Cargo Tracking Note: Court okays contempt proceedings against Amaechi

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has directed the initiation of contempt proceedings against the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi following complaint that he flouted an earlier order made by the court.

Justice Donatus Okorowo gave the directive on Wednesday on being informed that Amaechi allegedly violated an order for the maintenance of status quo issued on January 22 this year in a suit filed by a group, the Incorporated Trustees of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), challenging Amaechi’s handling of the process of appointing operators of the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN) in Nigeria.

At the resumed hearing of the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1587/2021 on Wednesday, plaintiff’s lawyer, Abdulhakeem Mustapha (SAN) told the court that Amaechi defied the order for the maintenance of status quo and continued with the appointment process and currently on the verge of completing the process of appointment.

“He (Amaechi) has taken fundamental steps on the subject matter of this suit, and we have documents to be placed before the court to establish that he has ignored the order of the court completely.

“In order to protect the sanctity of this honourable court, we have issued Form 48 against the Minister of Transportation. With the commencement of this committal process, which takes precedence over any other matter, we urge this court to suspend further proceedings in the substantive suit,” he said.

Mustapha said having issued Form 48 on the Minister; he was in the process of filing motion on notice to commit the minister to prison.

In response, Amaechi’s lawyer, Omosanya Popoola admitted receiving a letter notifying him of the issuance of Form 48 on his client.

Popoola said his client is a law-abiding citizen and he was yet to be served with the Form 48.

He said there was no motion for committal before the court, adding that the plaintiff’s lawyer has to file affidavit to establish his allegations that the defendants, including Amaechi had violated the order of the court.

Lawyer to the AGF, Mohammed Sheriff aligned himself with the submissions by lawyers to Amaechi and BPP that proceedings in the main suit should not be halted.

Ruling, Justice Okorowo agreed to suspend proceedings in the main suit, noting that once the issue of contempt is raised, the court must suspend proceedings.

“The court will not close its eyes when being told that its orders are being flouted. We have to suspend proceedings for the court to ascertain the veracity of the allegations,” the judge said.

The judge then directed the plaintiff’s lawyer to proceed to file a motion on notice, with an affidavit to establish the facts of the alleged violation of the court’s orders, which must be filed and served before the next adjourned date.

The court has scheduled ruling for May 9 on the application filed by a firm, Antaser Nigeria Limited to be made a party in the suit. Antaser’s lawyer, James Ogwu Onoja (SAN) told the court that his client was a necessary party in the case because it sought to participate in the bidding process, but was unlawfully excluded.

CASER had stated in an affidavit supporting the substantive suit that the purported procurement process, leading to the appointment of the fourth and fifth defendants (Medtech and Rozi) as companies providing ICTN services shows that it was riddled with non-compliance with procurement procedures as stipulated in the law.

The plaintiff claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari was misguided in granting an anticipatory approval for a direct appointment of the fourth and fifth defendants’ companies.

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