By Favour Nnabugwu
ABUJA—The Court of Appeal, Abuja, presided over by Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya has ordered the Chief Registrar of the FCT High Court, Mrs Oluwatotin Yahaya and the Managing Director of BPS Engineering, Prince Chudi Chukwuani to refund the sum of N460 million judgment money into an interest-yielding account within a period of 30 days.
The ruling followed an indictment of Chief Registrar of FCT High Court, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Yahaya, for releasing to Chukwuani, against court orders, the sum of N460 million judgment sum kept in the Chief Registrar’s custody.
This was despite two subsisting interlocutory orders by the Appeal Court and the FCT High Court in the case between BPS Engineering and Construction Company Limited and Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, pending the determination of the appeal by FERMA before the Court of Appeal.
In granting the application by FERMA for the Appeal Court to invoke its discretionary power to compel the Chief Registrar FCT High Court and Chukwuani to pay back the disputed judgment sum of N460 million into an interest yielding account in the control of the Chief Registrar Court of Appeal in Appeal No.CA/A/225/2012 Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya, held that it was unbecoming of a judicial officer of the rank of Chief Registrar of a High Court to ignore an order of court.
In reference to the attitude of the Chief Registrar FCT High Court, Justice Yahaya said: “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. This presupposes that no party and no court of subordinate or even co-ordinate jurisdiction can say ‘I do not have the order made and I cannot obey it’…and that posture has to be condemned in the strongest of terms if we are not to say good bye to the rule of law.”
Noting that action of the FCT High Court Chief Registrar was an affront on the Judicial system and the rule of law, Justice Yahaya ordered the plaintiff/respondent’s Managing Director, Prince Chukwuani and the second respondent, Mrs Oluwatoyin Yahaya (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 of the ruling.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, a party in the appeal expressed its satisfaction with the ruling of the court.
Speaking to reporters after the ruling, counsel to FERMA, Mr Ikani Simeon, said that the ruling by the Appeal Court was a good sign that the Nigerian judiciary has come of age and that all Nigerians need to have 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 couched in the case at the trial court on the ground that the payment claimed by BPS then was based on interim statement and not Engineer’s certificate, which carries the actual amount payable on contracts as was the acceptable practice in the road construction industry.
He added that BPS objected to the deduction of VAT and withholding tax, which are normal practice in public finance policy.