Barristers & Solicitors
Court okays contempt charges against Amaechi over cargo tracking contract

A Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, directed the initiation of contempt proceedings against the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, following complaints that he flouted an earlier order made by the court.

Justice Donatus Okorowo gave the directive after being informed that Amaechi violated an order for the maintenance of the status quo issued on January 22, 2022, in a suit filed by a civil group, the Incorporated Trustees of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights, challenging the minister’s handling of the process of appointing operators of the International Cargo Tracking Note in Nigeria.

In the suit, CASER alleged, among others, that Amaechi had manipulated the appointment process to the benefit of two local and inexperienced firms, Medtech Scientific Limited and Rozi International Nigeria Limited.

Listed with Amaechi as defendants in the suit are the Bureau of Public Procurement, Attorney General of the Federation, Medtech Limited and Rozi Limited.

At the resumed hearing of the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1587/2021 on Wednesday, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Abdulhakeem Mustapha (SAN), told the court that Amaechi defied the order for the maintenance of the status quo and continued with the appointment process and was currently on the verge of completing the process of appointment.

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

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

Popoola said his client is a law-abiding citizen and had not been personally served with the Form 48.

Counsel for the BPP, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), said his client had also not been served with the Form 48 personally as required by law.

Olujinmi argued that there was no motion for committal before the court, adding that the plaintiff’s lawyer had to file an affidavit to establish his allegations that the defendants, including Amaechi, had violated the court order.

Counsel for the AGF, Mohammed Sheriff, aligned himself with the submissions by Amaechi and the BPP’s lawyers that the proceedings in the main suit should not be halted.

Justice Okorowo agreed to suspend proceedings in the main suit, noting that once the issue of contempt was 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,” the judge stated.

Justice Okorowo then directed the plaintiff’s lawyer to proceed to file the 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 adjourned date.

The court has fixed May 9 for ruling on the application filed by a firm, Antaser Nigeria Limited, to be made a party to the suit.

Antaser’s lawyer, 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.

Culled from PUNCH.