Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has declared that the warrant of arrest it issued against the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, still subsists and remains valid.
The court, therefore, insisted that the police must arrest and produce Yakubu in court on August 16, the next adjourned date.
Justice Stephen Pam had on August 1 ordered the police to arrest and produce the INEC boss in court to explain why he should not be committed to prison over alleged disobedience to order of the court.
The bench warrant against the INEC chairman followed his failure to appear before the court on three occasions to defend himself in the contempt charge brought against him by Ejike Oguebego and
Chuks Okoye, Chairman and Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Anambra State respectively.
The police were supposed to produce Yakubu in court on August 8, going by the first order of court. However, the INEC chairman was not present on the said date, forcing the court to adjourn to August 14, while again affirming its earlier order of August 1.
When the matter came up yesterday, the INEC chairman was not in court to show cause why he should not be committed to prison over contempt of court allegation. His counsel did not also appear or sent a message to the court on why they were not in court.
Counsel to the plaintiffs, Kanayo Okafor, however, informed the court of the ruling of the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal on August 13, which ordered a stay of execution of the warrant of arrest as well as the proceedings at the trial court.
In a short ruling, Justice Pam held that the court was a court of record and as such would require the ruling or judgment of the appellate court, adding that there was no proof of such decision of the higher court before him to be guided by.
Said Justice Pam: “At the commencement of proceedings, counsel to the applicant, Kanayo Okafor informed the court that the Court of Appeal on Monday, asked the court to stay proceedings in the matter.
“The counsel to the respondent is not in court and no reason has been given for their absence.
“The contempt proceedings and the bench warrant issued for the arrest of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman, still subsists. The IGP is to carry out the order of the arrest of Yakubu.
“This court, being a court of record, has nothing to prove that there was an order for stay from the Court of Appeal.”
Justice Pam, subsequently adjourned to August 16 for the police to produce Yakubu in court for the trial.
On August 13, the Court of Appeal, Abuja, restrained the police from arresting the INEC chief in reaction to the orders of Justice Pam.
The court also halted Yakubu’s trial at the lower court, pending the determination of the appeal filed by Yakubu.
Yakubu, who is challenging the order of his arrest at the Court of Appeal, claimed that Justice Pam acted in bad faith in the issuance of the arrest order because he had already filed a pending appeal against the order and the attention of the judge drawn to the appeal.
His lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), had argued that if the appeal were not heard by the time the court would be sitting in September, his client would have been sent to prison, adding that the lower court was bent on sending Yakubu to jail.