A Federal High Court in Lagos will on January 21 commence fresh proceedings into the legal battle between popular industrialist, Oba Otudeko and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote over the ownership of a parcel of land located within the Lagos Ports Complex (LPC), Apapa.
The two prominent businessmen are both laying claim to the 10.841 square meters of land within the Lagos Ports Complex known as the 5th Apapa Wharf Extension.
Justice Okon Abang fixed the date after the Chief Judge of the Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta re-assigned the case file following the retirement of Justice Okechukwu Okeke who was handling the matter before from the bench.
Oba Otudeko through his company, Honeywell Group Limited, is praying the court to adjudge him as the valid owner of the land by virtue of a lease agreement between his company and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) while Dangote is insisting that the agreement was neither turned into a deed nor was it registered in any Lands Registry.
According to the statement of claim, Honeywell Group averred that by an agreement, NPA leased the said land to it for five years for the purpose of setting up a bulk food handling facility for a consideration of N2.168 million per annum, adding that in keeping with the agreement, it paid the aforesaid amount and also paid N290, 000 for the survey of the land.
The plaintiff (Honeywell Group) noted that it took possession of the land to the knowledge of the defendant and began the required technical investigations and expenditures necessary for the setting up of the bulk food handling facility, which was to cost about $100 million.
The plaintiff added that despite being aware of its massive development plans on the land, the BPE suddenly suspended the pre-existing rights by concessioning NPA’s Apapa Ports Complex including the 5th Apapa Wharf Extension to Greenview Development Limited, a company related to Dangote.
But Dangote, in his statement of defense, is arguing that the suit was frivolous, vexatious and that it constituted an abuse of court process, adding that the suit was aimed at truncating the approved policy of the concessionaire of seaports of the federal government and to deter the progress of works and development being carried out by Greenview Development on the land. He argued that no Presidential consent was sought nor obtained before the lease agreement was granted to Honeywell Group in respect of the land, and that as part of the privatization and commercialization policy of the Federal Government, notices were given to the general public in 2003 for the concessioning of all the Nigeria Seaports/Complexes by the BPE.
Under the policy, Dangote explained that all existing leases/licenses of land at Nigeria’s Seaports were affected, and that fresh bids were required for the concessioning of all the various Seaports in Nigeria.
The defendants added that Greenview was eventually granted the concessionaire approval by the Federal Government of Terminal E of Apapa Ports covering an area of 19.091 hectares, and that it was untrue that the plaintiff had ever been in occupation of the land known as the 5th Apapa Wharf Extension.
Honeywell Group had, in the suit with reference number FHC/L/CS/329/06, listed NPA, Bureau of Public Enterprises (PBE), Dangote Industries Limited, Aliko Dangote and Greenview Development Nigeria Limited as co-defendants to the suit.