Centenary City Abuja

Court bars FCT Minister, FCDA from entering Centenary City

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

Justice Inyang Ekwo led the ruling that levied N100m damages on Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited for invading and defacing structures in the Centenary Economic City Free Zone and destroying its master plan.

The ruling delivered on February 6, 2024, was for a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/2130/2022, filed by the Centenary Economic City Free Zone and Centenary City Free Zone Company where Justice Ekwo declared the invasion of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone by the defendants. as illegal and unconstitutional. Apart from the FCT Minister and the Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited, other defendants in the suit are 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.

Centenary City Abuja

In the affidavit filed in support of the 2022 lawsuit, the Managing Director of the plaintiff, Dr. Ike Odenigwe, stated that without the permission of NEPZA, which had the regulatory power, the FCTA asked Arab Contractors to convert parts of the Free Zone land to their site. Dr. Odenigwe claimed that Arab Contractors defaced and destroyed the master plan of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone. The court judgment explained that the first and second defendants did not file any process in reaction to the plaintiffs’ original summons.

However, in their counter-affidavit, the 5th, 6th, and 7th defendants claimed that the plaintiffs were not the allottees of all the parcel of land detailed in the Centenary City master plan. They further argued that based on the Certificate of Occupancy issued by the then FCT minister, the allottee was Centenary City Plc and not Centenary Economic City Free Zone or Centenary City Free Zone Company.

However, in his judgment, Justice Ekwo, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs against the defendants. He declared: “An order of injunction is hereby made restraining the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, the Federal Capital Development Authority, and the Federal Capital Territory Administration, either by themselves, or through any of their agencies, or 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.”

Centenary City Abuja

The judgment ruled that the Centenary Economic City Free Zone “occupies the land measuring 1,264.78 hectares with beacons coordinates PB57-PB59), PB60-PB69), PB70-PB79), PB80- PB89), PB90-PB99), PB1000-PB104) located on Airport Road, Wawa District, Cadastral Zone E24, FCT, Abuja.”  Justice Ekwo 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.”

Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited was ordered to immediately leave the portion it was occupying in the zone. The judgement also ordered Arab contractors to pay N100m to the plaintiffs for destroying the master plan of the Centenary Economic City Free Zone. 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 $35m.” Lastly, the judge awarded N50m general damages and another N5m as the cost of filing the suit against Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited.