The federal government has been ordered to pay Resort International Limited, a company owned by Dr. Wale Babalakin, a whopping N54 billion as damages in a landmark ruling delivered by an Arbitration Tribunal, THISDAY has gathered.
Ruling in favour of Resort International Ltd, in a formal award letter dated December 3, 2015, the tribunal, chaired by foremost Nigerian architect, Mr. Fred Adeniyi Coker, supported by a leading legal practitioner, Mr. Yusuf Alli (SAN), and a former Attorney General of the Federation, Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim (SAN), declared that the federal government had failed in its obligations to Babalakin’s company under the Development Lease Agreement (DLA) entered into by both parties when Resort acquired the old secretariat complex in Ikoyi, Lagos under the sale of federal government’s assets in the state.
Commenting on the landmark ruling, Gbolahan Gbadamosi, a lawyer and publicity secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), described the award as, “the beginning of the end of impunity”. The ruling signposts the climax of a long and acrimonious relationship between Babalakin, the federal government and the Lagos State Government.
Resort International was granted a lease by the federal government to develop the federal secretariat complex in Lagos into a residential property in 2006. According to documents on the transaction, the DLA, dated October 10, 2006, granted Resort a 99-year lease to redevelop the disused Federal Secretariat complex, Ikoyi, into 480 luxury apartments.
Work had started on the site when the Lagos State Government suddenly stopped the redevelopment of the complex. Resort claimed at the arbitration that it had suffered damages totalling N88 billion as a result of the breach of a clause of the DLA by the federal government.
It was gathered that no sooner had the company mobilised to site to begin work than the Lagos State Government reportedly mobilised dozens of riot policemen and street urchins, popularly known as “area boys”, and ordered work to stop indefinitely.
The order to stop work on the site, according to a source, was as a result of a series of actions initiated by an uncompromising Lagos government that many said constituted itself into a major impediment to the project. The tribunal heard that following the Lagos government action, Babalakin was discredited by several banks and organisations as a result of the negative press which attended the failure of the project.