Twist has emerged on the purported announcement of the revocation of the 2007 Lagos Trade Fair concession as the concessionaire, Aulic Nigeria Limited (ANL), has distanced itself from the news report, saying such a miscarriage of judicial process cannot stand.
In a telephone interview with Business Hilights on Tuesday, the chairman of company, Prof Nick Ezeh, who expressed shock on the news report, said “My reaction is that this is democracy; impunity and abuse of law is not allowed under any democratic government”
According to him, this is very important, “more especially when we have a senior advocate as the head of affairs at the National Council on Privatization (NCP) in the person of the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo”.
“Since 2007, we won the concession, they have not handed over. It has been protracted. We have it in court order; records that the NCP at various times has directed that they should go and hand over the place. But the management board led by the Ministry of Trade, Investment and Commerce has refused to do that with their management board.
Continuing, Prof Ezeh averred that “The matter is in court. We have had 192 meetings-post concession; 42 appearances at the National Assembly; 36 court cases and we have not lost one and the outstanding matter is that there is a court order directing federal government and its agencies to maintain statuesque and take no step.
“Court order directed that the NCP is not a party to the concession agreement and should not take any unilateral action against the concession and the matter is still in court.
“It is very very important to stress that the prevailing court order has not been revoked, it has not been withdrawn, it has not been vacated, and it is still subsisting.
He argued further that “What they did, that is, if they actually did it, because they have not written us, they didn’t hear us, they did not invite us, is simply a unilateral decision and we are reading it on the pages of newspaper. Such things do not stand the rule of law”.
“As am talking to you, they have also employed the services of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
ANL boss averred that “We do not owe federal government one naira. Their last submission is that they have not handed over and they could cut out some areas, refund us what money we paid for the entire trade-fair complex, but they have not done that”.
“If they do, then we will sit down and recompute the cost of the concession and it is either we pay them or they refund us.
He expressed worry, saying “All this have not been done and they went ahead unilaterally abusing the rule of law and process in announcing the revocation of the concession and that is the cause of the matter”.
In a Court Order granted by Justice AFA Ademola of an Abuja federal High Court, with reference number, FHC/ABJ/CS/382/13., the Court ruled that “Parties are hereby ordered to maintain statuesque pending the hearing and determination of application filed in this suit,” (see attached).
ANL had sued Lagos trade fair management broad, NCP, BPE, Ministry of Trade, Investment and Commerce, both minister and minister of state and AGF on May 30, 2013. The case is yet to be decided before the pronouncement of revocation of the concession by the NCP.
“As I speak to you, the Ohaneze Ndigbo has called me, the Igbo Speaking Community in Lagos has called me, the Igbo Youth Council has called me and they said they maintain that this is a bullet fired in the process of war against the Igbos.
“That is the way they are seeing it, but am seeing it from the international transaction. The transaction is ICC transaction and you cannot take unilateral decision when concession and agreement are involved,” Prof Nick Ezeh, the chairman of Aulic Nigeria Limited summed his position.
Business Hilights recalls that on Tuesday, the NCP, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, issued a terse statement published across Nigerian media, announcing the immediate revocation of the concession of the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex.
The NCP decisions were taken during the meeting held on August 22, 2017 and presided by the chairman and Vice president.
Whereas efforts to get the response of the NCP as at press time failed, there are growing fears within the business community at the Trade Fair that the purported cancelation of the concession may not be unconnected with strategic steps by the Lagos State government to take over the complex and manage it. This stemmed from the fact that the complex was one of the key federal infrastructures which the state had been angling to take over from the federal government. Others include Festac Town, National Stadium, twin federal secretariat complex on Obalende and others.
Already, the federal government recently put paid to its move to hand over federal infrastructures by handing over State House at Marina in Lagos which was received by the Secretary to the State government, Mr. Tunji Bello while President Buhari was away on medical vacation in London.
Visit by our correspondent at the complex on Tuesday showed that where staff of ANL were managing the complex without any form of molestation, traders were seen discussing the possible fallout of the emerging developments in the complex.