COURTROOM NEWS 03/06/2022
Eko Atlantic City: Court Asked To Strike Out Sanwo-Olu’s Suit
A real estate firm, Ocean City Lagos Limited, has challenged the jurisdiction of a Lagos High Court to entertain a suit filed against it, by the Governor of Lagos State, and South Energyx Nigeria Ltd over ownership of a large parcel of land measuring 1,037.763 hectares, known as Eko Atlantic City.
The real estate firm, through its counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, is challenging the competence of the suit on the ground that Ocean City Lagos Limited was not served with the Originating Process as required by the Rules of Court.
However, the matter, which was scheduled for hearing on Monday could not be heard as the presiding judge, Justice Kayode Ogunjobi was indisposed.
The claimants (Lagos State, and South Energyx Nigeria Ltd) are in a suit marked LD/11207LMW/2021, claiming ownership of all the parcels of land in dispute and urged the court to declare the allocation and vesting of rights which Ocean City Lagos Ltd possessed a nullity.
Besides, the claimants are seeking a declaration that by virtue of the provisions of the Land Use Act 1978 Cap. L5 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, the 1st Claimant (Governor of Lagos State) is the appropriate authority to grant Statutory Right of Occupancy over state lands situated in Lagos State.
But, Ocean City Lagos in a Notice of Preliminary Objection dated May 9, 2022, filed by Ozekhome, stated that none of the directors of the firm was served with the originating process or other processes in the suit, contending that the Court Bailiff never specified the place, he purportedly dropped the processes at the registered office of the Defendant.
He submitted that the essence of service is to put the other party on notice of the suit against it adding that no service either personal or substituted was effected on the Defendant.
Ozekhome further stated that ‘it is an abuse of Court process on the ground that, the suit is substantially the same as Suit Number LD/70921LMW/2018 filed by Sea Global Energy Company Nigeria Ltd against South Energyx Nigeria Ltd & 6 Others, pending before Justice Josephine Oyefeso’, and as such, the extant Court has no jurisdiction over the action.
“It is an abuse of Court process for a party in a suit to institute another matter (in the same Court) against substantially the same parties, for the purpose of demonstrating and determining the subject matter before another judge of the same court.
‘’The parties are the same. The claimants admitted in paragraphs 22 – 28 of their Statement of Claim that the Defendant in this suit is an affiliate of Sea Global Energy Company Nigeria. The Defendant admitted same and noted that Sea Global is the parent company of the Defendant’’, Ozekhome argued.
He further stated that the claimants failed to comply with Pre-action protocol, which states that where parties resort to litigation after attempts at settlement in accordance with the Practice Direction, have remained unsuccessful, a Pre-action Protocol Form 01, accompanied by all Pre-action correspondence duly acknowledged and exchanged between the parties must be made on oath and filed at the Registry with the appropriate originating processes and other originating documents.
He added that failure to comply with the Pre-action protocol leads to the rejection of the process, and is liable to be struck out.
In an affidavit deposed to by, Ms. Adewunmi Osagie, Managing Director of Sea Global Energy Company Nigeria Limited, she stated that on May 21, 2003, President Olusegun Obasanjo, approved the Palladium Project, which is the building of a new city to be sited on an area of 350 hectares, commencing from the junction of Adetokunbo Ademola Street, to extend 7km towards Epe, on the Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos.
She stated that following the approval, the government of Lagos State was notified, following which she had a series of meetings with the then governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his Commissioner for Works, Ogbeni Raufu Aregbesola, the DG Waterfront, Lagos State, Mr. Segun Oniru; and also, Mr. Williams, who was Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works, together with a host of other Lagos State civil servants.
She added that there was no question as to the authority of the Federal Government of Nigeria, to allocate since the right to allocate Littoral/Coastal land/water remained vested in the Federal Government of Nigeria, by virtue of a Supreme Court Judgment.
She stated that Section 49 (1) of the Land Use Act (1978), also states unequivocally “Nothing in this Act shall affect any title to land whether developed or undeveloped held by the Federal Government.”
Ms. Osagie further stated that she was confused as to why the Lagos State Government entered into a PPP arrangement with the owners of Eko Atlantic City, apparently to build the area the Federal Government had ceded to the Lagos State government, which is the old Bar Beach, between the Fisheries Department and the old IMB at the junction of Akin Adesola Street; and then seek to extend it to include what has already been allocated to our company by way of a Presidential Approval, when in fact, Lagos State has known about our existence and our claim to that since June 2003.
She added that a part allocated to her by the Federal Government had already been encroached upon and reclaimed.
The matter has been adjourned till July 5, 2022 for hearing of pending applications.