From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered accelerated hearing in the suit challenging the federal government for appointing a consultant for the monitoring and implementation of the $300 million allegedly looted by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, which was repatriated to Nigeria through a tripartite agreement between United States of America and Bailiwick of Jersey.
Besides, the court has charged parties to the suit to take into consideration the fact that they have subjected themselves to the jurisdiction of the court and should not do anything that would destroy the res (subject matter of litigation) before the court.
Justice Iyang Ekwo made the order on Wednesday after the parties to the suit have filed relevant processes for and against the suit.
Specifically, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF); the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General of the Federation (SGF): Mr Dayo Akpata (SAN), (sued as Chairman Ministerial Tenders Board) and the Bureau of Public Procurement have all filed their notice of preliminary objections challenging the jurisdiction of the court to adjudicate on the matter.
Counsel to the AGF, Oyin Koleosho, a principal state counsel from the Federal Ministry of Justice moved an application for his process to be regularised.
The application which was not opposed to by plaintiff’s counsel, Bwala and Mohammed Nuhu who appeared for the Bureau of Public Procurement, was accordingly granted by the court.
Although counsel to the plaintiff, PPP Advisoryies Consortium, Dr Daniel Bwala had intended moving his motion for an injunction against the defendants, Justice Ekwo said it was better to give the matter accelerated hearing.
It was consequently granted following an agreement by all the counsel to the suit.
Meanwhile, Justice Ekwo has charged parties to take into consideration that they have subjected themselves to the jurisdiction of the court and should not take steps that would destroy the res (subject matter of litigation).
The matter has been further adjourned to February 16 and 17, 2021 for hearing.
The Federal Government of Nigeria, the United States Government and the Bailiwick of Jersey had entered into a tripartite agreement for the implementation of the $ 300 million Abacha loot on the condition that the funds would be used as part of the funding for the completion of the Second Niger Bridge, the Abuja – Kano dualisation and the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway.
Flowing from the above, the Federal government had sent out an invitation for consultants to submit proposals to the Federal Ministry of Justice, whereupon, the claimant PPP Advisories Consortium was among the 4 prequalified firms among the 17 firms that responded to the request for prequalification. After the evaluation of the financial proposals of the 4 prequalified consultants, the claimants PPP ADVISORIES CONSORTIUM secured the highest combined Technical and Financial score and therefore ought to have been awarded the contract instead of Cleen Foundation which got the least combined Technical and Financial score among the four prequalified consultants. The procurement panel of Federal government arbitrarily disqualified the claimant and recommended the firm that came 4th (Cleen Foundation) as the preferred bidder to be awarded the contract.
Dissatisfied with the outcome, the claimants – PPP Advisories; Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Issa Shuaibu & Co (PPP Advisories Consortium) – approached the Federal High Court challenging the legality or otherwise of the Federal Government decision.
Listed as defendants in the writ of summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1449/2020 and dated November 3, 2020, are the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF); the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General of the Federation’ Mr Dayo Akpata, SAN, (sued as Chairman Ministerial Tenders Board) and the Bureau of Public Procurement.
The claimants through their counsel, Dr Daniel Bwala, are urging the court to make an order setting aside the decision of the procurement panel adjudging it’s Technical and Financial proposal as non-responsive.
They equally urged the court to make an order directing the defendants to issue a letter declaring them as the winning bidder, and invite them for negotiation, having achieved the highest score and therefore emerged the winner of the bid.
Among other reliefs, they are seeking a declaration that their disqualification by the defendants as communicated via a letter dated 28 July 2020 wherein their Technical/Financial bids submitted were not adjudged responsive due to the fact that the lead partner is not a registered Civil Society Organization is wrongful, illegal and void. The claimants, having satisfied the requirements of the Request for Proposal (RfP) in respect of the Monitoring of the Implementation of the Tripartite Agreement for the sharing, transfer, disposition, repatriation and management of forfeited Assets and the entire bidding process.
When hearing in the case resumed on Tuesday, counsel to the claimant (PPP Advisories Consortium) Dr Daniel Bwala urged the court to hear the motion on notice for an injunction to restrain the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the Bureau of Public Procurement from taking any steps in the appointment of a consultant for the monitoring of the implementation of the Tripartite Agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria, the United States of America and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
His application followed the absence of the AGF (1st defendant) in court despite being served with the summons as well as the hearing notice twice.
However, counsel to the 3rd Defendant (Bureau of Public Enterprises), who was present in court urged the court for an adjournment to file their defence.
Dr Daniel Bwala on behalf of the claimant, PPP Advisories Consortium, informed the court that unless the court makes an order for status quo to be maintained, the Federal government may proceed and award the consultancy contract to Cleen Foundation who scored the lowest combined Technical and Financial score among the four prequalified consultants.
He added that if the action is allowed to take place, it will most likely dent the image and name of Nigeria in the eyes of the international community and make a mockery of the requirements of competitiveness and transparency required in all Federal Government procurements as outlined by the Bureau of Public Procurement Act, 2007.
Bwala informed the court that the $300 million repatriated to Nigeria is to be used as part of the funding for the completion of the Second Niger Bridge, the Abuja – Kano dualisation and the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway.