PUC SECURES ANOTHER WIN FOR DANGOTE INDUSTRIES LIMITED & DANGOTE CEMENT PLC (“Dangote Group”) AT THE COURT OF APPEAL, BENIN DIVISION IN A TWIN DECISION DELIVERED ON 09 DECEMBER 2022 in the APPEAL NO. APPEAL NOS: CA/B/12/2022: BUA INTERNATIONAL LIMITED & ANOR v HONOURABLE MINISTER OF MINES AND STEEL DEVELOPMENT & ORS AND CA/B/13/2022: BUA INTERNATIONAL LIMITED & ANOR v DANGOTE INDUSTRIES LIMITED & ORS
Paul Usoro and Co (“PUC”) has consistently maintained its spot as the go-to firm for legal representations which it has shown in the issues that arose in the highly contested legal battle between BUA International Limited & Anor. and Dangote Industries Limited.
The legal tussle which started in 2016 following the Suit filed by the BUA Group to challenge the Dangote Group’s right over the Mining Lease No. 2541ML located at the border town between Okpella in Edo State and Okene in Kogi State and led the BUA Group to also seek to enforce their rights over the Mining Lease Nos. 18912 and 18913 which they claim were granted to them. The Dangote Group counter sued the BUA Group to challenge the latter’s acts of trespass, wrongful and illegal exploitation of the claim over the mining area covered by 2541ML which was historically granted on February 01, 2008 by the Mining Cadastre Office (“MCO”)and the Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development pursuant to the provisions of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007 (‘Mining Act) to Ado Ibrahim & Company Limited (“AICO”) and subsequently transferred to the Dangote Group in 2014. On 10 January 2022, the Federal High Court, Benin Judicial Division gave its Ruling on both Suits in favour of Dangote Industries Limited. Dissatisfied with the Ruling, BUA International Limited, Appealed to the Court of Appeal on both Rulings.
CA/B/12/2022: BUA INTERNATIONAL LIMITED & ANOR v HONOURABLE MINISTER OF MINES AND STEEL DEVELOPMENT & ORS
The Appeal was filed by the Appellants (“BUA Group”) challenging the Ruling of the Federal High Court, Benin Division Coram: Shuaibu J. delivered on 10 January 2022 in Suit No: FHC/B/CS/7/2016, striking out the Appellants’ Suit for being incompetent and for lack of jurisdiction after hearing the Preliminary Objections filed by the Respondents. In delivering its Judgment, the Court adopted the two issues raised by the Appellants in their Brief thus:
- “Was the learned Trial Judge right when it held that the Appellants lacked locus standi to commence and maintain the Suit on the ground that the Appellants’ mining leases No 18912 and 18913 had expired?
- Was the learned Trial Judge right when it struck out Suit No: FHC/B/CS/7/2016 on the ground that it was incompetent and statute barred without the consideration of the Statement of Claim of the Appellants at the Federal High Court?”
On issue one, the Court after extensively and painstakingly considering all submissions made by the Counsel and based on the 5th Amended Statement of Claim, held that the Learned Trial Judge of the Federal High Court, Benin Division was right when it held that the Appellants lacked the locus standi to commence and maintain Suit No: FHC/B/CS/7/2016 on the ground that their mining leases number 18912 and 18913 had expired. It therefore resolved issue one in favour of the Respondents.
On issue two, the Court after considering Section 141 of the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act 2007 and the Guidelines, held that the failure of the Appellants to fulfil the condition precedent to instituting and maintaining the action makes the action incompetent and therefore robs the Trial Court of the jurisdiction to adjudicate over this matter. Accordingly, the Trial Court was right to have declined jurisdiction to entertain the Suit. Consequently, the Court found that Appeal No: CA/B/12/2022, lacks merit and dismissed same and accordingly affirmed the Decision of the Trial Court.
CA/B/13/2022: BUA INTERNATIONAL LIMITED & ANOR v DANGOTE INDUSTRIES LIMITED & ORS
The Appeal was filed by the Appellants (“BUA Group”) challenging the Ruling of the Federal High Court, Benin Division Coram: Shuaibu J. delivered on 10 January 2022 in Suit No: FHC/B/CS/74/2016 dismissing the two Preliminary Objections filed by the Appellants. Dissatisfied with that Ruling, the Appellants commenced the instant Appeal. In delivering its Judgment, the Court adopted the three issues raised by the Appellants in their Brief thus:
- Whether the trial Court rightly held that the Federal High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the 1st and 2nd Respondents’ claims on trespass to land.
- Was the Trial Court right when it held that the 1st and 2nd Respondents’ mining lease no 2541ML was validly issued by the Mining Cadastre Office?
- Whether the trial Court was right when it held that the 1st and 2nd Respondents’ Suit does not constitutes an abuse of Court process in view of the pendency of Suit No: FHC/LKJ/CS/39/2013?”
On issue one, the Court held that from the Statement of Claim contained in the Record of Appeal, the principal claim is anchored on mining lease 2541ML and the principle of law is settled that the Federal High Court has jurisdiction over mining rights in mines and minerals, geological surveys and natural gas. Reliefs A-H are anchored on mining rights while reliefs no i & j are on trespass and that they are merely consequential reliefs whose success are dependent on the success of the principal claims on mining right. Accordingly, it held that reliefs A-H which are on mining rights are the principal reliefs upon which the success of reliefs i & j are dependent accordingly the trial Court has the jurisdiction to hear and determine the Suit.
On issue two, the Court after considering Sections 5 (5) and 65 (1) of the Mineral and Mining Act 2007 came to the conclusion that the Minister of Mines and the Director General of the Mining Cadastre Office both have the power to grant and transfer mining leases. Accordingly, mining lease No 2541ML granted to AICO Ado Ibrahim Co. Limited and transferred to the 1st and 2nd Respondents (“Dangote Group”) was validly granted and transferred. Consequently, issue two was resolved in favour of the Respondents.
On issue three, after extensively considering the submission of counsel, in its resolution, the Court looked at the ingredients that must be present for there to be an abuse of Court process and as such for Suit No: FHC/B/CS/74/2016 to be an abuse of court process, the subject matter, the issues and the parties must be the same with Suit No: FHC/LKJ/CS/39/2013 and found that the subject matter are not the same. The Court held that the argument that Suit No: FHC/B/CS/74/2016 is an abuse of Court process as it was filed during the pendency of Suit No: FHC/B/CS/7/2016 will not fly as it does not arise from the Appellants’ grounds of Appeal. Issue three was resolved in favour of the Respondents.
Consequently, all issues were resolved in favour of the Dangote Group, the Appeal was dismissed and the Ruling of the Trial Court affirmed.
PUC has continued to contribute to the evolvement of Nigeria’s Legal Jurisprudence on the principles of Mining and related matters.
The PUC Team was led by the Senior Partner, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN and highly assisted by Mr. Chinedu Anyaso, Partner and Head of the Energy Law, Constitutional and Transport Law Practice Sections, with associates, Esther Samuel and Chijioke Obute.