Court orders registrar, CEO to pay back N460m judgement debt

By The Rainbow

The Court of Appeal in Abuja the Chief Registrar of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Musa Yahaya the Managing Director/CEO of BPS Engineering and
Construction Company,  Chukwuani and Chief Registrar FCT High Court to pay the judgment sum of N460 million into an interest-yielding account in the control of the Chief Registrar Court of Appeal within 30 days.

The presiding judge, Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya, indicted Mrs. Oluwatoyin Musa Yahaya, for releasing the sum of N460 million judgment debt kept in her custody to the Managing Director/CEO of BPS Engineering and
Construction Company Limited, Mr. Chudi Charles Chukwuani, against court orders.

Mrs Yahaya had ignored two subsisting interlocutory orders by the Appeal Court and the FCT High Court in the case of BPS Engineering and Construction Company Limited vs. Federal Roads Maintenance Agency in making the release.

The orders had stipulated that no such release should be made pending the determination of the appeal by FERMA before the Court of Appeal.

Justice Yahaya based his ruling on the  application by FERMA for the Appeal Court to invoke its discretionary power to compel the Chief Registrar of FCT High Court and Chukwuani to pay back the disputed amount into an interest-yielding account in the control of the Chief Registrar.

Justice Yahaya said  that it was unbecoming of a judicial officer of the rank of Chief Registrar to ignore an order of court.

Citing the case of Governor of Lagos vs. Ojukwu where Justice Oputa remarked: '… The court system cannot be maintained without the willingness of parties to abide by the findings and orders of a competent court until reversed on appeal,' Yahaya said, adding that no party or court of subordinate or even co-ordinate jurisdiction could say they could not obey an order because they did not have it.

For that reason, he said the posture has to be condemned in the strongest of terms 'if we are not to say goodbye to the rule of law.'

According to the judge, the action of the FCT High Court Chief Registrar was an affront on the judicial system and the rule of law. The Central Bank of Nigeria, a party in the appeal, expressed its satisfaction with the ruling of the court.

Speaking to journalists after the ruling, principal partner of Ikani, Afolabi & Co., counsel to FERMA, Ikani Simeon, said the ruling was a good sign that the Nigerian judiciary had come of age and that all Nigerians needed to invest faith in the system as the last hope of the common man.

According to him, FERMA had opposed the claims of the plaintiff, BPS as framed in the original case on the grounds that the payment claimed by BPS then was based on an interim statement and not the engineer's certificate, which carries the actual amount payable on contracts as was the acceptable practice in the road construction industry.

BPS had objected to the deduction of VAT and withholding tax, which are normal practice in public finance policy.

He said FERMA went on appeal on the judgment delivered on December 20, 2011 by the FCT High Court No. 8, Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/312/07 in which the court awarded BPS the sum of N27,165,100.00 with 25 per cent interest on the sum claimed from 2006 until finally liquidated, a whopping sum of N50 million in general damages as well as N100,000 being the cost of litigation.