Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Thursday, approached Court of Appeal, Abuja, urging it to vacate the arrest order issued against him by Justice Stephen Pam, Wednesday.
In a six grounds of appeal, Mahmoud said the arrest warrant was legally defective and therefore does not have effect on him.
The INEC boss, who maintained that he could not be arrested based on the order, urged the appellate court to invoke its powers and void the arrest order.
Justice Pam had in a bench ruling on Wednesday, ordered the Nigerian Police to arrest and produce the INEC boss in court on August 8 to face contempt charge.
The order followed Mahmoud’s failure to honour a summon the court issued him to appear in court in respect to a suit involving the Anambra State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Before the order, Wednesday, the INEC Chairman had on July 5 and 10, equally failed to honour the court’s summon to appear and defend a contempt proceeding that was initiated against him by Chairman and Legal Adviser of the PDP in Anambra state, Ejike Oguebego and Chuks Okoye, respectively.
The court had ordered him to appear before it to show cause why he should not be committed to prison for refusing to recognise the Oguebego-led faction of the PDP in Anambra state in compliance with a judgment the Supreme Court delivered in December 2014.
The Applicants had prayed the court to jail Mahmoud for disregarding the said judgment, decrying that contrary to the apex court’s verdict, both INEC and its Chairman, continued to relate with another faction of the PDP in the state.
But in a notice of appeal he lodged barely 24 hours after the arrest warrant was issued against him, Mahmoud denied disobeying any order from the court, insisting that he was denied fair hearing by the trial Judge.
The INEC Chairman said there was no evidence that any court summon was enrolled and served on him by the court’s bailiff.
He argued that the high court erred in law when it ordered that he should be arrested for allegedly disobeying its order, “when the conditions necessary to warrant the issuance of bench warrant have not been satisfied”.
Counsel to Mahmoud, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, further argued that no order was enrolled and served on his client for his personal appearance in court.
“The court did not give Professor Yakubu Malmoud or his counsel opportunity to explain his absence in court and why the bench warrant should not be issued”, he added.
Besides, Awomolo faulted the court’s order of arrest on the grounds that it was “made in the absence of Professor Yakubu Mahmoud and such order was not enrolled or personally served on him and when the disobedience was in the nature of contempt ex-facie curie which the honourable judge has no power to punish its disobedience”.
He maintained that the Judge acted illegally, thus rendering the bench warrant void ab-initio.
Awomolo told the appellate court that Justice Pam’s arrest order, “occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice”, saying the judge “punished Professor Yakubu for alleged non-obedience of the court’s order made on 5th July 2018, when there was an appeal against the order”.
According to him, “The learned trial judge erred in law when he descended into the arena of conflict when he argued the case of the respondents without opportunity of hearing given to the Appellants or their counsel before striking out the motion asking for adjournment of further hearing of the alleged contempt proceedings”.
He argued further that the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, which the Judge relied on, were not referred to by any of the counsel in the matter, thereby violating “the rights of the appellants preserved by Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999”.
No date has been fixed for hearing of the appeal.