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Ports & Cargo Ownership: SIFAX Group Wins Legal Battle

The SIFAX Group has won a legal battle over the ownership of Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited, concessionaire and operator of the Terminal C, Tin Can Island Port, Apapa, Lagos.

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The six-year battle saw the gladiators doing legal battle through the High Court, Court Appeal and the Supreme Court. The apex court decided the case in favour of SIFAX Group.

According to a statement released by the company, the plaintiffs, Messrs Migfo and Denca, were only trying to be fraudulent.

“It will be recalled that when the Federal Government of Nigeria decided to privatize the Nigerian ports in 2004/2005 for better efficiency and effectiveness, both foreign and indigenous firms bid for different ports. In the guidelines for these bids, a firm could bid jointly with other firms for a port and/or bid individually for other ports. On the strength of this, SIFAX Nigeria Limited jointly bid for Terminal A in Port Harcourt, Rivers State under a consortium known as Ports and Terminal Operators Services Limited with Messrs. SIFAX, Ekulo, Migfo and Denca as members.

“However, SIFAX Nigeria Limited INDIVIDUALLY bid for Terminal C of Tin Can Island Port, Apapa, Lagos under a special purpose vehicle company known as Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited (P&CHS) as required by the Bureau of Public Enterprises. SIFAX eventually won the bid and commenced operation in May 2006.

“No sooner had SIFAX commenced operation of Terminal C of TCIP when Messrs. Migfo and Denca went to court to lay claims to being part owners of this terminal. By an Original Summons dated 9th August 2006, the duo instituted a case against Sifax Nigeria Limited and 3 others at the Federal High Court, Lagos. They relied on a non- existent joint venture agreement and a forged memorandum of understanding (MOU) purportedly entered by Denca, Migfo and SIFAX sometimes in 2005. The said MOU is now a subject of investigation by the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigerian police.

“At the Federal High Court, we argued that the court has no jurisdiction to entertain the case since it was not a maritime matter but a case based on simple contract. In the alternative, we argued that the case being highly contentious ought not to begin via Originating Summons but by way of Writ of Summons so that we can lead evidence. The Federal High Court threw out our argument and held that Terminal C TCIP was owned on 40%, 30% and 30% proportions by SIFAX, Migfo and Denca. The same position was held by the Court of Appeal, Lagos.

“However, the Supreme Court of Nigeria sitting in Abuja on Friday, 8th June 2012 unanimously adopted our argument at the Federal High court that the court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the matter which was based on alleged simple contract between the parties and not an admiralty matter.”