The Federal High Court sitting in Falomo, Lagos has fixed October 9, 2017 for hearing on the bankruptcy charges filed against Jimoh Ibrahim by the ex-staff of Nicon Airways.
The ex-workers filed the charges after Mr. Ibrahim, who was the chairman of the defunct air carrier, closed down the airline he had acquired from former Kogi State Governor Idris Wada abruptly without paying the salaries, leave allowances and other entitlements of the workers.
The workers alleged that they are owed a total of at least N1.5 billion.
The carrier was formerly known as EAS Airlines, but upon acquisition, Mr. Ibrahim changed the name to Nicon before shutting it down barely a year after acquiring it.
Before the court could fix the date, Mr. Ibrahim had since May 2017 evaded being served the court summons, as he instructed staff in all of his offices not to collect any documents from the court.
On August 22, over 250 workers successfully filed a bankruptcy notice to Mr. Ibrahim. The bankruptcy notice was then signed by the chief registrar of the Federal High Court.
A document made available to SaharaReporters indicated that Henry Iwelumo, Lukman Kolawole, George Omoniyi and Eunice Odey, on behalf of the over 250 workers, petitioned the chief registrar on the bankruptcy claim.
SaharaReporters gathered that after it published a story on the bankruptcy notice, Mr. Ibrahim ordered his lawyer, Bolaji Ayorinde, to commence discussions with the workers’ lawyers.
Over the weekend, a source close to the affected workers told our correspondent that the Federal High Court in Falomo had abruptly summoned the lawyers of the workers last Thursday for the commencement of the hearing on the matter, but the lawyers asked for more time to prepare their case.
Another source close to the affected workers further revealed to our correspondent that Mr. Ibrahim’s lawyers had contacted the ex-workers’ lawyers for an out-of-court discussion, but the latter refused.
“After SaharaReporters put out the initial report, Jimoh Ibrahim sent his lawyers to collect the court summons. This was a man that had been evading the same summons since May; we were unable to serve him until the report came out,” the source said.
“The court has fixed October 9, 2017 for the hearing and commencement of the case. We hope to get justice from the court because several of our entitlements, including pensions, corporate deductions and salaries were not paid to us by Ibrahim upon liquidation of the airline.”
It would be recalled that the National Industrial Court, in 2013, ordered Mr. Ibrahim to pay the former Nicon Airways workers N1.5 billion.
A 21-page court judgment by Justice M.N. Esowe seen by our correspondent had awarded the damages to the workers on September 16, 2013, which Mr. Ibrahim failed to honor.
Mr. Ibrahim then filed an appeal against the judgment, which was struck down on May 23, 2017 by Justice E.N. Agbakoba.
Breakdown of Payments
A breakdown of the payments indicated that Nicon Airways was supposed to pay the total sum of N16.4 million as pension funds to the workers, N8.1 million as the cumulative contributions to the Nigeria Social and Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), which was deducted but unremitted by Mr. Ibrahim from the workers’ salaries and entitlements, and payment of N808.7 million as the aggregate arrears of the workers’ salaries for the period.
Others are: “An order of this honorable court mandating the defendants and their directors to pay the sum of to pay the sum of N4,002,857 to the plaintiffs forthwith being the aggregate arrears of the plaintiffs’ leave allowance since the months of May 2007 to April 2011 and others that will become due and payable to the plaintiffs during the pendency and final determination of this suit.
“An order of this honorable court mandating the defendants and their directors to pay the sum of N3,380,500 only to the plaintiffs forthwith being the aggregate arrears of the plaintiffs crew/flight allowance for the months of May 2007 to April 2011.”
The justice also awarded the sum of $41,750 to the workers being the aggregate arrears of their overseas allowance, another N16.4 million as pension contribution funds deducted from their salaries, but not remitted to the workers, N2.4 million as the cumulative contributions of the workers to cooperative society, N16.4 million deducted as pension contributions, but not remitted by Mr. Ibrahim and 21 percent interest on the entire sum from May 2007 till 2011 and another 10 pe cent per annum until final liquidation of the entire judgment sum, among several other damages awarded to the workers.
Mr. Ibrahim was also ordered to pay the sum of N20 million as the plaintiffs’ solicitors’ fee and expenses.
Rather that obey the court orders, Mr. Ibrahim delayed his appeal on the matter for another two years.