

Yet renovation work is still going on in the building that had been taken over by AMCON.This is even more surprising in the sense that an aappellate court in suit no CA/L/88/2018 had set aside the judgment of a lower court and also nullified the takeover of the property

The court of appeal held that the high court erred in law for determining the suit without joining Suru WorldWide Ventures Limited as a party.

Justice Emmanuel Agim of the Supreme Court, while delivering judgement, confirmed the appeal court’s decision. He then halted the takeover of the company’s properties, held that the Supreme Court found no merit in AMCON’S appeal and ordered a new hearing at the Federal High Court.

The apex court, affirming the judgement of the three-man panel of justices of the court of appeal. Ugochukwu Ogakwu, Mohammed Garba and Gabriel Kilawole in their unanimous decision delivered on July 2, 2019, resolved the appeal of Suru WorldWide Ventures Limited in its favour and set aside the order of the lower court.

“The decision of the lower court is set aside, and the case is remitted to the lower court for hearing denovo with the appellant as party,” Justice Agim said.

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Recall that Suru WorldWide Ventures Limited had through its counsel, Mr Layi Babatunde, SAN, filed an appeal, with leave of the court of appeal against the judgment of the Federal High Court delivered in suit no FHC/L/CS1059/2016 over its denial to be joined as a party in the suit filed by AMCON to take over its property, hotel, over loan allegedly obtained from the defunct Oceanic Bank.

Aside AMCON, other respondents in the appeal include Inspector General of Police, Commandant General of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps as first to fourth respondents respectively.

The court of appeal held that the appellant was not given the opportunity to be heard. “The appellant’s awareness of such an action having being prosecuted was when execution of the decision of the lower court was due to its de facto possession to be wrested from it.

“Indeed, having held that the appellant is a proper and desirable party , it constituted a manifest breach of appellant’s right to fair hearing.”

The court faulted AMCON’S reliance on a deed of legal mortgage for their action and therefore held that, “it is rudimentary and therefore hornbook law that any breach of the right of fair hearing renders any proceedings where the breach was occasioned null and void.”

Sometime in May 2017, a Federal High Court in Lagos had ordered the takeover of the Best Western Hotels and other properties belonging to Suru WorldWide Ventures Limited by AMCON based on alleged indebtedness without giving the owners the right of fair hearing.

Following the order of the Federal High Court, AMCON seized properties of Suru Worldwide Ventures Limited ; leading to the appeals which were all determined against it and in favour of Suru WorldWide Ventures Limited.

Meanwhile, Suru Worldwide Ventures Limited , owners of Best Western Hotel, had served on AMCON notice of its claim for compensation of over N24 billion for the illegal seizure and occupation of its properties.

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