By Taiye Agbaje
The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, ordered the Ebonyi Government to reopen the quarry site of Crushed Rock Industries Limited, which was shut down recently.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed gave the order while delivering judgment in a suit filed by lawyer to the mining firm, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN.
Justice Mohammed also awarded N10 million damages against the state government.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the over 40-year-old company had, on April 23, in its suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/451/2020, sued the Ebonyi Government for an alleged illegal shutdown of its quarry site.
It alleged that its quarry site located at Ishiagu in Ebonyi was shut by the state government for non-payment of exorbitant fees.
It urged the court to hold that the state government lacked the right to control mining activities after it had been duly licensed by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
Joined as defendants in the suit are the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mining Cadastre Office, Ebonyi Government, Attorney General of Ebonyi; Edwin Onwe, who is the Special Assistant to the Governor on Solid Minerals, and the state’s Commissioner for Solid Minerals Development as 1st to 6th defendants respectively.
The plaintiff sought among others, a declaration that it is only the 1st and 2nd defendants that had the sole right and responsibility to demand for royalties and duties from the plaintiff, to the exclusion of any other agencies and level of government in Nigeria, including the 3rd to 6th defendants.
In his judgment, Justice Mohammed dismissed the preliminary objection filed against the suit by the Ebonyi Government and affirmed its jurisdiction to hear the suit.
On the substantive suit, the court in upholding the plaintiff’s case, held that it was only the Federal Government as provided in Section 251 of the Constitution that could take any action on issues relating to mining in Nigeria.
The judge cited the Mining Act, 2007, which made specific provisions on how an erring mining holder should be punished.
The court ordered that the quarry site of the plaintiff be immediately reopened and its workers be allowed access and to conduct their business. (NAN)