18 February 2013

Nigeria: GAT Concession - Court Throws Out FG's Suit Against Bi-Courtney

Justice Ahmed Mohammed of a Federal High court in Abuja has thrown out a suit against Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited by the agencies of the federal government challenging the propriety of the concession of the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Murtala Muhammed Airport domestic terminal (MMA2).

With the verdict, Bi-Courtney can now take-over GAT.

Justice Mohammed also described the suit by the Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) as an abuse of court process, and held that issues canvassed by the plaintiffs (Aviation Ministry and FAAN) had been conclusively determined by his learned brother, Justice J. Chikere in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CJ/50/2009.

The judge also noted that the decision of Justice Chikere in the previous suit, which was instituted by Bi-Courtney was binding on all agencies of the Federal Government.

According to Justice Mohammed, the judgement of Justice Chikere states that "The parties named in the Relief 7 are agents/agencies of the Federal Government. They are agents/agencies of a named principal that is the Federal Government."

He therefore held that any order against the known principal binds the agents/agencies. The judge then said, "The agents/agencies stationed and operating at all airports terminal in Lagos State could not have operated without the support or approval of the Federal Government."

They are, therefore, restrained, prevented or prohibited from operating scheduled flights in and out of Lagos State from any airport terminal other than MMA2 or an airport terminal owned/operated by the plaintiff during the concession period as stipulated in the Agreement."

Justice Mohammed further held that the issues raised in the suit by the ministry and FAAN had equally been settled by the Court of Appeal, and noted that: "It was also held by the Court of Appeal that by implication, the Federal Government and it's agencies have their interest adequately represented by the Attorney General of the Federation, being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation. It was further held by the court of Appeal that as an agency of the Federal Government, the 2nd Plaintiff's (FAAN) interest cannot be different from that of the Federal Government."

Meanwhile, Bi-Courtney Limited (BCL), in a statement by its spokesman, Dipo Kehinde, stated that the decision of the court has cleared the path for Bi-Courtney to take over the General Aviation Terminal, which was recently renovated by the Federal Government and commissioned on October 22, 2012.

Bi-Courtney further noted that the GAT "was declared an integral part of the MMA2 concession by the decision of the Federal High Court in 2009. But in a desperate move to prevent the handing over of the premises to Bi-Courtney Limited, four appeals had been filed and lost by the Attorney General of the Federation, Ojemaie Holdings (Landlord to Arik Air), NUATE and ATSSAN (Trade Unions under the Ministry of Aviation) and FAAN."

The statement affirmed that "it remains a monumental embarrassment and a flagrant disregard for the Rule of Law that the GAT was built by the Ministry of Aviation, when there was a clear restraining order against the Federal Government of Nigeria on the construction of the terminal.

It is also a serious dent to the image of the Federal Government as a promoter of the Rule of Law that an innocent company such as Bi-Courtney Limited could be deprived of the fruits of its labour by an obstinate refusal by the Aviation ministry to comply with simple and clear terms of an agreement."

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