PORT HARCOURT, Rivers State – As the tussle between Nigerian start-up Agriconnekt Services and three other entities continues, the Port Harcourt High Court has shed new light on the situation, underscoring the importance of upholding contractual agreements and ensuring justice for all.
Back in March, Agriconnekt Services made headlines when it took two international agencies and a Nigerian firm to court, claiming damages of $450,000. The startup further demanded an additional $758,000, citing their supposed share from the “Smartdevelopmenthack” project, an initiative backed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, alongside Team Europe.
However, the crux of the matter revolves around Agriconnekt’s accusation that GIZ (the German Agency for International Cooperation and Development), Mercy Corps (A US Non profit) and Coamana (A Nigerian Firm) unlawfully diverted €1.3 million. According to Dr. Brain Iweh, Agriconnekt’s CEO, his start-up rightfully won a place in an intensive hackathon competition, only to be later replaced by “Coamana,” a company that wasn’t among the original winners. Agriconnekt’s removal was attributed to concerns about its ability to effectively manage resources for the project due to its early-stage nature.
In the court hearing back in June, it was revealed that while Agriconnekt and one of the defendants had begun processes for alternative dispute resolution via the multidoor by filling their forms, Mercy Corps and Coamana was yet to engage fully. It was also revealed that before the ADR process was ordered by the judge, the defendants with the exception of GIZ hadn’t filed their defence in response to Agriconnekt’s claim in the court, and even till the time of this report.
Agriconnekt’s involvement of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) added another layer of intrigue to the case. While one of the defendant’s lawyers brought up an invitation from the EFCC in court, it was later clarified that the investigation was in the concluding stage and two defendants were already interrogated and the petition before EFCC is unrelated to the current civil dispute but a criminal breach of the matter.
Fast forward to October, the case took a pivotal turn. According to the Counsel to Agriconnekt, the case was revisited for a report from the River State Multi door Courthouse. All necessary papers have been filed by both the claimant and defendant, with Agriconnekt having already made its payment for the proceedings at the Multi door Courthouse to the tune of N1,186,965.9 which represent 0.1% of the claim and mediation session fee to enable the matter progress to the stage of Appointment of Mediators to kick off the mediation. The ball now seems to be in the court of the defendants to follow suit, as the proceedings at Multidoor await their payment.
This latest hearing underscores a deeper message about the essence of contract law. Agriconnekt’s breach of contract case against the international entities isn’t just about a monetary settlement; it stands as a testament to the importance of trust, transparency, and the rightful allocation of dues in the corporate world. Meanwhile the case was adjourned till 16th September, 2023 for a report from the Multidoor Court House. According to Agriconnekt’s counsel, if all the defendants make payments in time, mediation may conclude before the end of the year.
As both sides await the next move, the broader public is keenly watching. Will a settlement be reached, or will the court need to intercede once more? Whichever way it swings, the hope remains for a just resolution that ensures that all parties are treated fairly and equitably.