Court orders Abuja Environmental Protection Board to pay firm N500m over breach of contracts


The Court of Appeal in Abuja has ordered the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) to pay a total sum of N500 million fine over unlawful and arbitrary termination of a contract entered with a private company.

The board was found liable for running foul of contract law in the termination of the contract for the evacuation of solid waste materials in Nigeria’s capital city awarded to Messrs Mahaj Nigeria Limited.

Delivering judgment in an appeal marked CA/ABJ/CV/200/2020 and filed by the AEPB, Justice Olasunmbo Goodluck upheld the judgment of the Arbitration Panel which had ordered the board to pay the firm a sum of N475 million for breach of the contract, N15 million as cost of litigation and another N10 million as general damages to the respondent in the suit.

The appellate court also ordered the board to pay eight percent on the judgment debt per year till the debt is fully liquidated.

In a unanimous judgment of the three-man panel of justices of the court, Justice Olasumbo Goodluck held that the Arbitration Panel was right in invoking section 30 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act to resolve the legality of the termination of the contract.

The Court of Appeal disagreed with AEPB counsel, Professor Andrew Chukwumere, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who in his arguments had prayed the appellate court to set aside the award of the huge sum against his client.

Chukwumere had argued that the Arbitration Panel’s judgment was confusing and conflicting and that the panel was misguided, biased and too hasty in ordering the award at a premature stage of his client’s suit.

However, Justice Goodluck disagreed with the counsel adding that the Arbitration Panel’s findings were clear, unambiguous, and were without miscarriage of justice.

The appellate court agreed with Mr. Dayo Akinlaja SAN, counsel to the respondent that it was too late in the day for AEPB to raise allegations of bias because such never happened throughout the Arbitration Panel’s proceedings.

A high court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had in 2019 upheld the decision of the Arbitration Panel to the payment of N475 million only to the aggrieved firm but refused to grant payment of N15 million as cost of litigation and another N10 million as general damages.

Not satisfied with the high court verdict, the AEPB approached the Court of Appeal praying for the entire setting aside of the decisions of the Arbitration Panel and the high court on allegations of bias and miscarriage of justice in the resolution of the disputed contract deals.

The Court of Appeal, in its findings, held that the words and letters of the contract agreement were straightforward, certain, clear, and without any ambiguity.

Justice Goodluck held that if there is any confusion on the part of the appellant (AEPB), such confusion must have been self-induced because at nowhere was the issues of bias, misconduct, and miscarriage of justice were raised and established.

Upholding that the appellant (AEPB) cried wolf where non existed, Justice Goodluck held that the appeal lacked merit, failed and dismissed it.

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