By Nsan Ndoma-Neji, Calabar
The University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, UCTH, has urged a Cross River State High Court, sitting in Calabar, to strike out the N68 million contract debt brought before it by one of its contractors, Achara Obi Limited.
The court, presided over by Justice Angela Obi, in suit number HC/316/2020 refused to heed to prayers of the defendant, but instead, advised parties involved in the matter to go home and iron out grey areas so that parties can return to court for argument on the motion to strike out the case on April 22.
However, lead counsel to the defendant, Dafe Diegbe, prayed the court to strike out the matter for abuse of court processes by claimant, since the suit was similar to another suit filed in another court, which was inappropriately terminated.
The matter was subsequently adjourned till April 22, for the claimant to present his argument to enable the court make its rulings.
In a brief discussion with journalists shortly after the adjournment of the matter by the court, the defence counsel stressed that the suit was similar to another suit filed in another court which was earlier inappropriately terminated.
He siad, “The suit you in this court is similar to another one filled in another court.
“They did not properly terminated the suit in the other court, so by not doing that, the one filled here is an abuse of court processes.”
However, a counsel from the plaintiff’s retinue of lawyers, Volunteer Itam, told journalists that the defendant had made part payment to the claimant for the Isolation Centre, stressing that the sum paid was however not in contention.
Reacting to the matter after the court adjournment, counsel to claimant, Eta Akpama, stated that his client was only served the motion the previous day by the close of work; and stressed that it is still within their time frame to respond to make the motion served on the claimant, adding that they intend to reply to the defendant’s application seeking that the matter be struck out by the court.
He said, “They are alleging that the matter is an abuse of court processes, because there is a similar matter somewhere, but we are not aware of it.
“This is a contract for a building, they have paid some money and this building has been handed over.
“You have to understand that they are yet to file their statement of defence, so, as far as we are concerned, they have no defence against our claim to date and we see this as a delay tactics.”
Recall that the court had two weeks ago visited the matter in its last sitting and admitted 17 exhibits against the hospital management board and had conducted a pre-trial on the matter.
Due to the unsettled debt, the contractor was left with no other option than to approach the court to assist him in recovering the debt owed him for the construction of an Isolation Centre in the institution, which he executed and handed over to the hospital.
Recall also that the claimant had, in a Writ of Summons, claimed that on November 15, 2016, management board of the university of Calabar, Teaching Hospital, UCTH, awarded the company a contract for the construction of a Centre for Emerging Pathogens Research and Management, which later served as COVID-19 Isolation Centre, in the hospital, at the cost of N68,606,044.50 million naira only.
In what seems like the teaching hospital was adamant not to get the debt settled, the claimant stressed that despite issuing him, an Interim Payment Certificate for the sum of 20,021,710.20, dated August 6, 2017, the defendants paid N7 million only, which wasn’t up to 50 per cent of the total sum owed.