Oba Otudeko fights Aliko Dangote over land

A Federal High Court in Lagos Tuesday fixed February 6 to hear a suit filed by Oba Otudeko against Alhaji Aliko Dangote and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) over a land dispute.

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

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

He is claiming $48 million 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 Fifth Apapa Wharf Extension.

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

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

When the case came up yesterday, counsel to the plaintiff, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN), told the court that the case was slated for trial.

According to him, 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 retrieve the exhibits.
Meanwhile, counsel to the third, fourth and fifth defendants, Sowemimo had argued that the case was not yet ripe for hearing since the defence was 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.’’

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

In his statement of claim, 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 of a bulk food handling facility, stressing that in keeping with the agreement, it paid the amount and an additional N290,000 for survey.

According to the plaintiff, the BPE suddenly suspended his pre-existing rights, and granted the concession to Greenview Development Limited belonging to Dangote.
He said NPA and BPE later asked him to vacate the facility to ensure its smooth transfer to the new operator.

Otudeko averred that 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.’’

Otudeko urged the court to declare Honeywell Group as the exclusive legal occupier of the land and restrain the defendants from treating it as a stranger or trespasser on the land. He also wants the sum of $48 million as damages for additional expenses required to build the bulk food handling facility.