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A Federal High Court in Lagos Wednesday struck out the name of the Group Managing Director of Energy Group, Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim, in the matter brought by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) against Air Nigeria on alleged tax liabilities.
Ibrahim’s lawyer, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), had brought a preliminary objection to the suit on the ground that the name of Ibrahim ought not to be dragged to court in the matter relating to the liability of a corporate body like Air Nigeria.
However, before the hearing of the preliminary objection brought by Ibrahim’s lawyer, the FIRS itself decided to withdraw the suit completely against him.
Consequently, the counsel to the FIRS informed the court of the intent of FIRS to withdraw the suit against Ibrahim and the presiding judge, Justice Musa Kurya, accordingly, struck out the name of Ibrahim from the suit.
Commenting on the ruling, Ibrahim commended the FIRS for their thoughtfulness, stressing that it was unnecessary to embarrass the federal government on the success of the preliminary objection.
He said the FIRS was held in high esteem and insisted that it was misinformation and distortion of fact that is being peddled by former executive director of Air Nigeria, John Nnorom, who was dismissed for stealing, that probably brought about the misconception.
With this development, the FIRS would now continue its case against Air Nigeria and not Ibrahim.
Ibrahim had earlier discredited the report posted online by Sahara Reporters that he was arrested for tax liability stressing that the report was a malicious, calculated attempt to scandalise and embarrass him.
He added that he would have ignored the report but felt the need to put record straight for the sake of innocent, unsuspecting members of the public who might be misled by such misrepresentation.
Ibrahim had made clarification on the issue in the following words: “Our company, NICON Group, purchased 48 per cent shares of Air Nigeria sometimes in 2010 and the FIRS came with alleged tax liabilities for the period of 2006 to 2010. They claimed that he who buys assets buys the liabilities of the company. That was in 2012. We requested for reconciliation of the taxes, which was however not conclusive."
“We closed down the airline and sold our shares to a commercial bank in Nigeria. Rather than pursuing the new owner for the taxes, FIRS instituted a civil suit against me at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
“Whereas, the same law of who buys the assets buys the liabilities should apply which is why FIRS should pursue the liability of Air Nigeria with the new owners,” Ibrahim added.
Commenting further, he said: “Yesterday, the FIRS enforcement unit solicited my assistance about the new buyer; I opted to give them the full details and documents. “Before I finished doing that, I read in Sahara Reporters that I had been arrested and detained for N6.8bn fraud, which is not true.”
Ibrahim further explained that before he gave them the details of the new owners of Air Nigeria, he said the FIRS had alleged that Air Nigeria procured tax papers in 2010 for expatriates, “But I asked them how that concerned a Board chairman.”