Benin Disco kicks as lenders’ consortium management forcefully breaks into premises

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*BEDC alleges refusal of court bailiff service by interim MD, Chairman

WorldStage Newsonline– The controversy trailing the recent restructuring of some Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) following the collateralisation of their shares took a new turn on Wednesday as the newly appointed interim Managing Director of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), Henry Ajagbawa and new board Chairman K.C. Akuma in company of  three other persons-Adeola Ijose, Charles Onwera  and Yomi Adeyemi were said to have forcefully broken into the premises of the company in Benin, the Edo State capital.

 The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) recently informed the public that the collateralised shares of the core investors of Kano, Benin and Kaduna DISCOs had been activated by the lenders with the appointment of new boards.

But the core investors in BEDC kicked against this and went to court where they obtained an Interim Order of the Federal High Court dated July 8 to stop the takeover.

BEDC investors in a statement on Thursday described the forceful entry of the new management as illegal “despite the subsisting court order granted in favour of  Vigeo Power, and restraining the named individuals and entities from any unlawful occupation.”

 The Director-General, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr Alex Okoh, said in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday  that the board composition of both BEDC and the other four DISCOs was concluded July 5, three days before the purported court order.

He said that the Federal Government decided to appoint a new board of BEDC to safeguard the industry and support market stabilisation through restructuring and repositioning.

BEDC in a statement on Thursday said Henry Ajagbawa and others who had refused to accept service of the court order served by on them by court bailiffs on the premises of BEDC, in the presence of the press, also forcefully broke into the office of the Managing Director and the Board room of the company bragging of government protection.

“Journalists who arrived at the scene were also refused entry into the 4th floor where all was happening, even after the journalists had identified themselves,” the statement said.

It would be recalled that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) had recently announced a putative  restructuring of the boards of five DisCos which the Discos were alleged to have been done without inviting any of them to a meeting prior to the announcement which was widely circulated in the media.

The duo had explained that the announcement followed Fidelity Bank’s activation of the call on the collateralised shares of Kano Electricity Distribution Company, Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company and

BEDC Electricity Plc (the DisCos) in a bid to take over the respective Boards of the DisCos over the alleged inability to repay loans obtained to acquire majority stakes in the DisCos in furtherance of the 2013 privatisation exercise.

Consequently, the management of BEDC had responded by issuing a press statement explaining that there was no contractual, statutory or regulatory basis for the takeover and appointments.

The company stated that, “For the avoidance of doubt, the shares of BEDC have not been given as security to Fidelity Bank or to any other party.”

According to the management of BEDC, it was “Vigeo Holdings Limited (VHL – a non-shareholder of BEDC)” that “obtained credit facilities from Stanbic IBTC Bank Limited, Fidelity Bank Plc, and Keystone Bank Plc (the

VHL Lenders).” It noted further that the said credit facilities (and any enforcement action in relation thereto) have in the meantime become subject of litigation in a Court action instituted by VHL and other plaintiffs (the

VHL Action) with Suit No: FHC/L/CS/239/22 – Vigeo Holdings Limited and 4 Ors v. Stanbic IBTC Bank Limited, and therefore, subjudiced.”

Worried by the development, Vigeo Power Limited, the majority shareholder of BEDC had filed a suit and obtained injunctive orders at the Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain Fidelity Bank Plc, Henry Ajagbawa, and the other co-defendants from taking over BEDC pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated July 8, 2022.

The other defendants are Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), K.C. Akuma, Adeola Ijose, Charles Onwera, Henry Ajagbawa and Yomi Adeyemi.

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