Saturday, 13 June 2015

Supreme Court Orders Contractor to Refund N85.6m to #Benue

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered a contractor, Kris Onyekwuluje, and his company, Artex Investment Limited, to refund N85,575,111.60 to Benue State Government due to poor execution of the contract which the money was meant for.

The government had paid the money for a contract of supply of radio transmitters awarded to the contractor over 15 years ago.

In a unanimous decision on Friday, the five-man appeal panel of the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal filed by Onyekwuluje and Artex to challenge the earlier decisions of the Federal High Court in Enugu and the Court of Appeal in Jos as well as the directive of the state’s Commission of Inquiry directing them to refund the payment to the state government.

Justice Suleiman Galadima, who read the lead judgment, held that contrary to the contention of the appellants, their right to fair hearing was not breached by the Commission of Inquiry set up by the state government to review the execution of the contract.

He ruled, “In the case at hand, the records show that the appellants fully participated in the proceedings of the 3rd respondent (the commission) from the beginning to the end of the sitting. They cannot now complain that they were denied fair hearing.

“In the final analysis, I cannot disturb the concurrent findings of facts by two courts below as they have not been shown to be perverse or not reached as, the result of a proper consideration of facts placed before them. In the circumstances, the decision of the Court of Appeal is hereby affirmed and the appeal is accordingly dismissed.”

Onyekwuluje and his company were awarded contract for the supply and installation of some transmitters for the state’s radio station.

But Benue State Government was dissatisfied with the qualities of the materials supplied and the conduct of staff and officers of Artex.

The government had set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry under Section 2 of the Commission of Inquiry Law, Laws of Northern Nigeria 1963, to ascertain whether there was “abuse, misuse or misappropriation of money meant for the project.”

The commission was also mandated to ascertain “whether there was any improper or fraudulent practice or unjust enrichment by any person and to apportion blame and recover the monies believed to have been misappropriated, unjustly obtained, or fraudulently administered.”

At the end of its sitting in 1999, the commission issued a white paper indicting Artex Investment and requested it to refund N85,575,111.60 to the state’s coffer.

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