The Supreme Court on Friday ordered a businessman, Kris Onyekwuluje and his company, Artex Investment Limited, to refund N85,575,111.60k to the Benue State Government, for the shoddy execution of a supply contract awarded to them over 10 years ago.
Justice Musa Dattijo-Mohammed who read the judgment of the court’s five-man bench, dismissed the appeal filed by Onyekwuluje and Artex against a 2005 decision of the Court of Appeal, Jos, which had earlier ordered the appellants to refund the money.
Onyekwuluje and his company were awarded a contract for the supply and installation of some transmitters for the state’s radio station.
Dissatisfied with the qualities of the materials supplied and the conduct of staff and officers of Artex, the state set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry under Section 2 of the Commission of Inquiry Law, Laws of Northern Nigeria, 1963, to ascertain whether there was “abuse, misuse or misappropriation of money meant for the project.”
The commission was also to ascertain “whether there was any improper or fraudulent practice or unjust enrichment by any person and to apportion blame and recover the monies believed to have been misappropriated, unjustly obtained, or fraudulently administered. ‘
At the end of its sitting in 1999, the commission issued a white paper, which indicted Atrtex Investment and requested it to refund N85,575,111.60k, a decision the company and Onyekwuluje objected to and challenged before the Federal High Court, Enugu, in 2000.
In the suit marked: FHC/EN/CP/2000, Onyekwuluje and his company challenged the decision of the commission on the grounds that they were denied fair hearing and that the commission exceeded its jurisdiction.
In its judgment on January 23, 2001, the trial court dismissed the suit on the ground that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the commission lacked the jurisdiction to inquire into a contract transaction between the plaintiffs and the Attorney General of Benue State.
They appealed the judgment at the Court of Appeal, Jos, which upheld the trial court’s decision, prompting Onyekwuluje and his company to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The apex court held that the appellants’ right to fair hearing was not breached by the commission as earlier decided by the two courts below.
“In the case at hand, the records show that the appellants fully participated in the proceedings of the 3rd respondent (the commission) from the beginning to the end of the sitting. They cannot now complain that they were denied fair hearing.
“In the final analysis, I cannot disturb the concurrent findings of facts by two courts below as they have not been shown to be perverse or not reached as, the result of a proper consideration of facts placed before them.
“In the circumstances, the decision of the Court of Appeal is hereby affirmed and the appeal is accordingly dismissed,” it said.
Justices Mary Peter-Odili, Olukayode Ariwoola, Musa Dattijo Muhammad and Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, who were on the panel that heard the appeal, agreed with the lead judgment.