The Abuja Investment Company, the investment sector of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), evicted controversial newspaper publisher Nduka Obaigbena and his company, ThisDay, from ThisDay Dome in Abuja on Friday.
Last week, a Court of Appeal gave a judgment approving the eviction of the debt-ridden publisher from the property. The court case arose from the failure of Mr. Obaigbena’s company to pay an outstanding balance on a lease agreement pertaining to the property.
The publisher has been in the news lately for firing some of his editorial employees who demanded payment of a huge backlog of salaries. Reporters and other staff of Mr. Obaigbena’s ThisDay newspaper are being owed salaries for more than a year.
Moments after taking over the property from the court bailiff, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Abuja Investment Company Limited (AICL), Musa Ahmed Musa, declared that the court “is indeed the last hope of the common man.”
Mr. Musa recalled that Plot 702 Cadastral Zone A00, CBD in Abuja was in 2009 allocated to AICL, adding that the company thereafter signed a two-year lease agreement with Messrs Leaders and Company (Publishers of ThisDay Newspaper) in respect to the property, now popularly called “ThisDay Dome Arena.” The lease agreement was effective from May 1, 2009.
Mr. Musa stated, “The total rent payable for the term was ₦97,094,284.02, of which Messrs. Leaders & Company deposited the sum of ₦57,558,854.73 as part payment. The lease agreement provided that the balance of the rent in the sum of N39,495,429.30 was to be paid on or before August 31, 2009.
“In spite of several requests for payment, however, the balance of the rent remains outstanding as Messrs. Leaders & Company has flagrantly refused to pay.”
The AICL’s chief executive disclosed that, due to the unpaid lease balance, the investment company on April 13, 2011, wrote to Mr. Obaigbena’s company indicating unwillingness to renew the lease that expired on April 30, 2011. In the termination letter, AICL also demanded that Messrs. Leaders & Company vacate the property at the end of the lease period.
Mr. Musa said that the debtor company ignored the notice to quit the property, adding that the company’s recalcitrant behavior was due to its being a media house. He accused Mr. Obaigbena’s company of threatening to use the media to blackmail AICL and FCTA to back away from collecting rent and also to forfeit its rights to the property.
According to him, AICL ignored the blackmail and decided to resort to the law courts for remedy. In 2012, the investment firm filed a lawsuit against Mr. Obaigbena’s company to recover the property. After the court ruled in AICL’s favor in 2014, Messrs. Leaders & Company filed an appeal. On June 16, the Court of Appeal dismissed the Thisday publisher’s appeal, granting AICL the right to re-possess its property. The appellate court also dismissed an application by Mr. Obaigbena’s company for a stay of execution.
At today’s handover ceremony, Ms. Ada Amadi of AICL’s legal department announced that the Court of Appeal also awarded the investment firm more than N197 million, representing outstanding rent due on the property. Ms. Amadi disclosed that the structure built by ThisDay at the site would be evaluated to ascertain its value, adding that, if it was not up to the outstanding rent of N197 million, the investment company would pursue the balance through a legal garnishing procedure.