By Ise-Oluwa Ige
AN Abuja High Court sitting in Maitama, yesterday, ordered the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, to pay N150m to Bulet International Limited, as damages, for illegally demolishing its headquartersÂ in Maitama, two years ago.
The trial high court judge, Justice Lawal Gumi, entered the verdict yesterday in favour of Bulet International, after he declared that FCDA arbitrarily demolished the structures of theÂ firm in Abuja.
Justice Gumi lashed out at the conduct of the Malam Nasir el-Rufai-led FCDA in treating with contempt his order, stopping it from demolishingÂ Bulet headquarters.
He said by the arbitrary damage done to the building and machinery company, it was entitled to special and aggravated damages.
Although Bulet International requested for total damages of N3.8bn, the court approved N150m with 10 per cent interest on the judgment sum per annum until the judgment debt is liquidated.
The court dismissed the entire counter-claim of FCDA over the demolition as unmeritorious.
FCDA had itself filed a counter-claim before the court, asking for special and aggravated damages from the firm.
Specifically, FCDA wanted N34.4m damages to defray the alleged cost of hiring caterpillars and the human resources that demolished the building.
It also requested for another N500m as general and nominal damages against Bulet on the ground that it never gave permission to it to build its headquarters on the land.
FCDA had urged the court to hold that Bulet was not its tenant but a mere trespasser for 16 years for which it had used the land.
The authority also demanded N1.3 billion and another N18.5 million damages from Bulet for illegally occupying the said land.
But, the court found that given the circumstances under which Bulet came on the land, it is a tenant to FCDA and could not be evicted without following due process of the law.
Justice Gumi, who dismissed as unmeritorious all the claims of FCDA, also awarded another N50,000 cost against it for defending the N3.8m civil lawsuit when it had no reasonable defence.
The Chairman of Bulet International, Alhaji Isa Funtua, who was present in court, said he was satisfied with the judgment.
He said: â€œdue process was followed and judgment was given in the end. And, justice has been done to the case.
â€œAnd, definitely, this is a warning to the people who are in power that they can no longer take ordinary people who are not in power for granted.â€
He said he could not decide now whether he would pursue areas of his claims which were not granted until he has discussed with his lawyer.
He also held that he bore no grudge against el-Rufai who ordered his headquarters demolished.
â€œWhatever Obasanjo and el-Rufai have done, I believe today that we have been vindicated.
â€œWhen I appeared before the Senate Committee on revocation of land, I said that I do not believe in people who are always condemning Nasir el-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu.
â€œThey did their best. They could be overzealous because of their young age and maybe being the first time they were occupying such exalted positions.
â€œThey had done something for this country. As human beings, they are bound to make mistakes.
â€œAnd everyday, they will learn. Nasiru has said it himself that if he finds himself in power again, some of the actions he had taken, he said he may not take it,â€ he added.
The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) under the leadership of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai had demolished the Headquarters of Bulet International Nigeria Limited in spite an interim order of an Abuja High Court restraining it from doing so.
Bulet International Nigeria Limited is a construction giant which headquarters is located on Plot 4, Sheu Shagari Way, Central Area, Abuja, beside the Federal Secretariat.
Following the demolition of its headquarters, Bulet International Nigeria Limited (BINL) sued both the Minister in charge of the Federal Capital Territory and the FCDA before the Abuja High Court claiming a total N3,862,734,840.00 as damages.
That was beside a separate quasi-criminal proceeding instituted by it to jail both the minister, el-Rufai and all the caterpillar operators who demolished the structure.