2nd October, 2013
The recent announcement by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, that work had begun on a disputed land at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos is, to say the least, a setback to the rule of law and the sanctity of government contracts in Nigeria.
FAAN said China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC, had started building a new international terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport despite a court order that the status quo be maintained on the disputed land which was concessioned to AIC Limited in 1998.
Authorities added that preliminary works on the project, including soil tests and site mapping, were carried out as soon as the contractors mobilised to site on Monday.
This follows a signing of a memorandum of understanding between Nigeria and China for the construction of five ultra-modern international terminals at the country’s major international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Kano and Port Harcourt.
While we are in favour of building new airport terminals at Nigerian airports, we also believe that it should be done legally and properly. The land in question was concessioned to AIC Limited on 17 February 1998 for the construction of a five-star hotel and a modern shopping centre. Harry Akande, businessman and politician had claimed that he had to secure a billion dollar financing promise from local and foreign investors to win the AIC bid in 1998. AIC also claimed that it had spent 14 million dollars just for the design of the hotel and shopping mall and others to win the bid in 1998.
Development of the site began in 2000 but was frustrated by FAAN. AIC approached the arbitration court and was awarded $48 million damages against FAAN for the disruption of the project in 2010 by the late Justice Kayode Eso.
But FAAN refused to obey the ruling, claiming that it had the right to appeal at the Federal High Court. It did and prevented AIC from carrying out any work while the matter was in court.
The legal fireworks lasted for three years and on 19 June 2013, Justice Ibrahim Buba set aside the award of the arbitration court. AIC moved to the Appeal Court to challenge the ruling and also filed an injunction against FAAN taking any illegal action while the matter is still in court. The Appeal Court is yet to decide. But on Monday CCECC moved to site and began work.
We do not believe that it is the right thing to do. If FAAN felt it was not legal and right for AIC to continue work while the matter was in court, we also believe that FAAN should respect the rule of law and stop work on the land in dispute.
FAAN claimed it went to court because the contract was not favourable for Nigeria and Nigerian people, but we believe that contracts are awarded after proper and diligent investigation is carried out.
It is wrong to award a contract and then cancel it and award it to another contractor.
The rule of law should be respected in the aviation industry. It is the right way to go. We call on FAAN to exhaust all legal avenues before taking any further action.