Journalism of Courage

ICTN contract: Amaechi in trouble as Abuja Court orders contempt proceedings against him  

CASER says he is in process of filing a motion on notice to commit the minister to prison  

The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, has incurred the wrath of the law as a Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered contempt proceedings against him. Reason: Amaechi had flouted an earlier order made by the court. Amaechi has violated an order for him to maintain status quo issued on January 22, 2022 in a suit filed by a group — the Incorporated Trustees of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER).

CASER is challenging the minister’s handling of the process of appointing operators of the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) in Nigeria.

Persecondnews.com had reported that in the suit, CASER alleged among others, that the Amaechi manipulated the appointment process to the benefit of two local, unqualified and inexperienced companies for ICTN in the country – Medtech Scientific Ltd and. Rozi International Nigeria Ltd.

Co-defendants in the suit are the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Medtech Ltd and Rozi Ltd.

Issuing the order on Wednesday, Justice Donatus Okorowo said he had been informed that the minister had violated the court’s order on the matter.

Persecondnews reports that the plaintiff (CASER) is asking the court for among others:

“A a declaration that in view of the mandatory provisions of sections 40(1), 24 & 25 of the Public Procurement Act 2007, it is ultra vires the powers of the 1st defendant to seek Mr. President’s anticipatory approval for due process “no objection” from the 2nd defendant for the appointment of the 4th defendant as technical partners to the 5th defendant to provide international cargo tracking note in the country.

“A declaration that Mr. President was misled by the 1st defendant in granting the anticipatory approval dated 19th august, 2021 to enable the 1st defendant request for due process “no objection” from the 2nd defendant for the appointment of the 4th defendant as technical partners to the 5th defendant to provide international cargo tracking note contrary to the mandatory provisions of sections 40(1), 24 & 25 of the public procurement act, 2007.

“An order nullifying the entire process of appointing the 4th and 5th defendant as operator of the international cargo tracking note in the country.

“An order stopping the proposed and imminent appointment of the 4th and 5th defendants as the operators of the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) in Nigeria in view of the clear breach of the provision of Public Procurement Act, 2007.

“An order of mandamus directing the first and second defendants (Transportation Minister and BPP) to conduct an international competitive bidding to ensure the proper selection of the service provider for the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) in Nigeria.”

On Wednesday, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Abdulhakeem Mustapha (SAN) told the court that Amaechi defied the order for the maintenance of status quo and continued with the appointment process and currently on the verge of completing the process of appointment.

“He (Amaechi) has taken fundamental steps on the subject matter of this suit, and we have documents to be placed before the court to establish that he has ignored the order of the court completely.

“In order to protect the sanctity of this honorable court, we have issued Form 48 against the Minister of Transportation.

“With the commencement of this committal process, which takes precedence over any other matter, we urge this court to suspend further proceedings in the substantive suit,” he told the court.

Mustapha said having issued Form 48 on the Minister, he was in the process of filing a motion on notice to commit the minister to prison.

In response, Amaechi’s lawyer, Mr Omosanya Popoola, admitted receiving a letter notifying him of the issuance of Form 48 on the minister.

According to him, Amaechi is a law abiding citizen and he is yet to be served with Form 48

Also Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP)’s counsel, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN) said it has not been served with the Form 48 “personally as required by law”.

In his submission, counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Mohammed Sheriff, agreed with the submissions by lawyers to Amaechi and BPP that proceedings in the main suit should not be halted.

In his ruling, Justice Okorowo agreed to suspend proceedings in the main suit, saying “once the issue of contempt is raised, the court must suspend proceedings.”

He said: “The court will not close its eyes when being told that its orders are being flouted. We have to suspend proceedings for the court to ascertain the veracity of the allegations.”

The judge then directed plaintiff’s lawyer to proceed to file a motion on notice with an affidavit to establish the facts of the alleged violation of court’s orders which must be filed and served before the next adjournment.

Meanwhile, the court has fixed ruling for May 9 on the application filed by a company — Antaser Nigeria Ltd — seeking to be joined as a party in the suit.

Antaser’s counsel, Mr James Onoja (SAN) told the court that his client was a necessary party in the case because it sought to participate in the bidding process, but was unlawfully excluded.

CASER had averred in an affidavit supporting the substantive suit that the purported procurement process, leading to the appointment of the fourth and fifth defendants (Medtech and  Rozi) as companies providing ICTN services did not follow due process and known procurement procedures.

It raised the alarm then that President Muhammadu Buhari was misguided and hoodwinked into granting an “anticipatory approval” for a direct appointment of the fourth and fifth defendants’ companies.

CASER had insisted: “The approval by Mr. President cannot waive the procurement process stipulated under the Public Procurement Act.

“The steps of the first and second defendants (Transport Minister and BPP)  by opting for selective bidding and or direct procurement method amount to a willful violation of due process and a desperate design to circumvent the provisions of the Procurement Act by abandoning the demands of fairness, competitiveness, accountability and transparency as envisaged by the Act.

“The failure of the relevant agencies to follow due process and appoint qualified companies contributed immensely to the failure of the ICTN project in the year 2010 and 2015.

“The appointment of the fourth and fifth defendants without due process will further worsen the already threatened security and fragile economy of this country.”

 

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