By Victoria Ojeme
The proposed relocation of the administrative offices of the ECOWAS Court of Justice to Gudu area of Abuja has been smeared by allegations of graft and abuse of power.
Dr. William Towah, the Director of Administration and Finance of the ECOWAS Community Court Of Justice had on November 17, 2020 announced the relocation to the administrative office buildings of the court to Gudu.
The relocation, he said, was to be effective in the first quarter of this year.
Towah said: “Hopefully, the new building will provide a more congenial work environment and therefore engender efficiency.”
However, a group of staff members at the court are alleging that lack of due process and abuse of power are manifest in the processes following the relocation of the office building.
“No rule of procurement was followed. That was all that was officially sent to the staff but the reality on the ground is its is the few judges that are benefitting.
“The government was not involved in the choice of location and neither was there any bidding in and vetting in accordance with ECOWAS regulations,” one of the staff members said.
However, documents obtained by Vanguard show that these claims are unfounded since the new office building was allotted to the Court by the Federal Capital Territory Administration in compliance with the ECOWAS treaty.
‘No due process’
However, other anonymous sources told Vanguard that “controversy trails the choice of location and why diplomats from 15 ECOWAS country working with the court will be exposed to Gudu location that is generally unsafe.”
One said: “Confirmed sources have it that the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria allocated N200 million through the FCDA to provide accommodation to ECOWAS Court.
“Against all established protocols, some judges of the ECOWAS Court hijacked the project of relocation of office and, for whatever reason known to them, choose Gudu rather than allowing the host government to find a suitable location as the diplomatic practice is.
“No procurement procedure of bidding as laid down by ECOWAS regulations was observed neither was any vetting process done through the relevant department of ECOWAS.
“A few judges of ECOWAS Court took over the project after receiving the cheque from the FCDA against standard practice.
“A building is already paid for in Gudu by the Judges, contracts for partitioning awarded and all procurement contracts awarded without going through the procurement department or bidding as laid down in the ECOWAS regulations.
“Everything is being done in secrecy with speed without considering the security of the ECOWAS Court staff. Judges taking over contracts and breaking procurement rules and regulations is unheard of.
“The pulse of the staff of the court is that the location is not safe, but who will challenge the autocratic judges involve in the deal of procurement? This is Nigeria government fund being used without due process and without considering the security of the ECOWAS Court staff.
“The question that begs for an answer is whether there are no accommodations in Abuja central, which is safer and why FCDA is not following the rules of securing the office as the host government?
“This is in the public interest and interest of taxpayers and ECOWAS community to investigate the deal and flagrant violation of rules and interest involved in this relocation of office deal.
“Watch out as the public and staff of ECOWAS Court seek for answers as to why the office relocation project is shrouded in secrecy and urgency among the judges involve,” the source said.
‘ECOWAS Court didn’t get money from FCTA’
In his reaction, Sunday Ugoh, the Information and Communication Officer of the ECOWAS Community Court, said the court never collected any money from the FCT administration as claimed by our earlier sources.
Documents obtained by Vanguard showed that in a reply to the FCT administration by the Chief Registrar of the ECOWAS Community Court, Tony Anene-Maidoh, dated June 30, 2020, entitled “Re: Urgent Replacement of Building for Office and Court Facility Complex for the Community Court of Justice Acceptance Letter,” ECOWAS accepted the building allotted to them by the government in Abuja.
The building is located at Plot 1164 Joseph Gonwalk Street, Gudu District of Abuja.
“I wish to express the profound appreciation of the ECOWAS Court of Justice to the Honourable Minister of the FCT and the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for all your effort in securing a befitting office for the [court],” Anene-Maidoh said.
The memo added that the ECOWAS court will be moving into the new office building with their old furniture while they await the new furniture that will be supplied to them by the government in Abuja.
“We, therefore, wish to emphasise that the Treaty obligation of Nigeria to ECOWAS is to provide a finished building to the court in accordance with DECISION A/DEC.23/12/01 of 21st December 2001 of the Authority of Heads of States and Government of ECOWAS and the Headquarters Agreement between ECOWAS and the Federal Republic of Nigeria dated 18th December 2003,” he said.