Akwa Ibom State Govt House Design Suit: State Files Preliminary Objection, Says Otto Trinity Not Juristic Person

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Government house Uyo

The suit number HU/147/2016, filed by Otto Trinity Studios, asking for the payment of N2b, being debt and accrued interest for the design of the Hill Top Mansion, the official residence of the Akwa Ibom state Governor and all the accompanying appurtenances, from the Akwa Ibom state government came up today, December 11, 2017, for motion at the Akwa Ibom state High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Aniekan Akpan.

The motion for the regularization of the rejoinder on point of law and other processes was filed by the state government represented by Emem Victor Daniel of the state ministry of justice. The motion, which was moved without objection from the Claimants Counsel, Obong Matthew Akpan, was granted with all the reliefs sought, by the court.

In the preliminary objection, the state government asked the court to dismiss the suit because the court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the suit as it was brought by a party not known to law. The defence argued that Otto Trinity Studio lacks the requisite legal personality to approach the court with a summons.

The Claimants had in their reply filed an affidavit and a written address in response to the Notice of Preliminary objection.

But in the rejoinder filed by the defence, the Defendants cited authorities to show that the court should not even contemplate having anything to do with the reply filed by the Claimants. Counsel to the state, Mrs Emem Daniel, stated that the preliminary objection raised by the defence was based purely on point of law and therefore should not be responded to by the use of an affidavit as the Claimants had done in their reply. Counsel argued that the Claimants ought to have restricted their reply to points of law, which does not require any affidavit.

Counsel citing the legal authorities of Ojukwu V. YarAdua, argued that the suit was incompetent as it was instituted by a none juristic person and urged the court to discountenance the affidavit of the Claimants and their argument and strike out the suit as they lack the legal capacity to institute same.
Obong Matthew Akpan for the Claimants had in his reply to the preliminary objection, filed a 17 paragraph affidavit, a written address and four exhibits, wherein he argued that his client was a juristic person as far as the suit is concerned. Counsel drew the attention of the court to Iyke Medical Merchandise V. Faizer, to show that it is the requirement of law that a firm of Partners can prove the partnership being a juristic person by means of an affidavit and the exhibiting of the relevant certificates of incorporation or registration.
Claimants Counsel tried to distinguish the decision of the apex court on the irrelevance of affidavit as canversed by the defendants, insisting that the Supreme Court did not entirely dispense of the use of affidavit in preliminary objections, but rather dealt with the case in issue with its peculiar circumstances; adding that the apex courts decision was based on a radically different circumstances from the present case. Counsel therefore, urged the court to hold that when necessary, as is the case in the instant case, an affidavit could suffice.

On the main issue in the preliminary objection, which is the legal capacity of the Claimants, Obong Akpan, noted that the court ought to take a look at documents in the courts record. He said that if the court peruses its record, it would see that the claimants had noted in their amended statement of claims that Otto Trinity Studio was a partnership firm, a point, he noted was corroborated by the defendants in their statement of defence.

He submitted that people who carry out partnership business can sue and be sued in their partnership name, irrespective of the fact that a partnership, being not an incorporated entity may not be a legal personality.

He argued that no law imposes on the partnership to list the names of members of the partnership for it to be sued or to sue.

Claimants counsel prayed the court to dismiss the preliminary objection with substantial cost of N500, 000 as envisaged under order 49 of the court rules.

Hon Justice A E Akpan, thereafter adjourned the case to January 4, 2018 for the ruling on the preliminary objection.

Mr. Ubokutom Nya’s Otto Trinity, had in 2016 sued the Akwa Ibom State government for failure to meet government’s contractual obligations to the firm by refusing to offset professional fees owed by government for the design and other architectural jobs on the government house complex in Uyo.

According to Nyah, he only received N16,744,041.91 in 2015 as part payment for his professional fees out of N872,414,409.40. He explained that despite an outstanding debt of N1,286,347,837.30, he and his colleagues continued to render their services to the government as stated in their contract, which came into effect in 2012, till January 2016. He added that at the time of filing the suit, the debt had grown to N2,133,547,837.30.

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