National Theatre Handover: Court Orders Malami, CBN, Others To Appear Before It

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The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Friday ordered the Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, to appear before it to explain the alleged handover of the National Theatre to some developers while a suit over the matter is pending in court.

Others to appear before the court are Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC); Minister, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture & National Orientation, and Central Bank of Nigeria as second, third and fifth defendants. The defendants also include the National Theatre & The National Troupe of Nigeria Board, Access Bank of Nigeria Plc and its Managing Director, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, as first, sixth and seventh defendants respectively.

Justice Ayokunle Faji made the order after hearing Mr. Chijioke Okoli SAN, lead counsel for the plaintiff who appeared with Perpetual Onwuama, Collins Akinade and Ify Nnabuenyi, argue a motion ex-parte seeking an injunction to overturn the alleged handover.

The court later adjourned the matter to Friday, August 24, 2020 for hearing.

The order is made sequel to an ex-parte application by the plaintiff seeking “an order suspending/staying the purported handover on or about July 12, 2020 by the 1st and 3rd defendant/respondents to the 5th-7th defendant/Respondents of the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos and the adjoining lands thereto, pending the hearing and determination of the Applicant’s motion for interlocutory injunction (by Notice filed on December 31, 2019).”

The plaintiff also sought “An order of mandatory injunction for a return of all the parties to the present suit, especially the Defendants/Respondents, their agents/privies or contractors, to the status quo ante lite concerning the subject-matter of the present suit, pending the hearing and determination of the Applicant’s motion for interlocutory injunction (by Notice filed on December 31, 2019).

Also being sort by the plaintiff is “An order of mandatory injunction reversing all the practical effects of the purported handover on or about July 12, 2020 by the 1st & 3rd defendant/respondents to the 5th-7th defendant/Respondents of the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos and the adjoining lands thereto, including the removal from the premises of any/all architects, and other construction professionals and/or contractors and their plants/equipment and binding all the Defendants/Respondents and their contractors/agents/privies from doing anything/continuing with any act whatsoever in furtherance of the purported handover, pending the hearing and determination of the Applicant’s motion for interlocutory injunction (by Notice filed on December 31, 2019).”

The application is supported by an 8-paragraph affidavit of urgency and 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the motion for mandatory injunction, both deposed to by one Collins Ibukunola Akinade, a legal practitioner in the law firm of Delphi Law Advisory LP, counsel to the plaintiff.

The defendants are being summoned to show cause why the alleged handover should not be reversed by the court given the fact that the court had at the last adjourned date set down all pending applications in the matter to October 29 for hearing. Barrister C. Opara represented the 4th Defendant at that hearing while Mr. Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN appeared for the 6th and 7th defendants.

The N1.26 trillion suit was brought by Topwideapeas Limited praying for an interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from interfering with the plaintiff’s rights as concessionaire of the fallow land adjoining the National Theatre. The case is listed as FHC/L/CS/2392/2019, Topwideapeas Ltd V National Theatre & National Troupe of Nigeria Board & 6 Ors.

The alleged handover prompted the plaintiff to bring an ex-parte motion to stop the defendants from dissipating the subject matter of the case even while the court is yet to determine the substantive suit.

The plaintiff is also seeking a declaration that the plaintiff has a valid and binding contract for the concession of the fallow land surrounding the National Theatre Complex in terms of the updated draft concession agreement between the Federal Republic of Nigeria (represented by the first and third defendants) and the plaintiff, the approval of the Federal Executive Council being a mere formality in the circumstances.

Topwideapeas also seeks a declaration that it is unlawful for the fifth to seventh defendants to purport to truncate and nullify the plaintiff’s right as the concessionaire of the fallow land in and about the National Theatre Complex Iganmu, Lagos, by inducing the breach of the plaintiff’s contract with the first to third defendants or by any other means.

The plaintiff prays the court to declare that it is contrary to public policy and constitutes a misappropriation of scarce public funds for the fifth defendant (CBN) to divert public funds towards any project concerning the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos, when the plaintiff and its partners and privies have mobilised local and foreign private investment into developing the complex and surrounding land into a grand mini-city on a scale entirely beyond the legitimate capacity of the fifth defendant.

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