Court adjourns suit on National Theatre’s handover to October 29

by Araayo Akande

Continuation of hearing in a lawsuit filed by Topwide Apeas Ltd challenging the Federal Government’s transfer of the National Theatre to the Central Bank of Nigeria and Bankers’ Committee has been adjourned until October 29.
A Federal High Court, Lagos on Friday adjourned the suit marked FHC/L/CS/2392/19, asking it to declare as unlawful, the termination of its (Topwide Apeas) concession over the theatre.
Joined as defendants in the suit filed by Plaintiff’s counsel, Chijoke Okoli (SAN), are the Board of the National Theatre and National Troupe of Nigeria, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Minister of Interior, and the Attorney General of the Federation.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, Access Bank and Herbert Wigwe are also joined.
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, 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.
Justice Ayokunle Faji had on July 17 ordered the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, and five others to appear before it on Friday (yesterday).
They were to explain why the edifice was handed over to developers while it is the subject of a pending lawsuit.
On Friday when the case resumed for hearing, Okoli announced appearance for the Plaintiff.
Mr Nelson Orji, a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Justice, appeared for the First to Fourth defendants, Mr Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) appeared for the fifth defendant. Mr A.A Adegbomire (SAN) appeared for the sixth defendant.
Mr O.B Bioku appeared for Jadeas Trust Ltd, a party seeking to be joined in the case. At the same time, Mr Biodun Abe told the Court that he was representing the National Theatre.
Okoli reminded the Court that the case was adjourned until Friday 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 applied to show cause in response to the court order, as well as a counter-affidavit and written address as well as a motion for 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, fifth defence counsel, Ajogwu informed the Court that he had filed a notice of preliminary objection pending before the Court since March, arguing that the subject matter sought to be protected was not adequately defined by the Plaintiff.
He said that the reliefs sought were vague, having no beacon or survey plan.
Sixth defence counsel, Adegbomire, on his part informed the Court that he had applied to show cause in compliance with the Court’s order.
Orji argued that the concession the Plaintiff is relying on was not binding as it was only a draft agreement that was eventually revoked.
He argued that an injunction could not be granted as a remedy for an action that has been completed, and urged the Court not to allow the Plaintiff’s prayers.
On his part, Adegbonmire questioned the relevance of the ‘fallow land’ referred to in the Plaintiff’s motion because it was not definitive and had nothing to link his clients.
He also asked that the application be dismissed with substantial cost, for being ‘deliberately brought’ by ex parte (without notice to other parties)
Responding, Plaintiff’s counsel, argued that the defence was delving into the main suit, which was improper.
He argued that his exparte motion was geared at saving the dignity of the Court, as he had sought for the subject matter to 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 motion on notice given the contentious nature of the case.
The Court consequently struck out the motion, with the cost of N50,000 against the Plaintiff.
In its main suit, Topwide Apeas wants an order of Court, directing the defendants to ensure a prompt handover of the fallow land in and about the National Theatre Complex, to it f and its agents, for the commencement of construction of the projects planned under the concession agreement.
The company is claiming the sum of N1 billion Naira in damages, against the defendants.
It had emerged preferred bidders during the concession exercise of the National Theatre by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.

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