Court Bars Nyesom Wike, Others from Encroaching into Abuja Centenary City

Court Bars Nyesom Wike, Others from Encroaching into Abuja Centenary City

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja has restrained the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike and three others from encroaching into the Centenary Economic City Free Zone, along Airport Road, Abuja.

Besides Wike, others affected by the court’s order include the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and Arab Contractors (OAO).

Justice Ekwo, who issued the order in a judgment delivered, also made an order nullifying and setting aside in its entirety, all executive actions, steps, decisions, and administrative controls, including the forceful encroachment of the premises by OAO at the instructions of the minister, FCTA and FCDA without the prior consent of the plaintiffs and the overriding approval of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA).

Ekwo, based his decisions on the grounds that the encroachment contradicted Sections 4 and 13 of NEPZA Act Cap N107 LFN 2004, provisions of Section 5 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and therefore, was unconstitutional, illegal, unlawful, void and of no effect whatsoever.

He also made an injunction order restraining them from exercising any executive or regulatory control on the zone, “which occupies the Land, measuring 1,264.78 hectares with beacons coordinates: PB57-PB59, PB60-PB69, PB70-PB79, PB80PB89, PB90-PB99 and PB1000-PB104, located at Airport Road, Wawa District, Cadastral Zone E24, FCT, Abuja.”

“An Order is hereby made directing Arab Contractors (OAO) Nigeria Limited, to immediately vacate the portion of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone, which it illegally occupies at the instructions of the 5th, 6th and 7th defendants against the provisions of Sections 4 and 13 of NEPZA Act, without the express approval of the NEPZA,” he added.

Justice Ekwo therefore ordered Arab Contractors to pay to the plaintiffs the sum of N100 million only for the forceful invasion and destruction of the plaintiffs’ master plan of the zone, designed by Eagle Hills Properties LLC, of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at a cost of 35 million dollars.

The judge, who ordered the company to pay a N50 million general damages, also directed the firm to pay N5 million as cost of the action.

He equally ordered an interest on the entire judgment sum at the rate of 10 per cent per annum, commencing from the time of the delivery of the judgment till the entire judgment sum is fully liquidated by construction firm.

The judgment of the court was delivered on February 6, 2023, in the suit filed by the Centenary Economic City Free Zone and Centenary City Free Zone Company.

The defendants included President of Nigeria, the Attorney-General of Federation (AGF) and NEPZA as 1st to 3rd defendants.

Also joined in the originating summons marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/2130/2022, were the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment; FCT minister, FCTA, FCDA and Arab Contractors as 4th to 8th defendants respectively.

In the suit filed in 2022, the Managing Director of the 2nd plaintiff, Mr. Ikechukwu Odenigwe, in the affidavit deposed to, averred that the 1st plaintiff was licensed as a Free Zone, under NEPZA on September 10, 2014, while the 2nd plaintiff was licenced as a Free Trade Zone Company on October 10, 2014, during President Goodluck Jonathan-led government.

Odenigwe said on December 5, 2022, the Centenary City Project was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

He said the recommendation made by the minister of Trade for the designation of 1,264.78 hectares of land at Wawa District, as the Centenary Economic City Free Zone, FCT, Abuja, was approved by the Presidency.

“The said approval was also communicated to the Managing Director, Centenary City Plc., via a letter dated 16th September, 2014.

“Upon the fulfilment of statutory requirements, a certificate was issued by the NEPZA, licensing Centenary Economic City as a Free Zone.

“The 2nd plaintiff was also issued an operating license,” he said.

He, however, alleged that despite its lack of authority and without the permission of NEPZA, which had the regulatory power, the FCTA asked Arab Contractors to convert parts of the Free Zone land to their site yard.

Odenigwe alleged that Arab Contractors defaced and destroyed the master plan of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone.

The MD, who told the court that the company now endangered the assets and investments of the Federal Government with their conducts, said it was in the interest of justice to grant the reliefs as sought.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Ekwo held that the plaintiffs had proven their case through the exhibits tendered and by the provisions of Sections 5 (1) (a) and (b), (2), and (3) (a) and (b), 147, 148, 299 (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended); Sections 4, 8, 10 (1) and (2) and 13 of the NEPZA Act, and Section 19 of the FCT Act.

“The plaintiffs are therefore entitled to the claims sought in this case and I so hold,” he said.

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