INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood
The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, for “flagrant” disobedience of court orders.
Justice Stephen Pam gave the order following Yakubu’s absence in court for the third time to answer to contempt charges.
Justice Pam had on July 5 and July 10 ordered Mahmood to appear in court and show cause why he should not be sent to prison for contempt of court.
At the resumed hearing in the case on Wednesday, Mr Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), counsel to Mahmood, told the court that his client was absent in court because he was attending an urgent national assignment in Mali.
In a short ruling, the judge held that the reason for Mahmood’s absence was not tenable, because he had three times, refused to honour the court’s summons to defend the contempt charge against him.
The charges were brought against the chairman by Mr Ejike Oguebego for his refusal to recognise him as Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra in compliance with a Supreme Court judgment of December, 2014.
Pam said that the court would not fold its hands and allow a party who was a professor of law to turn it into a toothless dog.
“It is sad that the contemnor and his counsel, a senior lawyer, have chosen not to obey the orders of this court in respect of this contempt charge.
“The contempt of the contemnor to this court can no longer be tolerated and it should not be allowed to fester,” the judge said.
The judge faulted the letter by Awomolo dated July 27 making excuse for Mahmood’s absence in court on grounds that it contradicted another letter by his client dated July 29.
He consequently ordered that Mahmood should be arrested for his flagrant disobedience of court orders by refusing to appear in court, and adjourned the matter until Aug. 8
“A bench warrant is hereby issued against Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, INEC Chairman; this repeated act of disobedience to court order to show cause can no longer be accepted by this court.”
Earlier, the court had struck out a fresh motion filed by Awomolo on July 31 for stay of proceedings pending the outcome of an appeal on the matter.
The judge struck out the motion on grounds that it contravened Section 360 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), which did not allow a stay of proceedings in a criminal matter.
It will be recalled that Oguebego had initiated contempt proceedings against the INEC Chairman for refusing to comply with a Supreme Court judgment of December, 2014 to recognise him as PDP chairman in Anambra.
Counsel to Oguebego, Mr James Odiba, had prayed the court to commit Mahmood to prison for not obeying the order.
He had told the court that on the contrary, INEC and its chairman were relating with another faction of the PDP in Anambra.
In an interview after the ruling, Awomolo told newsmen that the judgment on which the contempt proceeding was initiated, was delivered in 2014 when Mahmood was not yet INEC chairman.
Odiba said that government was a continuum and that it behoved on whoever was in office to obey the judgment. According to him, no one is above the law. (NAN)
INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood