Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court has affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal which ordered Governor Rochas Okorocha and the Imo State Government to pay the sum of N1 billion debt in favour of a firm, E. F. Network Nigeria Limited.
The 10-year-old debt was incurred by the Imo State Government, under the administration of former Governor Ihedi Ohakim.
The money in question is a part payment owed the firm on a contract debt of N800m, which was the part payment for the company’s supply of refuse bags and plastic rolling containers in 2008.
On February 11, 2014, the Imo State High Court in its judgment granted the prayers contained in the debt-recovery suit filed by the company and its promoter, Mr. Gideon Egbuchulam, with N200m awarded as damages in their favour.
The judgment of the High Court was affirmed in the verdict of the Court of Appeal, Owerri, delivered on July 4, 2016.
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court, in a unanimous judgment on Friday, affirmed the Court of Appeal’s judgment ordering the Imo State governor and three others to pay the N1bn debt to the contractor.
The apex court dismissed the appeal filed by the governor and the three other appellants – the Attorney-General of the state, Environmental Transformation Committee and the Ministry of the Petroleum and Environment of the state.
The lead judgment of the apex court was prepared by Justice Kayode Ariwoola, but it was read by Justice Amina Augie.
Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour led the five-man bench.
Dismissing the appeal marked, SC/1001/2016 filed by Okorocha and the three others, the apex court held that it was unmeritorious.
The court also awarded the sum of N500, 000 against the appellants, and in favour of the respondents – Egbuchulam and his company.
The Imo State High Court, whose judgment was affirmed by the apex court, had established that the defendants (the Imo State governor and others) were indebted to E. F. Network by violating the terms of the contract agreement between them.
In the trial court’s judgment, Justice Ijeoma Agugua noted that the Ohakim administration in Imo State, which Okorocha succeeded, had contracted E. F. Network in the implementation of the state government’s Clean and Green Initiative.
This led to the award of a contract to the firm to supply 10 million refuse bags and 40,000 plastic rolling containers at N42 per bag and N20 per plastic container.
The Imo State Government had kept to the agreed payment schedule but stopped after N35m for 12 months.