Vigeo Power Limited, the majority shareholders of Benin Electricity Distribution Company Plc (BEDC), has commenced contempt proceedings against the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), describing the Federal Government agency as defaulters involved in the illegal takeover of BEDC.
In a statement, the law firm of Kunle Adegoke (SAN), lawyers to Vigeo Power Limited, said the contempt proceedings had become imperative because of a publication issued by the BPE on 13 July 2022, in which the “laboured to justify its attempts at illegally taking over the BEDC Electricity Plc”.
This, the law firm said, was despite the orders of an injunction issued by the Federal High Court, Abuja on 8 July 2022 in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1113/2022 between Vigeo Power Limited v. Fidelity Bank Plc and seven others.
“It is on record that the total shareholding of the BPE and the Ministry of Finance in BEDC is just 40 per cent making the two of them minority shareholders which pales into insignificance in the face of the 60 per cent shareholding held by Vigeo Power Limited, our client”, the lawyers said in the statement.
The law firm stated that, “it is sad that in a worst form of brigandage unknown to Companies and Allied Matters Act and the shareholders’ agreement dated 21 August 2013, which is subsisting among the parties, the BPE, using Fidelity Bank Plc as a front, has decided to take over a company that is not indebted to either BPE or Fidelity Bank using the naked force of state power”.
BEDC’s legal advisers argued that contrary to the impression sought to be created by BPE in the publication referred to above, Vigeo Power Limited’s 60 per cent shareholding in BEDC was never collaterised in any loan transaction with Fidelity Bank Plc or any other financial institution.
On 12 July 2022, The PUNCH exclusively reported that the planned takeover of three power distribution companies by Fidelity Bank and the restructuring of two others by the Federal Government had led to an intense battle between the Discos and the government.
The takeover of the three Discos by Fidelity Bank is being backed by the Federal Government through the Bureau for Public Enterprise.
The Distribution Companies (Discos) had continued to launch legal battles with a view to preventing their takeover by the government and the bank.
About two weeks ago the Federal Government announced the planned takeover of Kano, Benin and Kaduna electricity distribution companies by Fidelity Bank Plc after the bank-initiated action to take over the boards of the three Discos.
Through the BPE, the Federal Government also announced that, with the takeover of Ibadan Disco by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, the bureau had obtained approval from Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to appoint an interim managing director for the distressed power firm.
The government had further stated in its restructuring notice that it was restructuring the management and board of Port Harcourt Disco to forestall the imminent insolvency of the utility. The notice was signed by the Director-General, BPE, Alex Okoh; and Executive Chairman, NERC, Sanusi Garba.
But in reaction to the announcement, the receiver/manager’s nominee of Integrated Energy Distribution and Marketing Company had argued that it was the legal and beneficial owner of 60 per cent (controlling and managing) shareholding interests in the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company.