By RICHARD NDOMA, Calabar
High Court sitting in Calabar has admitted 17 exhibits against Management of University of Calabar Teaching Hospital over unsettled debt which the hospital owed one of its contractors, Obi. Achara Ltd and Anor, after executing a N68m contract for the hospital since 2016.
Obi Achara had approach the court in in suit No. HC/316/2020 to assist him recover money owed his company over money spent in construction of a centre for emerging pathogen research and management unfortunately,
he was owed the contract sum of N68m even when he secured monies from his creditors who are at present on his neck to execute the job according to specifications.
However, the claimant in a Writ of Summons /Statement of Claim, averred that on November 15,20116 UCTH awarded the company a contract for construction of a Centre for Emerging Pathogens Research and
Management (which now serves as Covid-19 Isolation Centre in the hospital) at the cost of N68,606,044.50 million naira only.
According to the claimant, despite issuing an Interim Payment Certificate for the sum of N20,021,710,20, dated August 6,2017 the defendants only paid N7m only as at the time to approaching the court.
The claimant maintained that outbreak of the Corona virus pandemic, the defendants requested him (claimant) to hand over the centre to the hospital even when up 50% payment was yet to be done.
The claimant added that because of the strategic importance of the centre in the war against the global pandemic, he humbly handed over the centre to management of UCTH with the hope that the contract sum is going to be defray without any hitch, unknown to him that the matter was going to be treated with levity he quickly handed the centre to hospital management.
Obi Achara stressed that the lack of commitment by management of UCTH
to defray the N68m debt, even when he had alerted hospital management that he involved himself in loans to execute the contract, the matter was still treated with levity stressing that at that juncture, he had no option than to approach the court which is seen as the last hope to a common to enable him recover the money so that he can also have peace that had eluded him as a result of the said contract stressing that his creditors whom he borrowed money for the contract execution had been on his neck.
In one of the hearings, the respondents prayed for out of court settlement, however, the presiding judge, Hon Justice Angela Obi, that the matter be settled out of court and their prayer was granted by the court.
Month later, claimant returned to court and prayed the court that the matter be returned to court for hearing, and the presiding judge, Hon.
Justice Angela Obi gave a nod for the matter be returned to court for hearing.
Unfortunately, talks broke down following the inability of the contending parties to agree on payment modalities.
However, counsel to claimant, Ukweni SAN, prayed the court to proceed with pre trial of the matter stressing that the defendants have not shown seriousness regarding settlement and the litigants cannot be coming to court just to take dates.
Ukweni maintained that the claimants have tendered their documents and in accordance with the doctrine of fair hearing management of University of Calabar Teaching Hospital has been given another chance to come and defend themselves.
According to Ukweni,”It means they were not prepared to defend the case, they had requested for settlement of the matter and the court indulged them a number of times.
“The settlement failed which was accordingly reported to the court so for they we should proceed to the business of the day”.
In his reaction, Principal Legal Officer to University of Calabar Teaching Hospital UCTH, Umoh Edem Efa told the court that he is aware of the proposed settlement which failed, and need to go and peruse the file which had just been handed over to him.
However, presiding judge, Hon Justice Angela Obi, proceeded with the pre-trial and admitted 17 exhibits against UCTH before the matter was subsequently adjourned to March 24, for continuation of the pre-trial.