17 November 2012

Nigeria: Maevis - Court Strikes Out Contempt Case Against FAAN

A Federal High Court in Lagos Friday dismissed the contempt charge preferred against the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and its Managing Director, Mr. George Uriesi by an aviation services firm and former concessionaire of FAAN, Maevis Ltd.

Presiding judge of the court, Justice Ibrahim Buba predicated his reason for dismissing the contempt proceeding "on the fact that the application was defective."

Justice Buba who took over the case following the withdrawal of the former judge, Justice Binta Murtala Nyako, also noted that since the case was starting afresh under him, he needed time to study and hear the preliminary objection of FAAN against the application.

This ruling brings to an end the protracted contempt filed against Uriesi and FAAN by Maevis while challenging FAAN's termination of the Airport Operations Management System concession given the company.

The former judge in charge of the case, Justice Nyako had transferred the suit to the Chief Judge of the court for re-assignment.

Justice Nyako had equally overruled the objection of Maevis with regard to an appeal lodged by FAAN to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit saying the authority is free to pursue the appeal.

Maevis, had filed the substantive suit against FAAN over alleged breach of contract for the provision of AOMS platform in four international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt. The firm later filed a contempt proceeding over an allegation that FAAN disregarded an order of the court made on September 24, 2010, for the maintenance of the status quo on the concession contract.

Following the alleged disobedience of the court order, Maevis' lawyer, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), urged the court to commit Uriesi to prison.

According to him, the alleged disobedience of the court order by FAAN's MD was an affront to the court.

Osibanjo urged the court not to condone the action of the MD by sending him to prison to serve as a deterrent to other government officials.

But in his counter to the application, FAAN's counsel, Kola Awodein (SAN), described the contempt proceeding as incompetent for not complying with the rules of court, which requires that the order of court accompanying form 48 be signed and not attached.

In urging the court to dismiss the application, Awodein said the alleged disobedience of court order must be proven beyond any doubt.

He however contended that there is a legitimate doubt in the order as the court was not exact in ordering party to maintain the res.

The ruling elicited jubilation among FAAN staff present in court yesterday to show their solidarity with the managing director, whom they felt had gone through undue persecution for protecting the interest of the organisation.

In his reaction, the MD said it had re-affirmed his belief in the judiciary as a true arbiter.

He said that the ruling had also re-enforced his commitment to the on-going transformation of the aviation sector.

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