Firm battles Lagos over Osborne foreshore property
After years of clearing legal bottlenecks in the suit filed by Spectran Nigeria Limited against the Lagos State government over a plot of land within Osborne Phase 11 Scheme, a Lagos High Court, Igbosere has fixed September 19, 2016 for commencement of trial.
The suit, which commenced through an originating summons in 2010 has gone through several judges including the immediate past Lagos Chief Judge, Justice Ayotunde Phillips and Justice Samuel Candide- Johnson.
At the last adjourned date, the trial judge, Justice Wasiu Animahun ordered that the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development be joined as the 6th defendant in the suit, thereby clearing the way for commencement of trial.
In the suit, the firm is claiming the sum of N750 million as general damages against the defendants for trespass on its land.
It is also seeking a declaration that by virtue of the letter of allocation issued to it by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, the landed property known as Plot 9B, Block 11, Osborne Road, Phase 11, Ikoyi, Lagos, measuring 8836.863 square metres belongs to it.
The claimant also want a declaration that by virtue of the letter of allocation issued on February 11, 1997, which granted it a 99 years lease, the firm is entitled to the Certificate of Occupancy in respect of the landed property.
Named as defendants in the suit are the Lagos State Attorney General, the State Commissioner for Water Front and Infrastructure, his Environment and Urban and Physical Planning counterparts, Hitech Construction Company Nigeria Limited and lately the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, joined by the order of court dated June 14, 2016.
According to the matter, the claimant, a limited liability company located in Magodo area of Lagos, which engages in the business of dredging sand and construction of dredger port has through an allocation letter issued by the Federal Ministry of Works And Housing with Reference No E1C0/11/S.308/Vol.1 of February 11 1997 secured a 99 years lease for the use of the land.
In the letter signed by Ike Odoe, Secretary, Land Use and Allocation Committee on behalf of the Minister of Works and Housing, the lease will be subject to terms and conditions stated in the attached schedule, which include the payment of N450,000,000 premium fees and yearly rent of N5, 000, a N40, 000 survey fee, capital development charges of N5, 000,000 and N5, 000 as administrative charges.
The plaintiff has sought to build a world class Dredger Port Facility, where modern dredging boats and vessels could be anchored as well as an aesthetically landscaped relaxation spot for the enjoyment of people of the neighbourhood.
It further averred that it has carried out the site layouts and fence design of the land allocated to it in preparation for the commencement of its dredger port and other construction activities thereon.
The land, the claimant stated has been a service plot because it is located under a high tension electric wire, therefore decided to use the land for sand batching, aggregate deposits and for construction of dredger port complex.
The claimant, through it counsel, Yemi Adeshina averred further that on July 1997, it took over the land from the local Canoe, Land Speculator and sand digger but met some resistance from these trespassers and they were eventually evicted from the land through the ministry of works and housing its predecessor in title.
According to the claimant, series of meetings were held at the instance of the Federal Ministry of Works with the executives of Dolphin Estate 1 and 11, when they sighted the movement of their heavy equipment to the land.
But the defendants in their statement of defence filed by Mrs. S.Y Kolawole urged the court to dismiss the claims with substantial costs against the claimant for being misconceived, vexatious, and speculative and abuse of the fast track process of the court.
They argued that the claimant has slept on its right to redress based on the doctrine of Laches and Acquicense, as the act complained of in the suit occurred on June 2, 2008 as alleged by the claimant but the suit was not instituted until June 14, 2010, two years later.
According to the defendants by virtue of the public officers protection law, Cap P26, laws of Lagos State 2004, the claimant has a period of three months after any purported violation of its rights to seek redress against any of the agencies of the Lagos State government, and not after a period of two years.
They, therefore urged the court to strike out the on the ground that the land which is the subject matter is vested in the executive governor of Lagos state by virtue of section 1 of the Land Use Act 1978 and the decision of the Federal; High Court in the case of Elegushi & Ors.v. Attorney General of the Federation & Ors.
They contended that the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing have no legal title to the disputed land in question and can therefore not validly transfer any such title to the claimant by virtue of a letter of allocation.
The disputed land in question, which belongs to Lagos state government, the defendants stated, is required for the construction of a jetty and terminal building at Osborne Foreshore Phase 11 for general use of members of the public in order to ease the sate’s perennial transportation problems.