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December 8, 2023
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Contractor to appeal ruling vacating judgment debt against NSCDC

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By Taiye Agbaje

A Contractor, Mr Christian Igbo, on Tuesday, said he will appeal a ruling by an FCT High Court, Abuja setting aside its June 22 judgment directing the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to pay over N29 million balance of the contract sum legitimately awarded and executed by him.
Igbo made this known through his lawyer, Pascal Obioha, shortly after Justice Edward Okpe vacated the judgment he earlier delivered against the NSCDC on the grounds that it was given without jurisidtcion.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Okpe had, on June 22 in a judgment, ordered the NSCDC to pay Mr Igbo over N29 million balance of the contract sum following his execution of the projects awarded by the corps.
The judge also restrained the NSCDC, its Commander-General (C-G), Ahmed Audi; and others from further harassing the contractor over a completed contract.
But in a motion on notice marked: CV/2115/2023 filed by its Director of Legal Services, Umar Mohammed, the corps sought an order setting aside the judgment delivered on June 22 directing them to pay Igbo his balance (N29, 360, 697.00) of the contract sum.
Giving six grounds why the judgment should be vacated, Mohammed argued that the court gave the judgment without jurisdiction.
Evelyn Charles-Iyanya, who appeared for NSCDC during proceedings, urged the court to set aside Relief 4 as contained in Igbo’s originating motion on the payment of the judgment sum of over N29 million, having fallen outside the fundamental rights enforcement rules of the court.
She said the judgment was delivered without jurisidtcion.
But Igbo’s counsel, Pascal Obioha, prayed the court to dismiss NSCDC’s application on the grounds that the court had become functus officio to vacate the judgment it delivered.
The lawyer maintained that the court had jurisdiction to have given the June 22 judgment and that the court as at this time, lacked the powers to either review, revisit or set aside its own judgment, as doing so would amount to the court sitting on appeal over its own decision or judgment.
Obioha, in a counter affidavit, said Igbo’s originating motion was dully served on the respondents which enabled them to put up several appearances before the court, but they decided not to file counter affidavit to oppose their application.
He said the court gave them several opportunities to defend the suit or raise objection as to the jurisdiction of the court, where necessary, but they waived their right to do so.
The lawyer, who submitted that the court gave the judgment on merit, said by the content of the said judgement, the court had become functus officio in the matter.
But delivering the ruling on Tuesday, Justice Okpe agreed with the NSCDC that he gave the judgment without jurisidtcion.
He said after perusing the applications filed by parties, he agreed with the NSCDC that Relief 4 of the contractor seeking for the payment of the judgment sum did not fall under the fundamental rights enforcement rules as canvassed by the claimant.
Besides, the judge held that Igbo failed to respond to the argument of counsel to the security agency that Relief 4 ought to be set aside, having granted without jurisidtcion.
He said where a respondent did not respond to arguments raised by an applicant, such argument would be deemed to have been admitted by the party.
According to him, the respondent (Igbo) did not file a reply to douse the applicant (NSCDC)’s prayer.
“Therefore, Relief 4 cannot be assessed through the application filed by the respondent (Igbo),” he said.
He said the jurisidtcion of the court cannot be exercised where the main claim was not for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the claimant.
Okpe held that from the facts available before the court, Relief 4 falls under a contract, and cannot be brought under the enforcement of fundamental rights rules.
“If a judgment is a nullity, the court which made it can set it aside based on Supreme Court decision,” he said.
He said the submission had dislodged Igbo’s argument.
“Therefore, the court has the power to set aside its own judgment or decision where it is null and avoid or there is a fundamental defect.
“Where an order of the court is a nullity, the court that made it is empowered to set it aside and an appeal is not necessary.
“It is now settled that a party cannot confer jurisdiction on the court where there is none,” he said.
The judge consequently set aside the order directing the NSCDC to pay Igbo the balance sum of over N29 million allegedly being owed.
Speaking after the ruling, Obioha vowed to appeal the ruling.
The lawyer, who decsribed the ruling as strange, insisted that the court had become functus officio to review the judgment it delivered.
He said this was even more so that the NSCDC did not file any defence to controvert their application.
NAN reports that Igbo had, in an originating motion on notice marked: CV/2115/2023 and filed by Obioha, sued the NSCDC, the C-G, and some agency’s officials.
Others joined as respondents include Fabian Ejezie (Finance), Mpamugo Ifeanyi Bartholomew, Victor Olarenwaju, Mr Kukuyi (Accountant General Staff in Charge of CPO) and Chukwuemeka Okeke.
Igbo, managing director of Davenchris Ventures LTD, IB-Technicals Ltd and Chrisreubben Enterprises, had sought seven reliefs which include an order to enforce his fundamental human rights of freedom, personal liberty, fair hearing and human dignity as guaranteed by Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution.
The judge, while delivering the judgment in favour of Igbo on June 22, had held that where an application was not controverted by a party, averments therein would be deemed to have been admitted by the party.(NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

edited by Sadiya Hamza


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