Court threatens INEC boss with contempt over Anambra PDP
May be arrested unless he appears Thursday
The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu will be arrested if he fails to appear at a Federal High Court in Abuja to answer to a contempt charge.
Justice John Tsoho gave the order yesterday in his ruling on whether or not, the physical presence of INEC and its chairman was necessary for the court to determine the contempt proceedings initiated against them by Ejike Oguebego and Chuks Okoye, chairman and legal adviser, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Anambra State.
The judge rejected the argument by lawyer to INEC and Yakubu, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) to the effect that the nature of the contempt proceedings against his clients was civil and as such, it could be determined without their physical presence in court.
Tsoho, however, held that whether civil or criminal, contempt proceedings are always quasi-criminal, which require the physical presence of the alleged contemnor in court for him or her to be heard on whether or not the order of committal should be made.
Relying on the provisions of Order Nine, Rule 14 of the Judgment Enforcement Rules, Tsoho stated that it was the duty of the court’s registrar to issue and serve Forms 48 and 49 on a party in disobedience of court’s order for him/her to attend court, failing which a bench warrant may be issued against him/her to attend court and show cause.
He said: “I hold that the alleged contemnors are under obligation to appear before this court to show cause why an order of committal should not be made against them.”
Tsoho, who specifically directed the alleged contemnors to present themselves in court on Thursday (July 7), warned that a bench warrant would be issued for their arrest should they decline to appear in court on the next adjourned date.
Oguebego and Okoye, who filed the case for themselves and on behalf of other members of the Executive Committee of the PDP, Anambra State, have accused INEC and Mahmood of refusing to obey the December 5, 2015 judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which was delivered by Justice Evoh Chukwu.
Chukwu had in the fifth order as contained in the judgment, restrained INEC, its agents and others from accepting or receiving any delegate list or nominated candidates that may emerge from the congresses or primaries conducted by the caretaker committee set up by the first defendant (PDP) for the Anambra PDP, except those emanating from the plaintiffs.
Bothered by INEC’s alleged refusal to comply with the judgment, particularly that fifth order, Oguebego and Okoye initiated contempt proceedings against the INEC chairman before the Federal High Court, Abuja.
On May 20, Tsoho granted an order ex-parte for substituted service of processes in relation to the contempt proceedings, including Form 48, on Yakubu.
Tsoho directed the plaintiffs to serve the court processes, including Form 48 on an adult person, staff or official at the Legal Department of INEC at No: 436 Zambezi Crescent, Maitama, Abuja, being the usual place of business of the second respondent (Yakubu).
Concerning INEC, the judge ordered the services of all processes, including Form 48 by delivering or leaving same at the Legal Department of INEC as the commission has refused to accept service from the bailiffs of the court.
Hence, Form 48 was issued by the court’s registrar on March 31, as a notice of consequences of disobedience to order of court.