A Federal High Court sitting in the Federal Capital Territory FCT has granted an interim order restraining the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), its sister agency Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA), FCDA as well as Arab Contractors from further encroachment and destruction of the Master Plan of Centenary Economic City Free Zone (CECFZ).
This is as activists and investors berated the agencies for frustrating the Centenary City project, which has an estimated investment of $18.376 billion and remains the highest single foreign direct investment proposal in the history of Nigeria with estimated job creation of over 250,000.
The temporary injunction was given in a suit marked FCH/ABJ/CS/2130/2022 and filed by Centenary Economic City Free Zone and Centenary City Free Zone Company. Listed as defendants in the suit are the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney General of the federation, the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), the Honourable Minister of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), The Honourable Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCDA), and Arab Contractors (OAO) Nigeria Limited.
In the enrolment order dated November 22, Hon. Justice I. E. Ekwo granted an “order of interim injunction restraining the defendants “from committing further acts of encroachment, incursion and continuing to deface and destroy the master plan of Centenary Economic City Free Zone in any form whatsoever, in respect of the parcel of land, measuring approximately 1,262.27 hectares, situate, lying and being in Plot 1271, Wawa District, Cadastral Zone E24, designated as Centenary Economic City Free Zone, by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 1st September 2014, pending the hearing and final determination of the motion on notice.”
According to the suit document, the court granted an Order of Maintenance of Status Quo Ante Bellum by all parties in this suit from taking any further step(s) in relation to the subject matter of the suit pending the hearing and final determination of the Motion on Notice is granted.
It will be recalled that in November 2016, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation, in a well-researched legal opinion and attached to the Originating Summons, had earlier advised the FCDA that upon the grant of Free Trade Zone Status, to the Centenary Economic City Free Trade Zone, by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the 1st of September 2014, pursuant to section 1 of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority Act, No 63 of 1992 which approved and designated as a Free Trade Zone.
The document further, indicates that the premises of Centenary Economic City, on a parcel of Land measuring 1,264.78 hectares with beacons coordinates PB57-PB59), PB60-PB69), PB70-PB79), PB80-PB89), PB90-PB99), PB1000-PB104) located at Wawa District, Cadastral Zone E24,FCT, Abuja, that the entire parcel of Land, measuring 1,264.78 hectares with beacons coordinates PB57-PB59), PB60-PB69), PB70-PB79), PB80-PB89), PB90-PB99), PB1000-PB104) located at Wawa District, Cadastral Zone E24,FCT, Abuja, ceased to be under the immediate or remote control, management and or administration of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, and or the Federal Capital Development Authority, pursuant to section 4 of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Act.
Meanwhile a civil society organization, Advocates of Good Governance, has said that it is baffling that, while Nigeria is desperately looking for international investors to boost Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), in the face of dwindling Naira earnings from oil, a misguided coterie of officials should be using properly constituted intuitions of state to overreach themselves in order to frustrate the efforts of government.
“In line with their questionable motives and posture on the Centenary City Economic Free Zone, some of these officials have developed what looks like a reprehensibly pecuniary relationship, which culminated in their giving a construction company illegal access to lands and properties outside the jurisdiction of the FCDA/FCTA. . The construction company in question, Arab contractors Nigeria Limited, was misled into encroaching on the lands and properties of Centenary City Plc (CCPLC) and Centenary Economic City Free Zone (CECFZ) and take unlawful possession of part of its physical space, to use same as Site Yard, without due rental and access rights from CCPLC/ CECFZ,” it said in a statement signed by its convener, Adejumo Abdulrasheed.
It added that the said construction company was also encouraged and misled into violating the original layout of Centenary City Project, and thus made to reroute a road that had its right of way on a totally unencumbered freeway.
“As it now stands, the rerouting rests on the desire of some FCDA/FCTA officials to leave intact an illegal filling station in which a staff of the FCDA has pecuniary interests. This rerouting of the road has increased the contract sum for the road by a phenomenal five billion Naira, in addition to making the contractor to blast through landscape that should not otherwise have been affected. The construction company was also further misled into not following up on its earlier lawful correspondence with CCPLC, regarding access and use of its property and space.
“It would seem that the current acts of illegally are consistent with the now-well-known culture of impunity, for which some officials of these agencies have earned themselves a reputation for aggravated misconduct. They have been taking liberties not granted by the law over the years. This time around however, it is with complete disregard for the powers of Mr. President and the rule of law at several levels,” it said.
The pro-democracy group stressed that it is on record that the efforts of the Managing Director of CCPLC, Dr. Ikechukwu Michaels Odenigwe to get the FCTA and FCDA to note and respect the rights and entitlements inhering in the licence granted CCPLC to operate as an Economic Free Zone, under the exclusive regulation of NEPZA, have not been rewarding.
It alleged that the FCDA/FCDA officials in question keep interfering and distracting the investors, by still demanding for development plans approval from CCLC/CECFZ, notwithstanding the fact that the Centenary City’s development plans have been approved by the NEPZA.
“In the current controversy, the officials who are clearly acting outside of the law have made it possible for Arab Contractors to deface part of the Centenary City Master Plan, by setting up a Site Yard within the Company’s land. These FCDA/FCTA officials, by apportioning parts of CCPLC/CECFZ’s designated lands and territories to Arab Contractors without recourse to CCC/CECFZ, have become both agent provocateur and Patron Saints of mischief.
“Another issue in contention, and one on which the FCDA/FCTA officials can best be described as being deliberately mischievous and ridiculous, concerns the payment of taxes, levies and rates by CECFZ. The demand for these payments by the FCA/FCTA is illegal, to the extent that the Company is a Free Zone that is not subject to such. This is so in law, pursuant to Section 8 of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Act. That is why CECFZ has chosen to bring up the FCDA/FCT’s request for such taxes, levies and rates for determination by the court as ultra vires,” it added.
It was gathered that the Nigerians and foreigners who have invested billions of Naira in the project are disappointed by the antics of the government officials as well as failure of the supervising authorities to call them to order.
It was learnt that some foreign investors are mulling possible suspension of their investment, because of the prevailing impression that FG appears unwilling, or unable to control the in-fighting between FCTA and NEPZA on who controls the free trade zone without recourse to the current litigation.