Appeal Court orders retrial of FAAN, tenant’s dispute
After its refusal to consent to the position by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), that the case is statue-barred, the Court of Appeal, said the dispute should be tried on its merits.
THE dispute between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Messrs. FESCUM and Company Limited over the demolition of a structure erected by the latter on a space allocated by the government agency may not have been over.
This is because a Court of Appeal, Lagos, which found no merit in the argument, canvassed by FAAN, that the litigation by one of its tenants was statured-barred, ordered that the Federal High Court, Lagos should retry the matter.
However, as at press time, The Guardian could not confirm the status of the matter. It was not clear whether the firm, whose property was demolished by FAAN, still carries on with its case at the trial court or not.
According to the court records, the appellant, FESCUM, a registered limited liability company, was the respondent’s yearly tenant and had been in that position for upward of 12 years.
On piece of ground rented to it by the respondent, FAAN, the appellant, with the approval by FAAN, erected a warehouse and a concrete building of eight offices, which were used by FESCUM for assembling and processing of cargo for transportation.
Between 1983 and 2003, the appellant enjoyed the tenancy until May 10, 2003 when its managing director found a notice to quit pasted on the gate of its building on the rented space.
The notice to quit dated May 9, 2003 ordered the appellant to quit and deliver possession of the rented space on or before May 12, 2003. In the early hours of May 12, 2003, FAAN caused a caterpillar bulldozer to pull down the tenant’s warehouse and building.
Aggrieved by the respondent’s action, the appellant instituted an action against the respondent at the Federal High Court, Lagos claiming damages for the destruction caused by the respondent.
In reaction, the respondent’s raised a preliminary objection in which it contended that the action was statute-barred under the Public Officers Protection Act.
The trial court heard the parties and upheld the objection. Consequently, the trial court dismissed the suit.
Dissatisfied, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal against the ruling of the trial court.
In determining the appeal, the Court of Appeal considered the provisions of sections 20 and 22 of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria Act, Cap. F5, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Their lordships, Justices Joseph Ikyegh, Yargata Nimpar and Jamilu Tukur, said the appeal has merit and should be sustained.
In reviewing the case, Justice Ikyegh, who read the lead judgment said the cause of action in the suit arose by the destruction of the building of the plaintiff (FESCUM), while the present action was instituted, the action was, therefore, brought within the twelve months limitation period provided by section 20 of the FAAN Act.
Ikyegh added that the court, below, accordingly erred by dismissing the suit that it was statured-barred. “The appeal has substance on this issue. I allow it. The decision of the court below dismissing the suit on the ground that it is stature barred is hereby set aside.
“The substantive suit was not heard on the merits at the court below, so the issue of the nature of the tenancy between the parties and its legal implications cannot be looked into under section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act, 2004, as no evidence was taken at the court below to determine the said issue.
“For the preceding reason, I refrain from delving into the said issue of tenancy. The suit of is remitted to the Federal High Court, Lagos to be heard by another Judge other than Aliyu, J. Parties to bear their costs”, Ikyegh concluded.