Court orders railway MD to show evidence for his absence
The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr Fidet Okhiria, to show evidence of being on official assignment outside the country as he claimed for his absence in court.
The trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun had on February 15, 2018 threatened to order his arrest for his alleged perpetual refusal to appear before the court in a (committal proceeding) suit filed against him by a former employee, Mr Benedict O. Iheakam.
The former employee had approached the court through his lawyer, Mr Johnson Esezoobo (counsel to judgement creditor) asked the court for an order committing to prison, the MD of the NRC,and the company secretary/legal adviser, Canise Oklahoma, for alleged refusal to comply with the order for over 14 years ago.
Justice Dan Abutu had in a suit marked as FHC/L/CS/926/95 ordered NRC to reinstate Iheakam to his employment and pay his entitlements.
However, at the resumed proceedings after the expiring of a week ultimatum given by the court, counsel to the Okhiria, Mr. Opeyemi Igbayiloye (counsel to the 2nd respondent judgement debtor) informed the court of his application (affidavit to show cause) dated February 21,2018.
Esezoobo (counsel to judgement creditor) told court he needed to file response to the application.
Igbayiloye said his 13-paragraph affidavit to show cause was sworn to by one Obiorah Emedolibe, stating “that initial non-compliance immediately was not deliberate nor attributable to the act or inaction of Engineer Okhiria but due to the misplacement of the judgement creditor’s personnel file, the retrenchment, retirement and or death of key staff conversant with the suit and the bureaucracy usually associated with the civil service.”
Emedolibe who is the secretary of the NRC also averred that “Okhiria travelled out of the country to China on official duty since February 7, 2018 as part of Federal Government team on fund sourcing for the railway modernization projects, “ among other averrements.
Sequel to his application, Olatoregun therefore ordered Okhiria to show evidence, exhibiting his travelling documents such as his international passport, flight ticket and visa on the next adjourned date.
She subsequently adjourned till March 9,2018.
At the last proceedings, the court directed Okhiria to show cause why he did not comply with order.
Olatoregun asked if Okihiria was bigger than the law. “ Order of the court must be always obeyed. He must not show himself to be above law. Is he too big to appear in court? I give him a week to obey court.”
Abutu had declared in a judgment delivered on February 18, 2003 that Iheakam, a Principal Technical Officer’s purported retirement letter dated, November 1, 1994 was contrary to the contract of employment and was therefore unlawful, null and void.
However, since February 18, 2003 the management of NRC refused to reinstate the plaintiff or pay his entitlements, notwithstanding that they lost in all their applications to appeal the judgment from 2005 to 2014 when the last application was struck out for incompetence.
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