As the Court of Appeal today begins hearing in the suit by Senator Ifeanyi Uba challenging his sack as senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District, the judge who handled the case has cried out to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court Chief Judge (CJ), Justice Ishaq Bello, alleging harassment and intimidation of the court registrar.
The Abuja High Court in Kubwa presided over by Justice Bello Kawu had, in a judgment in a suit challenging the Anambra South senatorial election, sacked Senator Uba over alleged submission of a forged certificate and the violation of the law as his political party – Young People’s Party (YPP) – did not conduct primaries for his emergence as a candidate.
The judge ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Dr Obinna Uzoh, whose political party – People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – came second in the election, Certificate of Return. He also directed that Uzoh be sworn in to replace Uba.
Following some unpleasant developments while the parties awaited hearing date from the Court of Appeal, Justice Kawu last week wrote to the chief judge of the FCT High Court alleging that the police were being used to intimidate a registrar of the Abuja High Court, Kubwa.
The judge in the letter dated March 5 complained to the CJ that ever since the judgment, the registrar had been under intense harassment and intimidation.
According to him, some policemen came to the court and requested a Certified True Copy (CTC) of documents relating to the suit Senator Uba lost and the judgment. Justice Kawu said the policemen came with a request letter signed by one Augustine A Sanomi, Commissioner of Police, Legal/ Prosecution section FHQ, Abuja, following which he directed the registrar to oblige the request.
He said a day before his letter to the CJ, a policeman came asking for his registrar, with an instruction that he should report to the chief registrar’s office with the case file. When the registrar reported at the chief registrar’s office, he was directed to follow Senator Uba’s police orderly and lawyer to photocopy the case file outside the court premises, he said in the letter.
He said when the registrar went with them to do the photocopy as instructed, they tried to cow him with the threat of arrest and detention.
Justice Bello wrote: “My Lord this is a case that did not involve my registrar, and he is now under a very serious threat from those people. It is a matter that was assigned to me by the Hon Chief Judge. I presided over it from the beginning to the finish. In every matter, there has to be a winner and a loser. The loser should not resort to self-help, intimidating the staff, reporting them to the police and what have you.
“If they are not satisfied they should go to Court of Appeal or National Judicial Council, where they think the judge acted wrongly. Most importantly, my Lord, the matter is presently before the Court of Appeal. My Lord, for the police to get into this matter, I think there is a sinister motive which the attention of Inspector-General of Police needs to be drawn.
“It is not within their power and they really know this. It is something intended to ridicule the judiciary and intimidate the judicial officer.
”On April 11, 2019, the Abuja High Court, in a judgment, sacked Uba for allegedly submitting a forged National Examination Council certificate. It ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Uba and issue a fresh one to Dr Uzoh. Uba had applied to the court to set aside the judgment, but Justice Kawu on January 17, 2020, reaffirmed his earlier judgment sacking him. He then approached the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgment.