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Dangote floors Honeywell in 10-year-old suit

By The Rainbow
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A Federal High Court sitting  in Lagos has dismissed a $48 million suit by Honeywell Group and its Chairman Dr Oba Otudeko against Alhaji Aliko Dangote.

Presiding Justice Okon Abang while delivering judgment in the 10-year-old suit,  dismissed Otudeko and Honeywell's claims, affirming that there was no illegality in the manner Dangote acquired the land through an agent.

“The plaintiff's claims lack merit. I so hold,” the judge held.

“It is my view that the second defendant lawfully granted the concession with the approval of the then head of state to the agent of Dangote,” he said.

Justice Abang also refused to grant any damages sought by  Otudeko, saying he  was not entitled to monetary compensation because there was no evidence he suffered any losses.

“As regards the monetary claims sought by the plaintiff, my lords, the plaintiff has not called evidence to justify the award of either special or general damages in this matter. I so hold,” Justice Abang held.

He awarded N50,000 cost against Otudeko in favour of NPA and BPE, and N50,000 to the other defendants.

“The suit of the plaintiff lacks merit and is hereby dismissed with a cost of N50,000 awarded in favour of first and second defendants, and again the cost of N50,000 awarded in favour of the third to fifth defendants payable by the plaintiff,” Justice Abang added.

Otudeko and his companies had, in their suit, claimed that NPA leased the land to them for five years for a bulk food handling facility at N2.168m per year, saying that it paid the sum, as well as N290, 000 for land survey.

Honeywell said it took possession of the land to the defendants' knowledge and conducted technical studies on the facility, spending millions of dollars in the process.

The plaintiff said despite being aware of its massive development plans on the land, the BPE suddenly suspended the pre-existing rights by concessioning NPA's Apapa Ports Complex, including the Fifth Apapa Wharf Extension to Greenview, owned by Dangote.

But Dangote contended that the agreement was neither turned into a deed nor was it registered.

The plaintiff claimed that NPA leased the land to it for five years for a bulk food handling facility at N2.168 million per year. It said it paid the sum, as well as N290, 000 for land survey.

Honeywell said it took possession of the land to the defendants' knowledge and conducted technical studies on the facility, spending millions of dollars in the process.

The plaintiff said despite being aware of its massive development plans on the land, the BPE suspended the pre-existing rights by concessioning NPA's Apapa Ports Complex, including the Fifth Apapa Wharf Extension, to Greenview, owned by Dangote.

Honeywell added that NPA and BPE later asked it to vacate the facility to ensure a smooth transfer to a new operator.

It alleged that Dangote and his company made NPA to break the initial agreements and legal relations.

The plaintiff alleged that Dangote, through his agents harrassed, threatened and ordered Honeywell officials to vacate the land.

Besides, the plaintiff argued that BPE lacked the power under the Port reforms to take over and alienate NPA's assets when the NPA Act had not been amended.

The plaintiff said by virtue of the defendants' action, the cost of putting up the contemplated structure had risen from $100 million to $148 million.

But Dangote said the suit was frivolous, vexatious and constituted an abuse of court process.

He added that the suit was aimed at truncating the approved policy of the concessionaire of seaports of the Federal Government and to deter the progress of work by Greenview Development on the land.

s untrue that Honeywell had ever been in occupation of the land known as the Fifth Apapa Wharf Extension.