A fresh legal battle will commence on January 21, 2014 at the federal high court Ikoyi as Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote and industrialist Oba Otudeko fight over the ownership of a parcel of land located in the Lagos ports complex (LPC) Apapa. Justice Okon Abang fixed the date after the case was reassigned to him by the chief judge of the federal high court following the retirement of Justice Okechukwu Okeke who was handling the case before now. The land in dispute is a10.841 square meter land within the Lagos port complex known as the 5th Apapa Wharf Extension.
Honeywell Group Limited a company belonging to Oba Otudeko is praying the court to adjudge it as the valid owner of the said land by virtue of a lease agreement it entered into with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) while Dangote with his company Greenview Development Nigeria Limited are insisting that the said agreement was neither turned into a deed nor registered in any lands registry.
In the statement of claim, the Honeywell Group claimed that by the agreement, NPA leased the land to it for five (5) years for the purpose of setting up a bulk food handling plant for a rent of 2.168 million naira per annum and in keeping with the agreement Honeywell Group paid the said amount and also paid another N290, 000 for the survey of the land. It further stated that Honeywell Group took possession of the land to the knowledge of the defendant (Dangote Group) and began the required technical investigation necessary for the setting up of the food handling facility which is to have cost it about $100 million.
They added that despite being aware of this massive development on the land, the BPE suddenly suspended the pre –existing agreement and rights by concessioning NPA’s Apapa ports complex including the 5th Apapa Wharf Extension to Greenview Development Limited a company related to Dangote.
In their statement of defense, Dangote and his group argued that the suit was frivolous, vexatious and that it constituted an abuse of court process, adding that it was aimed at truncating the approved policy of the concessionaire of the seaport by the federal government and to deter the progress of work and development being carried out by Greenview Development Limited on the said land. They further argued that no presidential consent was sought or obtained before the lease agreement was granted to Honeywell Group, and as part of the privatization policy of the federal government notices were given to the general public in 2003 for the concessioning of all Nigeria’s seaport and complexes by the BPE.
They explained further that under the policy, all existing leases and licenses of land at the ports were affected and that fresh bids were required for the concessioning of all seaports in Nigeria adding that Greenview Development Limited was eventually granted the concessionaire of terminal E of Apapa ports covering an area of 19.091 hectares by the federal government which include the said land.
Honeywell Group had been in court on this land matter, joint in this suit are Dangote Industries limited, Greenview Development Limited, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE)