Justice Stephen Pam of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday ordered the arrest of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud for contempt of court.
Justice Pam said the UNEC chairman has consistently disobeyed court order to appear before it to show cause why he should not be committed to prison for allegedly refusing to recognise Ejike Oguebego as the Chairman of Anambra State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Oguebego had filed a contempt charge against INEC and its Chairman for their refusal to recognise him as the State PDP Chairman in Anambra in compliance with the Supreme Court judgment of December 2014.
At the resumed hearing Wednesday, counsel to Mahmoud, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) had informed the court that Mahmoud was not in court because he was attending an important national assignment in Mali.
The court faulted the letter by Awomolo, dated July 27 to take excuse for the contemnor on the grounds that the defendant had written through the Executive Secretary of INEC, adding that the letter of Awomolo dated contradicted that of INEC dated July 29.
The grouse of the judge was that Awomolo claimed in his letter of July 27 that he had been notified in writing that his client will not appear in court because of the Mali trip, whereas the INEC letter relied upon by Awomolo was dated July 29, 2018.
The court in a short ruling held that it can no longer tolerate the continued absence of the defendant in court to answer to the trial.
Justice Pam, who was visibly angry at the refusal of INEC Chief to appear before him said that the court will not fold its hands and allow it to be turned into a toothless dog by the defendant.
“It is sad that the contemnor and his senior counsel has chosen not to obey the order of this court in respect of this contempt charge.
“The contempt of the contemnor to this court can no longer be tolerated and he should not be allowed to continue to take court for granted,” he said.
The court adjourned till August 8
Earlier, a motion filed by Awomolo on July 31 praying the court to step aside from the trial on the grounds that an appeal had been filed to challenge the court summon on the INEC chief was struck out by Justice Pam.
The Judge held that the motion for stay runs contrary to section 360 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), which does not permit stay in a criminal matter.
Counsel to Oguebego had prayed the court to commit the INEC chief to prison for disregarding the judgment of the Apex Court, adding that contrary to the letter and spirit of the Supreme Court judgment both INEC and its Chairman have been relating with another faction of the PDP in Anambra State.
However, the two contemnors in their joint defensce claimed that Mahmoud was not in office in 2014, hence, no order was made against him and that he has not disrespected any order of the court.