The newly-inaugurated General Aviation Terminal, Ikeja
By Chinedu Eze
Citing a subsisting judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Bi-Courtney Limited, the concessionaire of the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Tuesday reasserted its claim to the ownership of the newly-inaugurated General Aviation Terminal (GAT) at the airport.
The company, which currently manages MMA2, said in a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Mr. Stephen Omolale-Ajulo, that the Federal Government was wrong to have gone ahead to construct the terminal inaugurated on October 22 by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim.
The company said the court, delivering a judgment in a suit, Bi-Courtney vs Attorney General of the Federation, on July 3, 2012, had lashed out at the Federal Government for refusing to surrender the GAT to the concessionaire, adding that the court had earlier in March 2009 ruled that the Federal Government should hand over the terminal to the company.
“The continued and calculated failure by the Federal Government of Nigeria, its agencies and privies to deliver the said General Aviation Terminal to him (Dr. Wale Babalakin, Bi-Courtney chairman) as per the judgment of the court is an infringement of his legal right to enjoy the fruits of the victory vide the judgment of the court.
“We have seen from the valid and subsisting judgment of this court that the court awarded its immediate possession of the General Aviation Terminal in March 2009 and that it has not been able to take possession of same since then due to the attitude and antics of the Federal Government and its agents.
“It is well settled that there is a presumption of correctness, validity and bindingness of a judgment until it is upturned on appeal. Consequently it behoves all the parties to obey the said judgment,” the statement quoted the court as ruling in July.
The company accused the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) of undermining the execution of the judgment, by going ahead to build the terminal that cost Nigeria N648 million.
“Unknown to the audience and probably the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the entire act (GAT’s inauguration) was a nullity, being in breach of a very clear and unambiguous order of court.
“According to the court, Bi-Courtney had shown that it is entitled to the delivery of vacant possession of the General Aviation Terminal of the MMA, Ikeja, effective March 3, 2009.
“It is noteworthy that this case was simply a culmination of cases on the subject matter. On March 3, 2009, the Federal High Court declared that Bi-Courtney was the rightful owner of the General Aviation Terminal.
“In protest of this decision, the following appeals were filed and argued on the matter: Ojemaie Investments Ltd. (claiming as landlords to Arik Air) v Bi-Courtney Ltd; Safiyanu Dauda Mohammmed and National Union of Air Transport Services Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services, Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN) v. Bi-Courtney Ltd (this was an action filed by the union); Arik Air v. Bi-Courtney; the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria v. Bi-Courtney Ltd and Attorney General of the Federation v. Bi-Courtney Ltd,” the statement added.
It explained that all the appeals were dismissed as frivolous by the Court of Appeal, while Ojemaie Investments’ motion to the Supreme Court seeking to stop the handover of GAT to Bi-Courtney was also dismissed by the court on May 24, 2010.
“Despite these very clear rulings, the Ministry of Aviation and FAAN continued to redesign the GAT. This led to the commissioning of the terminal on October 22.
“This action appears to be more draconian than the ever dark days of the military government under General (Sani) Abacha. Bi-Courtney Ltd. should, however, be consoled by the fact that the entire development belongs to it in law as it is a truism that whoever owns the land, owns the property on the land,” it said.
However, justifying the government’s insistence on going ahead with the construction of the terminal, Oduah, in a statement by her media aide, Mr. Joe Obi, shortly before the inauguration of the GAT, had denied that the facility belonged to Bi-Courtney.
According to her, the location of GAT was never concessioned to Bi-Courtney Ltd, adding that the agreement with the firm has a survey plan clearly marked in square metres.
She said: “It is inconceivable that anyone would not only contemplate, but also hold fast to the jaundiced belief that a nation as big and great as Nigeria ought not to progress beyond having a terminal like MM2.
“Regarding allegations that there are subsisting court orders restraining anybody, including FAAN, which is the landlord of all federal airports in Nigeria, from further development of the GAT, we need to stress that the cases are still ongoing.
“In fact, our case is currently before the Supreme Court, challenging the orders being referred to mainly, but not limited to the fact that in several of these cases, FAAN, as a principal interested party was never fully represented.
“Most of the cases and attempts at arbitration were conducted without the full incorporation and participation of FAAN. Those behind Bi-Courtney, relying on their privileged positions and closeness to the corridors of power at the time, conspired to leave out FAAN in most of the adjudication and arbitration processes.”