Court bars FCT minister, others from Centenary Zone

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Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited’s invasion of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone is unlawful and unconstitutional, according to a formal ruling by a Federal High Court in Abuja.

The court emphasized that the master plan for the Centenary Economic City Free Zone had been defaced and destroyed, and that properties owned by the Centenary Economic City Free Zone Company had also been destroyed.

The court’s position regarding the illegality and unconstitutionality of these actions is emphasized in the declaration.

The Federal Capital Development Authority and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory were also ordered by the court not to enter the Centenary Economic City Free Zone on Airport Road in Abuja without the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority’s written permission.

The Centenary Economic City Free Zone and Centenary City Free Zone Company are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit with the file number FHC/ABJ/CS/2130/2022.

The first through fourth defendants are the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, and the President.

The Federal Capital Territory Administration, the Federal Capital Development Authority, Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited, and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory are the fifth through eighth defendants.

The FCTA asked Arab Contractors to convert portions of the Free Zone land to their site yard without the regulatory authority of NEPZA, according to the affidavit deposed by Mr. Ikechukwu Odenigwe, the Managing Director of the second plaintiff in the 2022 lawsuit.

According to Odenigwe, Arab Contractors vandalized and destroyed the Centenary Economic City Free Zone’s master plan.

The Plaintiffs’ Originating Summons prompted the first and second defendants to file no processes.

The plaintiffs were not the allottees of the entire parcel of land, according to the 5th, 6th, and 7th defendants’ counter-affidavit.

They further contended that Centenary City Plc, not any of the plaintiffs, was the allottee according to the certificate of occupancy issued by the then-Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

According to their allegations, the plaintiffs and NEPZA did not follow the FCTA and FCDA, and the establishment of Centenary City as a Free Zone did not abolish the FCDA’s authority within the zone.

As far as they are concerned, the plaintiffs’ and NEPZA’s plans are subordinate to the FCT’s master plan.

But Justice Inyang Ekwo also barred the minister, FCTA, and FCDA from exercising executive or regulatory control over the Centenary Economic City Free Zone in a ruling rendered on February 6, 2024, a copy of which our correspondent was able to view on Monday.

He said, “An Order of injunction is hereby made restraining the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, the Federal Capital Development Authority, and the Federal Capital Territory Administration, either by themselves, or through any of their agencies, or Secretariats or howsoever called, from exercising any executive or regulatory control Centenary Economic City Free Zone, and from interfering in any form whatsoever, in the administration, regulation, management and control of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone, which occupies the Land, measuring 1,264.78 hectares with beacons coordinates PB57-PB59), PB60-PB69), PB70-PB79), PB80- PB89), PB90-PB99), PB1000-PB104) located at Airport Road, Wawa District, Cadastral Zone E24, FCT, Abuja by the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, which is an agency of the Federal Government under the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, pursuant to Ss. 5 (1) (a) and (b), (2) and (3) and 299(a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Ss. 4, 8 and 13 of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Act and S. 19 of the Federal Capital Territory Act.

By virtue of S. 13 of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, an order of injunction is hereby made prohibiting the 5th, 6th, and 7th Defendants from entering the Centenary Economic City Free Zone or intruding in any way without the prior written consent and approval of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority.

The following is a declaration: “Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited’s invasion of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone, located in Wawa District, Cadastral Zones E24, FCT, Abuja, and the subsequent destruction of the Plaintiffs’ properties and defacing and destruction of the Plaintiffs’ master plan for the Centenary Economic City Free Zone, at the instructions of the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Defendants, are unconstitutional, unlawful, wrongful, and illegal.”

Arab contractors were also directed by the judge to vacate the area they were occupying in the zone right away.

“This order directs Arab Contractors Nigeria,” he declared.

Limited, in violation of Sections 4 and 13 of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Act, to promptly leave the area of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone that it is unlawfully occupying at the behest of the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Defendants, without the explicit consent of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority.

Additionally, Ekwo gave Arab contractors an order to pay N100 million to the plaintiffs for demolishing the Centenary Economic City Free Zone’s master plan.

“An Order is hereby made directing Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited, to pay to the Plaintiffs, the sum of N100,000,000.00, only, for the forceful invasion and destruction of the Plaintiffs’ Master plan of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone, designed by Eagle Hills Properties LLC, of the United Arab Emirates” he said.

Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited is subject to general damages in the amount of N50,000,000.00.

The judge decided that the only amount necessary to cover the costs of the action against Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited was N5,000,000.00.

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