The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, ordered the immediate unsealing of Crushed Rock Industries Nig Ltd, a mining company situated at Isiagu, Ebonyi State, which it held was illegally shut down on March 11 by the state government.
The court, in a judgement that was delivered by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, further awarded the sum of N10 million as damages against the Ebonyi State government for the wrongful closure of the firm.
The firm had through its counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) approached the court with a suit challenging the shutting down of its operations, stressing that it has mined stones at Ishiagu in Ebonyi State for over 40 years.
It urged the court to declare that it is only the Federal Government as provided for in Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, that has the power to determine issues relating to mining in Nigeria.
The plaintiff further urged the court to declare that the illegal entry and unilateral sealing up of its quarry site by the Ebonyi State Government, without a court order, was illegal and prayed the court to order the immediate reopening on its quarry site.
Joined as defendants in the suit were 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.
Justice Mohammed, in his judgement, dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Ebonyi State government, challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the Abuja division of the high court to entertain the suit.
It contended that since the parties are located in Ebonyi, it is the Ebonyi division of the Federal High Court that should have the jurisdiction to determine the matter.
While dismissing the preliminary objection, Justice Mohammed held that he had jurisdiction to determine the matter since the 1st and 2nd defendants’ head offices are located in Abuja.
The court agreed with the plaintiff and the 1st and 2nd defendants that only the Federal Government, as conferred on it by Section 251 of the Constitution, that can take any action whatsoever on issues relating to mining in Nigeria.
Justice Mohammed referred to the Mining Act, 2007, which made specific provisions on how an erring mine holder should be punished, adding that such power does not reside with the state government.
Credit: Nigerian Tribune