By Peter Okolie
A concessionaire, Topwide Consortium, has urged the Federal Government to discontinue the handover of National Theatre to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) pending the determination of the matter in court.
Topwide Consortium Project Director, Mr Chris Ogan, made the call in a statement made available to newsmen on Saturday, in Awka.
It could be recalled that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had on Feb. 10, approved an agreement that will lead to the renovation of the National Theater, Iganmu, Lagos for N21 billion.
Subsequently, on Feb. 15, the Bankers’ Committee, led by Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federal Government.
The Federal Government said the renovation will create thousands of jobs among other benefits.
But, Ogan said the suit it initiated over disturbance of its rights as concessionaire of the National Theatre had not been concluded, and that his firm had mobilised direct local and foreign investments in excess of $2 billion under the concession agreement.
“We are using this opportunity to reiterate our answer that the suit is very much pending and for which we have retained two commercial law Senior Advocates of Nigeria,” he said.
He said a motion for interlocutory injunction to restrain any interference with the subject of the suit filed by their lawyers was also pending before the courts.
He said the suit was filed in December 2019, with CBN, the Minister for Information, Tourism and Culture and Access Bank Plc. as some of the defendants.
“Other defendants are Herbert Wigwe representing the Bankers Committee, the Board of the National Theatre, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and Attorney-General of the Federation.
“The case was to come up on Dec. 15, 2020, but the Federal High Court, Lagos, which is hearing the case did not sit and it later adjourned the case to March 18, 2021,” he said.
Ogan said his firm was contracted to develop the fallow lands, an eco-friendly grand mini-city housing, two five star hotels, theme park, arts arcades, office complexes and shopping malls.
“We were also contracted to develop a high rise car park and provide appropriate connections to the Lagos light rail Metro Blue Line station planned for the National Theatre Complex.
“The agreement is that upon completion of the rehabilitation, the upgraded National Theatre would be handed over to the Federal Government for the continued management by the Board of the Complex,” he said.
According to him, the Attorney-General of the Federation signed-off finally on the concession agreement on May 3, 2017 and Road Shows were organised in Lagos, Abuja, Johannesburg, Dubai, London and New York to woo investors.
However, he said, the news of a planned takeover of the National Complex and adjoining fallow lands by the CBN and the Bankers Committee came as a surprise.
“Our lawyers, on our instructions, wrote letters-dated Oct. 24, 2019, to all the concerned Federal Government agencies/agents to desist from tampering with our concession contract.
“None of the officers/agencies ever replied the letters and shunned our entreaties for meetings to clear whatever misunderstanding that informed their actions,” he said.
Ogan, therefore, called for strict compliance with due process and rule of law, over the handling of the matter.
He said forging ahead with the handover would not only result in contempt of the courts, but also an embarrassment of Nigeria, before international investors.