From Judex Okoro, Calabar
The legal battle between the management of University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, UCTH, and Isolation centre contractor, Obi Achara Nigeria Ltd, has resumed following a breakdown in out-of-court-settlement of N68m debt owed the contracting firm.
The contractor, Mr Obi James Achara, had in a Suit No HC/316/2020 claims that the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital Management Board, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) and The Chief Medical Director, UCTH, (all defendants), owe him jointly and severally the sum of N100, 000, 000.00 as general damages, N56, 298, 912.72 being outstanding sum owed the claimants by the defendants as agreed by both parties and N3, 430, 302,.225k being payment for of 5% retention fee.
In their Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim, the claimants stated that on November 15, 20116 the UCTH awarded the company a contract for the construction of a centre for Emerging Pathogens Research and Management, which now serves as COVID-19 Isolation Centre in the hospital, at the cost of N68,606,044.50 million1 only.
The claimants stated that despite issuing an Interim Payment Certificate for the sum of N20, 021, 710. 20, dated August 6, 2017, the defendants have only paid N7m only as at the time of going to court.
The claimants disclosed that the defendants requested them to hand over the centre due to the outbreak of the pandemic he acceded to it because of the strategic importance in combating the COVID-19.
However, both parties had agreed to settle out of court and pleaded the court to give them some time to meet and sort things out.
But barely two months after, Obi had approached the court again and prayed the matter be returned to court for hearing following break down of agreement reached some months ago between the management of University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, UCTH, and Isolation centre contractor, Obi Achara Nigeria Ltd.
Resuming sitting on the matter following failure to settle out of court, the presiding judge, Hon Justice Angela Obi, gave a nod for the matter be returned to court for hearing next month but ordered the defendants be put on notice.
According to her, “They were yet to file an appeal in this court because they were moved for out of court settlement”.
The court after listening to the counsel to Obi Achara Nig Ltd, (the claimant) Eta Akpama, Esq, from Mba Ukeni’s chambers adjourned to March 9, 2021, and urged counsel to claimant Eta Akpama to put the defendants on notice as either of the parties in the matter was yet to file an appeal in court due to earlier agreement reached at by parties to settle out of court.
In an interview with journalists shortly after the court sitting, counsel to claimants, Eta Akpama, Esq, said: “We came to court to let the court know that settlement out of court had broken down and called for the matter to be adjourned for hearing.
“We attempt to settle out of court unfortunately, it failed, so we had no option than proceed to hear the matter so as to give a judgement one way or the other.
“Court has ordered that we put them on notice on the next adjournment date and we shall do that as soon as possible.”