Rahamaniya United (Nig.) Ltd. v. Minister, FCT & Ors. [2021] 17 NWLR (Pt. 1806) 481

The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) is an agency of the Federal Government in charge of the infrastructural and physical development of Nigeria’s capital, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, under the Ministry of the FCT.

Just like in other agencies of Government, there have been several reports and allegations of corruption in relation to some of these agencies.

The Supreme Court now appears to declare that the alleged corrupt practices taking place at the FCDA has been judicially noticed.

But what triggered this declaration by the apex Court?

A company, Rahamaniya United (Nig.) Ltd., was allocated plots of land measuring about 8000 square meters at Wuye, Abuja sometime in January 1995.

About 5 years later, in year 2000, the Company noticed that some unknown persons had taken possession of the land and was preparing to commence development.

Enquiries made at the offices of the Honourable Minister of the FCT and the FCDA to ascertain the identities of the trespassers failed. Worse still, the Company could not also locate its file with the authorities.

It happened that it appears the Honourable Minister of the FCT and the FCDA had subsequently allocated the land to other persons without notice of revocation of the earlier allocation to the Company.

Aggrieved, the Company sued the Honourable Minister of the FCT, the FCDA and the unknown persons in 2004. The trial Court dismissed the suit on the ground that it was statute-barred under Section 2(a) of the Public Officers Protection Act which provides a time-limit (3 months) within which an action may be commenced against public officers.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the Company’s appeal.

The Company (as Appellant) further appealed to the Supreme Court. On 26 March 2021, the appeal was allowed. The apex Court held that Section 2(a) of the Public Officers Protection Act does not apply in cases for recovery of land or breach of contract, or claims for work and labour done.

The Supreme Court ordered that the file should be remitted to another Judge for expeditious hearing.

Here again lies the seemingly ridiculous outlook of our justice system. The Appellant will return to square one to assert and claim its rights after over 17 years!

In apparent recognition of the unpalatable situation, the Supreme Court did not hesitate to express the fact that the corruption by agents of the FCDA has been judicially recognised. At page 495 of the report, Abba Aji, JSC declared:

We are not unaware of the shoddy and shady dealings that agents of the 3rd Respondent [FCDA] carry out in the FCT to their self enrichment and aggrandizement.

Law enforcement agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) need to donate the same amount of energy being displayed in chasing internet fraudsters and in bursting hotel rooms to some of these agencies of Government.

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has advised a number of both established and startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.

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