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Court prohibits Wike from Centenary City, fines Arab Contractors N100m

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The Federal High Court in Abuja has prohibited the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, and Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited from entering the Centenary Economic City Free Zone on Airport Road in Abuja without the written consent and approval of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority.

Justice Inyang Ekwo blasted Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited with N100 million in damages for invading and defacing structures in the Centenary Economic City Free Zone and ruining its $35 million master plan.

The directives were issued by the judge in a judgement dated February 6, 2024, in the case FHC/ABJ/CS/2130/2022, which was submitted by the Centenary Economic City Free Zone and Centenary City Free Zone Company.

Aside from Wike and Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited, other defendants in the suit include the Federal Capital Development Authority, the President, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, and the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment.

In a copy of the February 6 judgement obtained by our correspondent on Monday, Justice Ekwo deemed the Wike’s invasion of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone illegal and unconstitutional.

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In an affidavit filed in support of the 2022 case, the plaintiff’s managing director, Ikechukwu Odenigwe, alleged that the FCTA urged Arab contractors to convert portions of the Free Zone territory to their site without the consent of NEPZA, which had regulatory authority.

Odenigwe accused Arab contractors of defacing and destroying the Centenary Economic City Free Zone’s strategic plan.

According to the court judgement, the first and second defendants did not respond to the plaintiffs’ originating summons by filing any procedure.

However, in their counter-affidavit, the 5th, 6th, and 7th defendants claimed that the plaintiffs were not allottees of the entire piece of land.

They further claimed that, according to the Certificate of Occupancy issued by the then-FCT minister, the allottee was Centenary City Plc, not any of the plaintiffs.

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However, Justice Ekwo decided in favour of the plaintiffs and against Wike and other defendants.

The judge declared: “An order of injunction is hereby made restraining the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, the Federal Capital Development Authority, and the Federal Capital Territory Administration, either by themselves, or through any of their agencies, secretariats, or howsoever called, from exercising any executive or regulatory control on the Centenary Economic City Free Zone, and from interfering in any form whatsoever in the administration, regulation, management, and control of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone.”

According to the judgement, the Centenary Economic City Free Zone “occupies the land measuring 1,264.78 hectares with beacon coordinates PB57-PB59), PB60-PB69), PB70-PB79), PB80-PB89), PB90-PB99), PB1000-PB104) located on Airport Road, Wawa District, Cadastral Zone E24, FCT, Abuja.”

He also made “an order of injunction restraining the 5th, 6th, and 7th defendants from intruding in any form whatsoever or entering the Centenary Economic City Free Zone without the prior written consent and approval of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority in accordance with Section 13 of the Nigeria Export Processing.”

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The judge ordered Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited to vacate the area it was occupying in the zone.

Ekwo also ordered Arab contractors to pay the plaintiffs N100 million for destroying the Centenary Economic City Free Zone’s master plan.

He said, “An order is hereby made directing Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited to pay to the plaintiffs the sum of N100,000,000.00  only for the forceful invasion and destruction of the plaintiffs’ master plan of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone, designed by Eagle Hills Properties LLC, of the United Arab Emirates, at a cost of $35 million.”

Furthermore, the judge awarded N50 million in general damages and an additional N5 million for the expense of initiating the lawsuit against Wike and Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited.

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