By Sandra Umeh
Lagos, July 24, 2020
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday adjourned until Oct. 29, continuation of hearing in a suit by a company, Topwideapeas Ltd., challenging nullification of its concession over the National Arts Theatre Complex.
The plaintiff described itself as a special purpose entity for the acquisition of the management right over the National Arts Theatre and its undeveloped lands in Lagos.
In the suit filed by its counsel, Mr Chijoke Okoli (SAN), and marked FHC/L/CS/2392/19, the plantiff wants the court to declare as unlawful, the termination of its concession over the theatre.
Joined as defendants are the National Theatre and National Troupe of Nigeria Board, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, minister of interior and attorney-general of the federation.
Also joined are the Central Bank of Nigeria, Access Bank and Mr Herbert Wigwe.
The plaintiff is seeking a declaration that it is unlawful for the defendants to purport to truncate and nullify its rights as the concessionaire of the fallow land at the National Theatre Complex, by inducing a breach of its contract.
It wants the court to declare that the plaintiff has a valid and binding contract on the concession of the fallow land surrounding the National Theatre Complex in terms of the updated draft Concession Agreement between it and the Federal Government.
On July 17, Justice Ayokunle Faji granted an ex parte order seeking attendance in court, of the attorney-general of the federation, CBN and others to appear and show cause why the National Theatre Complex was handed over to developers while it is subject of a pending suit before the court.
The ex parte application was filed and argued by paintiff’s counsel, Mr Chijioke Okoli (SAN).
On Friday when hearing resumed in the case, Okoli announced appearance for the plaintiff.
Mr Nelson Orji, a Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Justice, appeared for the first to fourth defendants, Mr Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) appeared for the fifth defendant, and Mr A.A Adegbomire (SAN) appeared for the sixth defendant.
Meanwhile, Mr O.B. Bioku appeared for a company, Jadens Trust Ltd., which is seeking to be joined in the suit, while Mr Biodun Abe told the court that he was representing the National Theatre.
Okoli reminded the court that the case was adjourned for parties to appear and show cause following the exparte order of the court.
In reaction, defence counsel (Orji) informed the court that he had filed an application to show cause in response to the court order, as well as a counter affidavit and written address and a motion for an interlocutory injunction.
Orji also informed the court of his motion dated July 7, seeking an enlargement of time to enter his memorandum of appearance.
On his part, counsel to the fifth defendant (Ajogwu), informed the court that he filed a notice of preliminary objection since March, arguing that the subject matter sought to be protected was not properly defined by the plaintiff.
He added that the reliefs sought were vague.
Counsel to the sixth defendant, (Adegbomire), told the court that he had filed an application to show cause in compliance with the court’s order.
In his argument, Orji said that the concession, which the plaintiff was relying on, was not binding as it was only a draft agreement which was eventually revoked.
He argued that an injunction could not be granted as a remedy for an action that had been completed, and urged the court not to grant the plaintiff’s prayers.
Adegbonmire, on his part, questioned the relevance of the ‘fallow land’ referred to in the plaintiff’s motion, saying it was not definitive and had nothing to link his clients.
He also asked that the application be dismissed with a substantial cost for being ‘deliberately brought’ by ex parte (without notice to other parties).
Plaintiff’s counsel (Okolie), in response, argued that the defendants were delving into the main suit which, he said, was improper.
He argued that his ex parte motion was geared at saving the dignity of the court, saying that he had sought that the subject matter be maintained since the parties were before the court.
In a short ruling, Justice Ayokunle Faji held that the plaintiff’s motion ought to be brought by a motion on notice in view of the contentious nature of the case.
He consequently struck out the motion with a cost of N50,000 against the plaitiff.
The court adjourned the case until Oct. 29 for continuation of trial.
In its main suit, the plaintiff wants an order of court directing the defendants to ensure a prompt handover of the fallow land in and about the National Arts Theatre Complex to the plaintiff and its agents, for commencement of construction of the projects planned under the concession agreement.
The plaintiff is claiming the sum of N1 billion naira in damages against the defendants.