June 21, 2024
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Fidelity Bank vs Bright Simons: High Court adjourns case to July 4

An Accra High Court has adjourned hearing of the case between Fidelity Bank and the Vice President of IMANI Africa, Bright Simons, to July 4, 2024.

Counsel for Fidelity Bank, Dr Dominic Ayine, was expected to move an order motion to strike out some of the pleadings of Bright Simons.

However, when the case was called, lawyer for the IMANI Africa executive, Samuel Alesu, indicated that they had not filed an affidavit in opposition due to the nature of the suit by the plaintiff (Fidelity Bank).

Lawyers holding brief for Dr Dominic Ayine then prayed the court for additional time to file additional documents in support of their motion.

Presiding judge, Justice Ellen Mireku, ordered lawyers of the bank to file their documents by June 3, after which lawyers of Bright Simons will be expected to file their corresponding documents by June 20 for hearing to continue on July 4, 2024.

Background

Fidelity Bank sued Bright Simons of IMANI Africa on March 25, 2024, for posting a tweet in which he claimed that Fidelity sold dollars in a sweetheart deal to the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) that may have caused losses.

Fidelity Bank is represented by Dominic Ayine, a private legal practitioner and National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Bolgatanga East.

Bright Simons’ comments were based on an earlier tweet by Benjamin Boakye of the Africa Center for Energy Policy (ACEP) that said the rate at which the dollars was sold was 13.95 rather than the Bank of Ghana reference rate which was less than 11.5 around October 2023 when the deal happened.

Bright Simons entered appearance on March 28, 2024, and filed his statement of defense the month after. He is represented by Audrey Grey, a corporate law firm in Accra.

Fidelity Bank’s suit, which was amended later, alleged that Bright Simons tweet was false, misleading, products of his imagination, and were mischievously authored to disparage the bank.

In Bright Simons’ defence, he rejected all the claims of Fidelity Bank.

He insisted that the numbers used in his tweet and that of Benjamin Boakye came from ECG’s own financial department that was submitted to the Cash Waterfall Mechanism committee at the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC).

The committee is the one that analyses costs and revenues in the energy sector and makes allocations to various companies in the power value chain.

ECG earlier issued a statement acknowledging the figures in that document but said that they were an “estimation”.

Bright Simons’ media representatives debunked this claim on the basis that the document was still being used months after the transaction, and the data was labelled as “actuals”.

Fidelity Bank’s amended writ included what it said are the true exchange rates used in the deal, which are lower than 13.95.

In an unexpected move, Bright Simons’ counter-sued Fidelity Bank and asked the court to declare that the deal as a whole is indeed a sweetheart deal as he claimed in his tweet, because it was cooked in breach of the Public Procurement Act and the energy policies of Ghana.

He alleged that Fidelity Bank’s Board Secretary sits on the Board of ECG and works on both ends of these deals.

Because of this and the decision to bypass the Public Procurement Act, he claims that the deal was ‘crooked and not on arms’ length basis.

He also said Fidelity has refused to disclose the conflict of interest as dictated by the Bank of Ghana’s Corporate Governance Directive.

Fidelity Bank has filed a motion in court to dismiss Bright Simons’ counter-suit as disclosing no reasonable cause of action and an abuse of judicial process.

Bright Simons’ lawyers opposed the motion and cited several authorities that the counter-claims are not an abuse of process and that they disclose a reasonable cause of action because they are linked directly to his defense of his publications as based on public interest to stop such irregular deals that cost the country to lose money.

The lawyers insisted that the court should declare the deals as illegal and force Fidelity Bank to refund its profits above the Bank of Ghana reference rate.

Dr Ayine is opposing the push by Bright’s lawyers vehemently. He says that Bright Simons cannot bring this action in the current matter because it is intended just to waste the court’s time.

Bright’s lawyers disagree passionately.

The substantive matters could not be heard at the hearing today, Monday, May 20, 2024, as the affidavits are not ready leading to an adjournment to July 4, 2024.

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