In 2009, SaharaReporters exclusively reported that a group of firms owned and managed by Raymond Dokpesi, the owner of African International Television (AIT), were under severe financial stress. Our investigative report revealed how Mr. Dokpesi’s financial recklessness threatened to bring down several companies started by the man who likes to flaunt himself as “high chief.”
In the 2009 publication, SaharaReporters also detailed how Mr. Dokpesi used unethical practices to control, disburse and fritter away billions of naira he raised from Nigerian investors and banks. His fast-and-lose financial deals created a ruinous corporate environment in all his companies, including AIT, and led to prolonged periods of non-payment of staff salaries.
Recently, Fidelity Bank, whose unscrupulous officials aided Mr. Dokpesi in his financial scams, finally dragged him to court demanding that he be declared bankrupt. The bank also wants a judgment empowering it to take possession of Mr. Dokpesi’s corporate and personal assets.
Press reports indicate that Fidelity Bank filed two separate lawsuits against Mr. Dokpesi last week. The first suit seeks to declare Mr. Dokpesi bankrupt following his alleged failure to fulfill a pledge to personally repay a credit facility of N3.270 billion granted his company in the event that the company failed to liquidate the debt.
A second lawsuit sought an order that Mr. Dokpesi’s holding company, Daar Communications, be wound up under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, Cap C20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
With his corporate holdings crumbling, Mr. Dokpesi has been trying desperate ways of staying afloat personally whilst maintaining the ruse that he is a viable entrepreneur. He recently served as campaign manager for the failed presidential bid of former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida. His work on Mr. Babangida’s campaign backfired when the former general abandoned the presidential race in the face of fierce opposition. Mr. Dokpesi was arrested by the SSS for alleged complicity in a series of bombs that rocked Abuja in October 2010. He was never charged to court.
However, a source close to Mr. Dokpesi told us that his political romance with Mr. Babangida seriously hurt Mr. Dokpesi’s plans to raise funds from corrupt politicians in order to keep his TV channel and other businesses afloat. The source also disclosed that Fidelity Bank decided to go after Mr. Dokpesi when the bank realized that the man has no prospects for servicing his massive loan.
Other sources told SaharaReporters that Mr. Dokpesi is counting on the help of the former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili, to frustrate Fidelity Bank’s lawsuit.
During his tenure as Rivers governor, Mr. Odili funneled hundreds of millions of naira of state funds into Mr. Dokpesi’s pocket to ensure that AIT and Dokpesi’s other businesses did not collapse.
In return, Mr. Dokpesi used AIT to promote then Governor Odili and played a big role in Mr. Odili’s foiled bid in 2007 to win the presidential ticket of the PDP. A few weeks ago, when Odili’s wife, Justice Mary Odili, was elevated to the Supreme Court, Mr. Dokpesi ordered AIT to do a live telecast of a mass at the Roman Catholic cathedral in Abuja to commemorate the event.
A source close to Mr. Dokpesi said the embattled AIT proprietor has confided in a few associates that Justice Odili has agreed to help him to frustrate Fidelity Bank’s lawsuit. Justice Odili has a reputation for arranging corrupt deals. She arranged for Justice Ibrahim Buba to grant her husband a controversial perpetual injunction barring any law enforcement agency from investigating Mr. Odili’s money laundering activities during his tenure as governor in Rivers State. Mr. Dokpesi’s AIT gave the judgment prominent coverage.
Another source also revealed that Mr. Odili plans to rescue Mr. Dokpesi once again from bankruptcy, but that the ex-governor has no plans to pay off the billions owed to Fidelity Bank by Mr. Dokpesi.
Fidelity Bank claims that in May 2008 and June 2009, Daar Communications applied for and was granted several credit facilities meant to partly finance its daily corporate operations and to enable it to broadcast the FIFA under-17 World Cup hosted by Nigeria. The bank added that the facilities were secured by a legal mortgage over a property located at 34, Creek Road, Apapa belonging to Baldok Shipping Limited, other fixed and floating assets of Daar Communications valued at N21.3 billion and Dokpesi’s personal guarantee.
Several sources told us that, even if the federal high court grants Fidelity Bank’s prayers, the bank faces an uphill task getting the judgment upheld at the Court of Appeal where Mr. Odili’s wife recently held sway or at the Supreme Court where she is one of the newest members.