N1.26TR NATIONAL THEATRE SUIT: COURT SET OCTOBER 29 FOR PARTIES TO BATTLE

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The forthcoming annual vacation of the Federal High Court has stalled speedy hearing of an application in a N1.26 trillion suit brought by Topwideapeas Limited seeking an order of the court to annul concessioning of a part of the controversial National Theatre edifice.

The plaintiff is 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 substantive motion was earlier set down for hearing on March 10, 2020 but was aborted by the coronavirus crisis.

Among the defendants that were served by substituted means are Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Minister, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture & National Orientation, Attorney-General of the Federation and Central Bank of Nigeria as second to fifth defendants. Other defendants in the suit are 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. The case is listed as FHC/L/CS/2392/2019, Topwideapeas Ltd V National Theatre & National Troupe of Nigeria Board & 6 Ors.

Though counsel for the plaintiff, Mr. Matthew Nkap had at the resumed hearing last Wednesday sought an early date to argue the pending application for an interlocutory injunction, Justice Ayokunle Faji stated that his hands were tied by the impending vacation. He adjourned the matter to October 29 to hear all pending applications. Barrister C. Opara represented the 4th Defendant while Mr. Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN appeared for the 6th and 7th defendants.

The plaintiff had scaled a major hurdle last March when the court ordered that all the court processes should be served on some defendants by substituted means.

After listening to the Lead Counsel for the plaintiff, Mr. Chijioke Okoli SAN argue a motion ex-parte for substituted service on the defendants, the court had ordered the plaintiff to serve the writ of summons and statement of claim on the defendants via DHL courier service and also by publication in a national newspaper.

The court also ordered that hearing notice for an interlocutory injunction to restrain the defendants from interfering with the plaintiff’s rights as concessionaire of the fallow land adjoining the National Theatre should be served on the defendants, while the substantive motion was set down for hearing on March 10, 2020.

The plaintiff is seeking among others 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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