Law News
Lagos-Ibadan Expressway: FG considers out-of-court settlement

There are strong indications that the Federal Government may set up a dispute resolution board on the crisis currently stalling the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway reconstruction project.

It was gathered on Monday that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunnde Fashola, had been holding meeting with stakeholders involved in the project, including Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited.

It was learnt that one of the options being explored was setting up of a dispute resolution board involving all sides.

The Infrastructure Bank, in a public notice on Monday, said it had approached the Court of Appeal to seek the nullification of a recent court ruling that set aside a concession agreement that the Federal Government granted Motorway Assets Limited to finance the reconstruction of the road and later manage it.

A Federal High Court in Lagos, which granted the order of mandatory injunction sought by Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited on December 11, 2015, held that the concession agreement purportedly signed between the Federal Government and MAL on January 16, 2015 was a flagrant disregard of the established principles of law.

Bi-Courtney Highway Services, owned by Dr. Wale Babalakin, had sued the government challenging the termination of its earlier agreement with the latter to rebuild and manage the road. It named the Attorney-General of the Federation and The Infrastructure Bank among the defendants.

Although the Federal Government has not formally responded to a letter written by Bi-Courtney on January 25, 2013 seeking a resolution of the dispute arising from the termination of its contract on the road, findings on Monday showed that it had commenced talks with the company.

A top source in the ministry, who confided in The PUNCH, said that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was looking into all the contentious issues as far as the road was concerned.

He said those who had taken the issue to court might be persuaded to withdraw it so as to pave the way for the setting up of a dispute resolution board.

“The new government is aware of Bi-Courtney’s letter and it is looking into it and other issues concerning the road so that we can move forward. We may set up a board or panel to resolve the issue out of court,” he said.

The source also said that Fashola met with Bi-Courtney recently on the matter, adding that the minister was handling the issue.

When contacted, the Director of Information in the ministry, Mr. ‘Bisi Agbonhin, told one of our correspondents that Bi-Courtney had taken its case to court.

“The case is in court and it will not be nice to start responding to issues that are before a court of law. I think is better to allow the court to handle issues that are before it,” he said.

Fashola had confirmed that the litigation as well as the termination of the agreement with Bi-Courtney by the government was responsible for the suspension of the reconstruction work on the highway.

In a statement from the ministry on Monday, the minister called for attitudinal change by the government and the people concerning their reactions to national issues as this would affect investors’ perception of Nigeria.

The minister, who spoke in Abuja at a retreat for the pension industry, used the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as a case study, explaining that the Federal Government had granted concession agreement on the road to a private company and later cancelled the contract.

He said the government again entered into a construction and financing agreement with another company, adding that the first firm went to court and got an order to cancel the financing agreement made with the second company.

“As a result of this, work has stopped on the road, thereby leading to the laying off of about 2,000 construction workers, carnage on the road and loss of commuter travel time,” Fashola said.

The Infrastructure Bank said in its publication, “Appeals have been lodged in the Court of Appeal by the defendants in the matter, including the Attorney-General of the Federation and The Infrastructure Bank Plc in respect of the ruling, which at an interlocutory stage, set aside an agreement, which is the basis upon which the current funding of the rehabilitation, reconstruction and expansion of the Lagos-Ibadan road is being implemented.”

Although the bank admitted that the court action instituted by Bi-Courtney had stalled the project in the last eight months, it expressed optimism about completing the work within the stipulated four-year period.

“Commitments have been secured to accelerate the pace of work and ensure the completion of the project within the contracted four-year period,” it stated.

The bank said the project, which was progressing steadily before the litigation, had attained 30 per cent completion within two years of its commencement.

The TIB attributed the progress to its commitment to mobilising over N50bn for the project and the support of other stakeholders.

Click here to read from source.