Court halts concession of Ajaokuta Steel, Itakpe Iron Ore mining companies

A Kogi State High Court sitting in Lokoja, the state capital, has ordered the Federal Government to desist from proceeding with the concession of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) and the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) at Itakpe.

The court also barred the government from conducting its planned virtual pre-qualification conference interview slated for May 4, 2023, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.

The Federal Government had commenced concession process for the two companies, which are located in Kogi State, and had placed an advertisement to that effect.

However, the Attorney General of Kogi State, on behalf of the government and people of the state, approached the court with a suit marked HCL/211M/2023 and sought for enrolment order of the court stopping the government from continuing with the concession process.

While the Attorney General of Kogi State is the Claimant/Applicant, the Attorney General of the Federation, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) and National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) are the Defendants/Respondents in the motion numbered 211M/2003 and brought pursuant to Order 11, Rules 7 of the Kogi State High Court (Civil Procedure Rules) 2006.

Leading seven other lawyers, M. Y. Abdullahi (SAN), Applicant’s Counsel, drew the attention of the court to the affidavit of urgency deposed to in the application while seeking the enrolment order.

The two orders prayed by the Kogi State Attorney General included: “An order for interim injunction restraining the Defendants/Respondents, their agents, representatives, officials and whosoever acting for them, or through them, or on their behalf, from proceeding with the concession of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) and the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) and or from doing anything whatsoever connected or incidental thereto, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.

“An order for interim injunction restraining the Defendants/Respondents from carrying out any of the itemised functions/activities as contained in their publication, ‘Request for the Qualification for the Concession of the National Iron Ore Mining Company Solicited PPP Process’ and ‘Request for Qualification for the Concession of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited Solicited PPP Process’ published on Friday, 21st April, 2023 in the Daily Trust Newspaper of Friday, 21st April, 2023” to wit: Submission of Request for Qualification (RFQ), Submission of Request for Proposal (RFP), virtual pre-application conference interview slated for May 4th, 2023; pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.”

Delivering his ruling, Hon. Justice Josiah Majebi, the Chief Judge of the state and presiding judge of the High Court 1, found substance in the motion and granted the two prayers of the applicant.

He said the affidavit of urgency deposed to by the claimant clearly established that he “has a prima facie case on a claim of right to the 5th and 6th defendants (ASCL and NIOMCO) and that except the court intervenes at this stage to prevent the defendants from proceeding with their plan on concession of the companies, their action will foist a state of helplessness and hopelessness.”

He said it would also lead to the “loss of his (Applicant’s) cause of action leading to his right and interest extinguished completely (and) that the defendants would have completed the process of the concession in less than 30 days which is before the period of 30 days allowed by the rule of court for the defendants to file their defence.”

Consequently, Majebi ruled: “In the circumstance, I hold that the grant of order of interim injunction is appropriate and necessary to preserve the rest in this case as a matter of urgency and to prevent a situation of irreparable damage to the applicant as one having interest in the 5th and 6th defendants pending the determination of the motion on notice.”

The orders given by Majebi on Thursday, April 27, 2023, against the six defendants read in full, “It is ordered as follows: The Defendants/Respondents, their agents, representatives, officials and whosoever acting for them, or through them, or on their behalf, are hereby restrained from proceeding with the concession of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) and the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) and or from doing anything whatsever connected or incidental thereto, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.

“The Defendants/Respondents are hereby restrained from carrying out any of the itemized functions/activities as contained in their publication, ‘Request for the Qualification for the Concession of the National Iron Ore Mining Company Solicited PPP Process’ and ‘Request for Qualification for the Concession of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited Solicited PPP Process’ published on Friday, 21st April, 2023 in the Daily Trust Newspaper of Friday, 21st April, 2023’ to wit: Submission of Request for Qualification (RFQ), Submission of Request for Proposal (RFP), virtual pre-application conference interview slated for May 4th, 2023; pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice. The Motion on Notice shall be heard on 4th day of May, 2023.”

(c) The Guardian

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