By Eric Ikhilae, The Nation Newspaper
The Court of Appeal in Abuja has agreed to hear a case brought against the Cross River State Government over alleged N3.8billion debt being claimed by a firm engaged to refurbish and manage the popular Obudu Mountain Resort.
A three-man panel of the Court, led by Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya, on Tuesday scheduled hearing for June 3, 2021 to allow parties, particularly, the Cross River State Government to serve and reply to the amended brief of argument filed.
The firm, Zedici Capital Ltd, represented by its lawyer, Moses Ofeoshi, stated that it had, on September 7, 2017 entered into a 25-year public private partnership (PPP) concession agreement with the Cross River Government for the rehabilitation, remodelling, finance, operation and transfer of the Obudu resort in Obanliku.
Zedici added that, based on the agreement, it invested over N3.8b in fixing all the facilities and providing infrastructure and security at the resort and the host community – Becheve.
The firm stated that, after its huge investment, the State Government allegedly terminated the agreement arbitrarily; following which it (Zedici) invoked the arbitration clause in the agreement.
At the end of the arbitration proceedings, an award was made against Cross River and in favour of Zedici, a development the State Government challenged at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), alleging exclusion.
In a judgment in 2019, Justice Angela Otaluka of the High Court of the FCT, held in favour of Cross River State and declined to affirm the arbitral award made in favour of Zedici in relation to its claimed investment of over N3.8b in the Obudu resort.
Justice Otaluka upheld the arguments by Cross River and its Attorney General that the withdrawal of their representative in the arbitration proceedings, denied them the opportunity of participation.
It is the judgment by Justice Otaluka that the firm has now challenged at the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
In the appeal, the firm argued among others, that High Court erred in law when it held that the replacement of Nella Andem-Rabana (SAN), the Cross River’s representative, after she (Andem-Rabana) withdrew, was not done in compliance with the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 2004.
The firm, in its four grounds of appeal, further argued that the High Court misdirected itself to presuppose that Zedici appointed an arbitrator for the respondents after their arbitrator withdrew.
It added: “The trial court fails to take cognisance of the relevant provisions of the law relating to the waiver of irregularities in arbitration proceedings.”
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