Alleged contempt: Police to arrest, produce INEC boss, Mahmood, in court tomorrow

Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman

THE Police will tomorrow arrest and produce the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Yakubu Mahmood in court, on the order of Justice Stephen Pam of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.

The court had, last week Wednesday reaffirmed the order on the Police to arrest and produce the INEC boss in court following his absence in court to show cause why he should not be committed to prison for alleged contempt of court.

The contempt proceedings against Mahmoud was stalled severally owing to his absence in court, a development, which led to the court ordering the Police to arrest and produce him in court tomorrow.

Counsel to the INEC, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) had told the court that his client has filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court and the validity of the contempt and added that, until the court determines that motion, there is no valid contempt charge before the court and that, the condition precedent for criminal trial has not been fulfilled.

Besides, Awomolo drew the attention of the court to a letter dated August 1 to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati to disqualify the Judge and transfer the case to another Judge on the account of alleged bias.

Counsel to the plaintiff, Chief Gordy Uche (SAN), however, opposed the move for the matter to be adjourned on the ground that there was no basis for that.

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He said the court cannot act on the letter written to the Chief Judge for the disqualification of the Judge because there was no directive from the Chief Judge on the letter.

Uche insisted that until there is a directive from the Chief Judge, the matter must go on and added that it is a special court issued with a fiat to hear the contempt charge within a specific time.

He said since the fiat issued to the Judge to sit as a special court has not been withdrawn, the letter of Awomolo cannot take precedence over the fiat and therefore urged the court to continue to sit and determine the contempt charge against INEC chief.

Justice Pam agreed with Uche and reaffirmed his order to the Police to arrest and produce the INEC Chief in court on August 14, 2018.

Recalled that a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ejike Oguebego had filed a contempt charge against INEC and its chairman for their refusal to recognize him as PDP chairman in Anambra State in compliance with the Supreme Court judgment of December 2014.

When the matter first came up for hearing, Awomolo informed the court that Mahmoud was not in court because he was attending an important national assignment outside the country.

Justice Pam, in a short ruling, held that the court can no longer tolerate the continued absence of the defendant in court for his trial.

The court held that the reason for his absence on court was not tenable because the INEC Chief had, on three occasions refused to honour the summon issued against him to appear in court to defend the contempt charges brought against him by one Ejike Oguebego, the current chairman of the PDP in Anambra State.

Justice Pam then, ordered that the INEC chairman be arrested for his persistent refusal to appear in court and adjourned further proceedings to August 8, 2018.

Earlier, a motion filed by Awomolo on July 31 praying the court to hands off or step aside from the trial on the grounds that an appeal had been filed to challenge the court to summon on the INEC boss was struck out because the motion runs contrary to Section 360 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), which does not permit stay in a criminal matter.

Counsel to Oguebego had prayed the court to commit the INEC boss to prison for disregarding the judgment of the Apex Court, adding that contrary to the letter and spirit of the Supreme Court judgment, both INEC and its chairman have been relating with another faction of the PDP in Anambra State.