Justice Oyekan Abdullahi of the Lagos Division of the Lagos State High Court has fixed June 22 for ruling on whether there is a binding contract existing between the Lagos State government and the private waste operators (known as Private Sector Participant, PSP).
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, counsel for the PSP operators, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, informed the court that the Lagos State government had rebuffed the court’s intervention for the resolution of the controversy between both parties.
“My Lord, your kind intervention for the resolution of the issues in controversy has been rebuffed by the 1st to 3rd defendants, who have indicated their unwillingness to settle,” Mr. Adegboruwa said.
Mrs. Abdullahi had on February 21 directed the state government and the private waste operators to settle their dispute within two weeks.
She stated that the laws establishing the court permits judges to encourage settlement of disputes between the parties, in consequence of which she directed the executive members of the waste collectors association to write their names and telephone numbers for Mr. Quadri, counsel to Lagos government for onward transmission to those in charge.
Despite the Lagos government’s refusal to settle with the PSP operators, according to the human rights activist the “waste operators are still cleaning the entire space of Lagos State and we urge my lord to preserve a means of livelihood of the claimant.”
“The 1st to 3rd defendants are daily threatening the contracts and franchise of the claimants and my humble application is to issue an interim order to preserve the status-quo of this suit in other to keep Lagos clean.”
“The claimants have continued to heed to my noble lord’s advice to continue to clean even when they are not paid.” Said Mr. Adegboruwa.
In response, counsel to the 1st and 3rd defendants, O.O. Adeshina, said “the 1st claimant and the 2nd to 30th claimants are not privy to each other’s contractual agreement as they were executed individually with the defendants and therefore cannot maintain a joint suit against the defendants.”
In two separate applications seeking for an order of interlocutory injunction dated 30th January 2017, Mr. Adegboruwa urged the court to “make a finding from these exhibits that there is an existing franchise between the 1st to 3rd defendants deserving an interlocutory injunction.”
“I urge the court to discountenance the affidavit of the 1st to 3rd defendants because it is inviting my lord to make findings at this interlocutory stage on matters that should be dealt with in the substantive trial. The claimants seek for maintenance of status-quo,” Mr. Adegboruwa said.
In opposing the waste managers application Mrs. Adeshina filed a 64 paragraph counter affidavit deposed to by one Komolafe Olanrewaju, where they pointed out that the steps taken by the claimants in filing two interlocutory injunctions is an abuse of court processes.
“In specific response to claimant counsel, we’ve shown that there is no more legal relationship and contract between the claimant and the 1st to 3rdrespondents,” said Mrs. Adeshina.
The said contract they are relying on has expired and the fact they are cleaning Lagos state does not mean Lagos state employed them, they are doing so at their freewill,” Mrs. Adeshina continued.
“It’s our contention that why the claimant brought this matter to court is to foist that relationship on the government as you can force a willing agent but you cannot force an unwilling principal.”
“The Lagos State government is willing to make Lagos a mega city and you don’t go to mega cities with dirts around,” Mrs. Adeshina asserted.
Responding on point of law, Mr. Adegboruwa told the court that the 1st to 3rd defendants cannot “approbate and reprobate” at the same time as “they first denied the existence of a contract and at the same time claiming the claimants were not diligent in their contracts.”
According to the human rights lawyer, “the court has the disciplinary jurisdiction to punish any party before it that takes any step to hinder the courts processes.
“Which is what the 1st defendant did with a newspaper publication in the Punch of February 6 2017 after this suit was filed and they were served purporting to advertise the same franchise that the claimant have submitted for your lordship’s determination.
“In law my lord, it is the conduct of the 1st to 3rddefendants that actually amount to abuse of process and contempt to the authority of this court, which we urge this court not to allow,” said Mr. Adegboruwa.
Mrs. Abdullahi adjourned the matter till June 22 for ruling.