The debt scandal involving Airtel Network Nigeria Limited and a communication firm, Plus Limited has reverberated as the latter’s judgement at the Lagos High Court was upheld by the court of appeal, Lagos.

NATIONAL WAVES learnt that the appellate court upheld the judgment of a Lagos High Court, Ikorodu, which awarded N4.88 billion in favour of a communication firm, Plus Limited against Airtel Network Nigeria Limited. The court held that the sum of N4,888,434,208.92 is the cumulative amount of commissions and other varieties of income, bonuses, benefits, etc. due to being paid or refunded to the claimant (Plus Limited) by the defendant (Airtel).

The court in its judgment said: “The exhibit clearly reveals that the appellant was mired in debt to the respondent in the stupendous sum of N4.8billion. Indebtedness signifies a state of owing money or something owed, or debt to another person, see Barbedos and Ventures Ltd. V. FBN PLC (2016) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1609) 241. In my considered view, the lower court did not transgress the law when it relied on exhibit C1 to rule in favour of the respondent in the matter.”

The appellate court further averred : “An order directing the defendant to deliver to the claimant forthwith, an account or statement of the call logs in respect of all the active subscribers brought into the defendant’s network by the claimant.”

It directed the defendant to immediately pay to the claimant all the commissions and benefits which the claimant shall be found to be entitled to the said call logs.

The court stated that the appeal is devoid of any morsel of merit and deserved the penalty of dismissal. “Consequently, I dismiss the appeal. I affirm the judgment of the lower court delivered on October 4, 2016. The parties shall bear the respective costs they expended in the prosecution and defence of the ill-fated appeal,” Justice Obande Festus Ogbuinya held.

Not satisfied with the judgement of the appellate court, which was delivered on July 24, 2020, in Appeal No. CA/L/1262/2016, the defendant filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court to challenge the decision.

In 10 grounds of appeal, Airtel prayed the apex court to nullify the decision of the appeal court, upheld its submissions, and dismissed the respondent’s suit as lacking in merit.

According to the appellant, the decision of the court of appeal is against the weight of evidence is adduced.

In 2016, the trial court had ordered Airtel to pay Plus Limited the sum of N4.88 billion as a cumulative amount of commissions and other varieties of income and bonuses due to it. The trial judge, Justice O.A Williams gave the decision in suit No. LD/487/2012.

Counsel to the claimant had told the trial court that Airtel initially appointed his client as distributor and later as dealer and trade partner by various agreements, but failed to pay its entitlements.