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Court orders substituted service on CBN, others over N1.26tr National Theatre suit

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A federal High Court, Lagos, has granted leave to the plaintiff in the N1.26 trillion lawsuit on the controversial National Theatre edifice to serve the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and some other defendants by substituted means.

Justice Ayokunle Faji ordered the plaintiff, Topwideapeas Limited, to serve the writ of summons and statement of claim via DHL courier service and also by publication in a national newspaper.

The court also ordered that hearing notice for an interlocutory injunction to restrain the defendants from interfering with the plaintiff’s rights as concessionaire of the fallow land adjoining the National Theatre should be served on the defendants, while the substantive motion was set down for hearing on March 10, 2020.

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Among the defendants to be served by substituted means are Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Minister, Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture & National Orientation, Attorney-General of the Federation and Central Bank of Nigeria as second to fifth defendants.

Justice Faji gave the ruling after hearing Mr. Chijioke Okoli (SAN) argue a motion ex-parte for substituted service on the defendants.
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Other defendants in the suit are National Theatre & The National Troupe of Nigeria Board, Access Bank of Nigeria Plc and its Managing Director, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, as first, sixth and seventh defendants respectively.

The plaintiff is seeking among others a declaration that the plaintiff has a valid and binding contract for the concession of the fallow land surrounding the National Theatre Complex in terms of the updated draft concession agreement between the Federal Republic of Nigeria (represented by the first and third defendants) and the plaintiff, the approval of the Federal Executive Council being a mere formality in the circumstances.

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Topwideapeas also seeks a declaration that it is unlawful for the fifth to seventh defendants to purport to truncate and nullify the plaintiff’s right as the concessionaire of the fallow land in and about the National Theatre Complex Iganmu, Lagos, by inducing the breach of the plaintiff’s contract with the first to third defendants or by any other means.

The plaintiff prays the court to declare that it is contrary to public policy and constitutes a misappropriation of scarce public funds for the fifth defendant (CBN) to divert public funds towards any project concerning the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos, when the plaintiff and its partners and privies have mobilised local and foreign private investment into developing the complex and surrounding land into a grand mini-city on a scale entirely beyond the legitimate capacity of the fifth defendant.

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The plaintiff is also seeking “an order of perpetual injunction stopping the defendants and their agents/privies from interfering or/and doing anything whatsoever inconsistent with the plaintiff’s right as the concessionaire of the fallow land in and about the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos.”

It further prays for “an order directing the first to fourth defendants to take the necessary steps to ensure the prompt handover of the fallow land in and about the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos, to the plaintiff and its partners and agents for commencement of construction of the projects planned under the concession agreement.”

Aside from praying the court to award N1 billion damages against the sixth and seventh defendants, Topwideapeas is seeking an award of N50 million as cost.

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