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Big boys fight: Court fixes February 6 to hear suit against Aliko Dangote by Oba Otudeko

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Big boys fight: Court fixes February 6 to hear suit against Aliko Dangote by Oba Otudeko

by Segun Odeleye

The suit which was filed by the chairman of Honeywell Group, Oba Otudeko, against the chairman of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, has been fixed for hearing on February 6 by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Lagos.

Dangote was sued alongside the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), over a land dispute.

According to reports:

Justice Okon Abang adjourned the case at the instance of the counsel to Mr. Dangote, Fola Sowemimo, to enable her file a written statement on oath.

Mr. Otudeko, Chairman of Honeywell Group, had filed the suit in 2006 at Justice Ramat Mohammed’s court.

He is claiming $48 million (N8 billion) against the defendants as damages for breach of contract over a 10.8 square metres of land within the Lagos Ports Complex, known as the 5th Apapa Wharf Extension.

In the suit, the NPA, Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, Dangote Industries Ltd, Dangote and Greenview Development Nig. Ltd, are listed as first, second, third, fourth and fifth defendants respectively.

The suit was subsequently transferred to Justice Abang after the retirement of Justice Mohammed.

When the case came up on Tuesday, counsel to the plaintiff, Joseph Nwobike, told the court that the case was slated for trial.

According to Mr. Nwobike, he is faced with the challenge of retrieving the exhibits tendered before the former judge.

The counsel, therefore, asked for an adjournment to enable him to retrieve the exhibits.

Meanwhile, counsel to the third, fourth and fifth defendants, Mr. Sowemimo, argued that the case was not yet ripe for hearing since the defence had yet to file its written statement on oath.

She urged the court to grant an adjournment in favour of the defence, adding that “since the defence was unprepared it would serve the interest of justice to give them time to regularise.’’

Justice Abang had in a bench ruling adjourned the case to February 6 and ordered the defence to file its written statement before the next date of adjournment.

In his statement of claim, Mr. Otudeko averred that by an agreement, NPA leased the land to him for five years for N2.2 million yearly. He said the land was to be used for the setting up a bulk food handling facility, adding that in keeping with the agreement, it paid the amount and additional N290, 000 for survey.

The plaintiff said the BPE suddenly suspended his pre-existing rights, and granted the concession to Greenview Development Ltd belonging to Mr. Dangote.

He said that NPA and BPE later asked him to vacate the facility to ensure its smooth transfer to the new operator.

Mr. Otudeko averred that Mr. Dangote, through his agents, harassed, threatened and ordered his employees to vacate the land. He said by the forceful eviction, he lost the profit he would have made and was “greatly injured in his business.’’

Mr. Otudeko urged the court to declare Honeywell Group as the exclusive legal occupier of the land and to restrain the defendants from treating it as a stranger or trespasser on the land.

He also wants $48 million as damages for additional expenses required to build the bulk food handling facility.

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