Firm, Lagos State Govt Lock Horns As Litigation Threatens 19-Year-Old Coastal City Project

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A real estate development firm, Sea Global Energy Company Limited, promoters of the Ocean City Lagos Project, has accused the Lagos State Government as well as South Energyx, promoters of the Eko Atlantic City project of encroaching on the geographic confines of land allocated by the Federal Government for the development of its Ocean City Lagos Project.

 

According to Adewunmi Osagie, Managing Director of Sea Global Energy Company Limited, the President of Federal Government of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in May 26, 2003 allocated to her company and gave the company the right to reclaim up to 350 hectares of land from the Atlantic Ocean through an extension of Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos by 7km, from the junction of Adetokunbo Ademola Street towards Epe.

 

This followed an application which was made through Mr. Madaki Alli, Minister at the Federal  Ministry of Works & Housing to the Federal Government for an allocation. We did not even know the President or Minister, she stated. It was just an act of divine grace.

 

The allocation, given to the company was for the development of The Palladium Project (now known as the Ocean City Lagos Project), a coastal city that would be characterised by cutting edge infrastructure and technology, such as found in model coastal cities like Dubai and certain parts of Europe.

 

Following the approval, the government of Lagos State was notified, and a series of meetings were held with the then governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his Commissioner for Works, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the DG Waterfront, Aremu Segun Oniru and a host of other civil servants in the state.

 

However, in 2004 and then again in 2005 by way of a reminder to the President, the Lagos State Government also sought the approval of the Federal Government on behalf of Energyx Ltd. (now known as South Energyx Ltd.) for the allocation of Bar Beach landholding.

 

A copy of one of the letters written by then Governor Tinubu to President Obasanjo, which was made available to our correspondent, urged the Commander-in-Chief to sign off on the allocation due to the economic benefits that would accrue to the State as a result of the investment.

 

The letter, titled “Permanent Solution to the Bar Beach,” said the investor (Energyx Ltd) had shown commitment to finance the project which would convert the monumental liability and danger into a tourist resort that would bring significant tourist revenue, create employment and direct economic growth to the country, President Obasanjo gave the approval on two conditions of April 25, 2005: 

 

1.. That the Federal Ministry of Works would supervise the Project; and 2. That any prior FGN interest in the area must be respected.

 

According to her, at least three letters had been written to the office of the Federal Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, for due inquiry to be launched into the matter for the purpose of resolving it equitably and decorously. The letters, however, were not replied to. Neither did the office of the Honourable Minister make any perceivable attempt to rectify the trespass which was duly communicated in the letters.

 

She said, “We wrote several letters to the office of the Minister of Works, but there was no reply. The allocation was done by the Federal Government in 2003. The land belongs to the Federal Government, that is why the Governor of Lagos had to seek approval from the Federal Government for a similar allocation to be made for South Energyx. If the State Government had the right to allocate the land, why didn’t the Governor use his power to make the allocation to Energyx Ltd. in 2005 without approval from the President of Nigeria?”

 

Osagie also stated that after several attempts to get the attention of critical stakeholders to resolve the conflict, Sea Global Energy lodged an action at the State High Court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square before Justice Grace Modupe Onyeabor.

 

She also sought the intervention of the Vice President especially because after Civil Servants had done their work and adjudged that there is an encroachment in December 2018, followed by several Memos to the Mr. Babatunde Fashola who had directed that a Stakeholders’ Meeting be held since February 2019 for the purpose of resolving this impasse, Mr. Fashola has refused to sign off even on his own directives. A Memo written to him on July 8, 2021 remains untreated in the company’s file which was traced to his office and has not left his office since July 8, 2021. Justice delayed is Justice denied.

 

In an interview with our correspondent, CEO of Sea Global Energy Company Ltd, Osagie said South Energyx, in the course of delivering its Eko Atlantic City project, with the backing of the State government had encroached upon 44.348 hectares of land initially allocated by the Federal Government in 2003.

 

With the intervention of the Permanent Secretary, Director of Lands, Director Legal Services, Director of the Cadastral and several other Deputy Directors in the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, a site visit was carried out and a determination was made that South Energyx had indeed trespassed beyond the allocation given to it by the Federal Government for its Eko Atlantic City project. A letter addressed to Sea Global Energy from the Ministry read in part “I am directed to refer to your letter of July 2, 2018 on the above subject matter and inform you that there will be need to carry out a fresh survey of the site to ascertain the extent of overlap by the activities of the Eko Atlantic City.”

 

 

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Following this Survey, a new Survey Map, a copy of which was made available to our reporter, showing the encroached area, was issued by the Director of the Cadastral on behalf of the Surveyor General of the Federation to Sea Global Energy. This Survey Map was distinctly different from the earlier Survey Map issued to Sea Global in May 2003, prior to the encroachment by LASG/South Energyx..

 

Osagie also stated that the Office of the Surveyor General in delineating the geographical locations of the two allocations, advised on March 10, 2020 that both allocations were in different locations. While the allocation to Sea Global in May 2003 placed the Ocean City Project in the Kuramo Beach area with different co-ordinates; the allocation two years later to Lagos State in April 2005 placed them and their friends in Bar Beach as requested by Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu with different coordinates. Copies of the relevant documents were made available to our reporters.

 

Although there is a pending suit filed by Sea Global in Lagos State High Court, strangely in  a counter-move to skirt legal procedure, Lagos State Government on December 21st, 2021,  lodged a fresh suit at the State High Court before Justice Ogunjobi, seeking legal backing for the encroachment on the ground that the land was duly allocated to the South Energyx by the Lagos State Government, who instructively got their allocation from the Federal Government and are not in any legal position to allocate Federal Government land by virtue of several laws including the Land Use Act 1979, Supreme Court Judgement 2003, Glover Settlement Treaty 1908, Lands (Title Vesting, etc) Act 1975 and the Nigeria Gazette (published in Lagos) on, May 18. 1944, No. 24, Vol 31.

 

The State Government, which also named South Energyx as co-applicants in the suit, sought to maintain the ‘legality’ of their allocation to South Energyx despite clear legal foundation stating the opposite as explicitly contained in the Nemo Dat Rule – “Nemo dat quod non habet, literally meaning “no one can give what they do not have”.

 

“They wanted to get a ruling behind our backs. They cooked up a suit against us but did not serve us properly. No principal officer of my company was served. My address is not a secret, but they chose to go to our former place of business, without finding out if that was still our base of operations, claiming to have ‘dropped’  the notice with an unknown person, just so they could go back and get a ruling behind our backs. My lawyers found out and we stopped it,” Osagie said.

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