Court assumes jurisdiction in bi-courtney concession dispute

JusticeJustic Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday ruled that he has jurisdiction over the suit filed by Bi-Courtney Limited, against the Federal Government over the concession agreement dispute between both parties.

The judge held that the application challenging the court’s jurisdiction lacks merit.
According to him, the application did not show how the reliefs sought by the plaintiff are outside the court’s jurisdiction.

The applicant (Bi-Courtney) is claiming N66 billion as damages, arising from an alleged breach of the concession agreement for the redevelopment of domestic terminal of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja.

Defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

Last Tuesday, the Federal Government, through its counsel, Prof Fabian Ajogwu, told Justice Buba that the defendants have pending applications namely: motion for stay of further proceedings and the motion challenging the court’s jurisdiction.

Bi-Courtney, through its counsel, Wale Akoni, also informed the court of its pending application to amend its originating process.Ajogwu had argued that the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the suit, on the ground that the reliefs sought by the plaintiff had been decided upon by Justice Gladys Olotu of an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.

The instant suit, he said, therefore constitutes an abuse of court process and should be dismissed.
“The issues have been determined by Justice Olotu since 2012. I urge the court to grant this application and dismiss the plaintiff’s suit,” he said.

Justice Buba thereafter adjourned to April 21 for ruling on the application challenging the court’s jurisdiction.Ruling yesterday, Justice Buba said while it is not ideal for a judge to overrule a decision made by another judge of the same court, a judge must examine facts of a case to arrive at a decision.

He said: “It is left for the second defendant to show this court why all or any of the reliefs is outside the jurisdiction of this court.
“Consequently, the application by the second defendant lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed, more so when AMCON was never a party in the previous action,” he said.Justice Buba adjourned until April 26 for hearing of pending applications.

Courtney filed the suit by writ of summons on February 1, 2013 seeking damages, declarative and injunctive reliefs, following an alleged breach of the agreement dated April 24, 2003.

On February 25, 2013, the AGF and FAAN urged the court to strike out Bi-Courtney’s suit or stay proceedings pending when arbitration was concluded.

Last November 9, Justice Buba dismissed the defendants’ preliminary objection on the ground that parties in a sister case were already in arbitration.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, AGF and FAAN filed a notice of appeal dated December 11, 2015.They aver that unless Justice Buba stays proceedings, the Court of Appeal would be foisted with a fait accompli (an accomplished deed) and its decision would be rendered nugatory.

Akoni, in urging the court to dismiss the application, said the case was about the Federal Government not honouring the agreement, which was not an issue before the previous judge.

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