By Alex Enumah
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday restrained the federal government from taking further steps in the appointment of consultants that will monitor projects the repatriated $311 million Abacha loot is being channeled into.
Justice Ekwo halted the appointment process while delivering ruling in an application brought by a PPP Advisories Consortium seeking to stop the appointment process on account of lack of fairness in the process of engaging consultants to monitor government’s spending of the repatriated funds.
The claimants PPP Advisories Consortium in a suit instituted on November 3, 2020 is challenging the selection process in which four firms out of 17 emerged winners of bids to monitor the project.
The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/ CS/1449/2020 was filed on behalf of the claimants by their lawyer, Mr Daniel Bwala and has as defendants the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chairman Ministerial Tenders Board, Mr Dayo Apata, SAN and the Bureau of Public Procurement.
Following the repatriation of the funds on May 4, 2020, from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey, the federal government in line with a tripartite agreement set up a committee that would engage civil society groups to follow the funds which would be deployed into projects such as the construction of the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan and Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressways and the Mambilla Power.
However, the outcome of the selection process has turned out to be an issue of litigation with the claimants accusing the defendants of manipulating the process.
According to the claimants, they were not only among the four pre-qualified firms among the 17 that submitted proposal for pre-qualification, but secured the highest combined Technical and Financial score.
They said rather than being awarded the contract the federal government instead gave it to Cleen Foundation “which got the least combined Technical and Financial score among the four prequalified consultants”.
The claimants further stated that the procurement panel of federal government arbitrarily disqualified them and “recommended the firm that came 4th (Cleen Foundation) as the preferred bidder to be awarded the contract.
However when the matter came up Tuesday counsel to the claimants urged the court to hear the motion on notice for injunction restraining the defendants 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.
While the AGF was not represented despite being served with the summons as well as the hearing notice twice, counsel to BPP prayed the court for adjournment to enable him file their defence.
Responding, Bwala 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 submitted that if not restrained 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.
In a short ruling the court ordered all parties in the suit to maintain status quo and not take any steps towards implementing the subject matter of the dispute pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice slated for January 21, 2021.