The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, fixed May 9 to hear contempt charge against the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, following his alleged violation of a subsisting court order on the appointment of operators of the International Cargo Tracking Note, ICTN, in Nigeria.
The court had in a ruling by Justice Donatus Okorowo delivered on January 22, ordered the maintenance of status quo on the appointment, pending the determination of a suit that was brought before it by the Incorporated Trustees of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights, CASER.
The Plaintiff had in its suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1587/2021, alleged that the Minister skewed the appointment process to the benefit of two local and inexperienced firms – Medtech Scientific Ltd and Rozi International Nigeria Ltd.
It alleged that the appointment was done in breach of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
Cited as Defendants in the suit included the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, as well as the two firms.
The Plaintiff is among other things, praying the court for 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 setting aside the due process ‘no objection’ issued by the 2nd defendant to the 1st defendant, for the restricted selection of the 4th and 5th defendants”.
As well as an order of mandamus directing the 1st and 2nd Defendants to conduct an international competitive bidding to ensure the proper selection of the service provider for the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, at the resumed proceedings in the matter on Wednesday, counsel to the Plaintiff, Mr. Abdulhakeem Mustapha, SAN, told that court that the Minister of Transportation defied the order for the maintenance of status quo and is currently at the verge of perfecting the appointment process.
“My lord, he 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 honourable 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,” Mustapha added.
He said that having issued the Form 48 on the Minister, he was in the process of filing motion on notice to commit him to prison for disobeying a valid court order.
Popoola however stressed that his client was yet to be served with Form 48.
Likewise, counsel to the BPP, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, said his client has also not been served with the Form 48 as required by law.
Olujinmi also argued that plaintiff’s lawyer had to file an affidavit to establish his allegations that the Defendants, including the Minister of Transportation, violated the court’s order.
On his part, lawyer to the AGF, Mohammed Sherifl, aligned himself with the submissions by lawyers to Amaechi and BPP that proceedings in the main suit should not be halted.
In a bench ruling, Justice Okorowo, agreed to suspend proceedings in the main suit, noting that: “Once the issue of contempt is raised, the court must suspend proceedings”.
“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”, Justice Okorowo held.
He thereafter directed Plaintiff’s lawyer to before the next adjourned date, file a motion on notice with an affidavit to establish the facts of the alleged violation of the court’s orders.
The court said it would on the next date, also hear an application that a firm, Antaser Nigeria Limited, filed to be made a party in the suit.