The Nigerian government has leased a property for the use of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice as its new headquarters in Abuja.
The international court, set up in 2001 pursuant to the 1993 revised treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has been operating from temporary offices in Abuja while waiting on the Nigerian government to meet its obligation of providing it a permanent headquarters.
The host government is obligated to provide a furnished accommodation to an ECOWAS agency. But Nigeria had not met this obligation to the court for about 17 years now.
Due to the inadequacy of the temporary main office, the court rented an annex office in 2007 as a short term measure to redress its desperate accommodation challenges.
However, the Nigerian government last year provided an office building for the Court in the serene Gudu district of Abuja.
Officials said the bigger facility will enable the Court to house all its departments and staff under one roof.
The property was identified by the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) and was deemed acceptable by the Court for its purpose.
This marks the culmination of the latest effort to secure accommodation for the Court which began on September 30, 2015.
On that day, a delegation of the Court consisting of its last college of judges presented the request to the Minister of the FCT, Mohammed Bello, during a visit to his office.
During the discussions, the minster pledged that Nigeria would rent a property for a temporary period of two years while efforts were being made for a permanent building with the specificities of the Court.
The process for securing the building had since gone through due process, including approval by the Federal Executive Council and No Objection stamp by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
This finally led to the identification of the Gudu property by a private company, BESTCO Engineering Nigeria Ltd. On inspection at the invitation of the FCT, the Court found the property suitable for its use.
Once payment issues were settled by the FCT, the Court began the process of partitioning the property to fit its departmental and other space needs.
In keeping with the financial regulations for the award of contracts, the ECOWAS Commission worked with the Court in the weeks before the Christmas holiday to develop the bidding documents for the engagement of a contractor for the partitioning.
Request for bids was published on the Court’s website on December 18, 2020 and in The Guardian newspaper of December 28, 2020 in line with the ECOWAS procurement requirement.
The bids were also published in the ECOWAS Offices in all member states on the Instructions of the President of the ECOWAS Commission.
The bid request closed on January 19 this year.
The head of information and communication of the Court, Sunny Ugoh, said: “We are delighted that the process is nearing its end and wish to commend the Federal Government of Nigeria for living up to its obligation and commitment.”
Mr Ugoh said “every stage of the process was owned by the host government,” adding “the Court was only contacted when necessary as the process went on for concurrence on issues of location, size and caliber of property befitting for an international organization of its kind.”
Furthermore, Mr Ugoh said “the process of award for partitioning of the leased property is still ongoing through the Community procurement process,” adding, “no contract for the partitioning of the property has been awarded by the Court as some people are already speculating.”
He further explained that the relevant departments – administration and finance – statutorily empowered to handle such issues are the ones leading the process for the award.
“I can tell you that any speculation of sidelining of relevant departments in the award process is as unfounded as it is mischievous,” Mr Ugoh said.
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