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Kogi Govt: Dangote’s suit incompetent, mere forum shopping

The Kogi State Government on Tuesday said the suits filed by Dangote Group before a Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja are incompetent and amount to forum shopping.

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The state government made this known before Justice Binta Nyako in two separate preliminary objections filed by its counsel, Mr. Abdulwahab Muhammed (SAN), challenging the companies’ originating summons.

In the applications marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1876/2022 and FHC/ABJ/CS/1877/2022 dated Nov. 8 and filed Nov. 18, the state government sought the order of the court, striking out the suits “for want of jurisdiction and/or compsience.”

Justice Nyako had, on October 26, made an interim order restraining the Kogi government from shutting down Dangote Cement Plc at Obajana in the state, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suits.

The court also stopped the state government from disrupting or suspending the activities of Dangote Coal Mines Ltd and Dangote Industries Ltd in Okaba, Ankpa Local Government Area and in Olamaboro Local Government Area respectively.

The judge had given the interim order following two separate ex-parte motions moved by counsel for the companies, Regina Okotie-Eboh, but filed by Rickey Tarfa (SAN).

But in the preliminary objections, the Kogi government challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suits which it described as “incompetent.”

In a 14-ground argument brought before the court by counsel to the state government, Muhammed, the state said that the plaintiffs had instituted similar suit at a Lokoja division of the FHC.

Muhammed said that the plaintiffs, in a suit number: FHC/LKJ/CS/49/2022, had sued the Kogi House of Assembly seeking the determination of the exact question in the current suit.

The senior lawyer told Justice Nyako that they, however, quickly withdrew the suit when the Lokoja court refused to grant their ex-parte application for interim injunction.

“The plaintiffs have now filed the suit before this honourable court with the intention of obtaining a favourable outcome in the suit.

“The filling of the instant suit before this honourable court is forum shopping, that ought to be discouraged and condemned,” Muhammed argued

He said premised on the above, the plaintiffs’ suits are incompetent and cannot be entertained by the curt.

The lawyer said the plaintiffs, by the amended originating summons, challenged the power of the state assembly to investigate the loss of revenue internally generated in the state.

He said they also challenged its authority to issue a resolution to suspend, disrupt or in any manner stop or shut down the mining operations of the plaintiffs or any of their subsidiary companies.

He said that the shares which the state legislature is investigating belonged to the people of Kogi.

Muhammed, who said that the state assembly and the office of the attorney general were not Federal Government’s agencies, stated that the power of the state’s lawmakers “is not within the province of Section 251(p) (gq) and (r) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”

Nyako, who said though the case was not a pre-election matter, assured that it would be given accelerated hearing.

She directed parties to regularise their processes before the next date, including the 3rd defendant’s lawyer, Abdulhamid Ibrahim, who pleaded for more time to file his application

The judge, who adjourned the matter until January 23 for hearing, said all applications, including the state’s preliminary objection, would be taken.

She said if the objection succeeded, the matter would be dismissed.

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