In a recent development, the Supreme Court has upheld the lower courts’ decisions that led to the imprisonment of Alexander Okoh, the immediate-past Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), for contempt of court. Additionally, the apex court imposed a fine of N10 million on Okoh, who was dismissed from his position by President Bola Tinubu on January 8, 2024.
The legal dispute originated from Okoh’s refusal to grant ownership of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria to BFIG Group Corporation. BPE and Okoh had appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s rulings, but the apex court sided with the decisions that led to Okoh’s imprisonment.
The controversy traces back to 2004 when BPE advertised an application of interest for the privatization of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria. Despite BFIG winning the bid, BPE nullified the result, sparking a prolonged legal battle.
In 2012, the Supreme Court allowed BFIG’s appeal, ordering BPE to rescind its decision and hand over the company to BFIG. However, BPE refused to comply, leading to contempt proceedings initiated by BFIG in April 2019.
Justice Tijani Abubakar, delivering the lead judgment, criticized BPE and Okoh for their continued disobedience of court orders, labeling their actions as “scandalously shameful and disgraceful.” The court affirmed the lower court’s decision and dismissed the appeal, with a cost of N10 million awarded against the appellants. The judgment emphasized the importance of respecting court orders and underlined that no one is above the law.