Alleged diversion of ecological fund project: Enugu community seeks to join ex-Perm Sec, Habiba Lawal

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By Emmanuel Ani

Indigenes of Oma-Eke Community in Udi local Council Area of Enugu State have filed a Motion on Notice in a pending suit at the Federal High Court Enugu, seeking an order to join a former Permanent Secretary, Ecological Funds office Abuja, Mrs Habiba Lawal.

The community is in court over the alleged diversion of a 3.8 kilometre Ecological Funds Road Project valued at 429 million naira approved and awarded by the Tenders Board of the Ecological Funds office.

The four defendants in the suit are: a contracting firm, Flab Engineering Services Ltd, the consultant, Eco project Services Ltd, the Permanent Secretary, Ecological Funds Office, the Attorney General of the Federation, and now Dr. Habiba M. Lawal, who the Plaintiffs are seeking to be joined as the fifth defendant.

The said project was awarded by the Ecological Funds Office during the administration of the immediate past Nigeria president, Muhammadu Buhari to check ravaging erosion menace in the community, but was diverted to other places not mentioned in the contract award letter.

The six applicants in the case with suit No FHC/EN/CS/59/2021, filed by their counsel, Godwin Onwusi, (Esq), are seeking, through the Motion, to join Lawal who was the Permanent Secretary in the Ecological Funds office and was alleged, in counter affidavits filed by the consultant and the contractor to have authorised alleged the diversion.

In an Affidavit in support of the motion, the 3rd Plaintiff in the matter, Mr. Iruka Ejiofor (male) pointed out that the act of diverting a project duly awarded is against the Public Procurement Act 2007, noting that a public officer is personally liable for such diversion.

He further posited that “there is need to join the party sought to be joined in the interest of fair hearing and availing her the opportunity to state her own side of the story. And if she is not joined, she will not be personally bound by the outcome of this suit.”

According to Iruka in the 16-paragraph affidavit in support of the Motion of Notice deposed to on 4th July, 2023, at the Federal High Court, ” it is in the interest of justice to grant the application sought”.

The Plaintiffs/Applicants argued that by virtue of Order 9 rules 5 of the Federal High Court rules, 2019, “this Court has the powers to join, as defendant, any person against whom the right to any relief is alleged to exist whether jointly, severally, or in the alternative and defendant may be found liable according to their respective liabilities, without any amendment.”

The Plaintiffs equally alleged in paragraphs 6 and 7 of the affidavit that it was the party sought to be joined that authorised the diversion contrary to what is contained in the contract award letter and contract agreement.

The Community is claiming almost 290 million naira as damages for the alleged non-execution of the contract against the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants, an amount out of which the sum of 203, 626,804,43 million naira is said to be the cost for the 1.8 kilometre road that would have been done in Oma-Eke Community.

Other Applicants in the suit are Nze Christopher Onwumelu, Comrade Samuel Ifoh, Mr. Festus Metta, Mr. Uwaechie Metta and Mr. Harold Ofordu.

They filed the suit for themselves and on behalf of Oma-Eke Community.

The Community had earlier, during a protest over the matter, said they expended huge amounts of money in preparing the bill of quantities/design for the road which was used to apply to the Ecological funds office for the approval of the project, among other expenses.

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