Why arrest warrant on INEC chairman can’t stand —Awomolo, SAN

INECCOUNSEL for the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), said on Friday that the arrest warrant issued on the INEC boss could not stand because it was patently flawed.

Awomolo, in an appeal filed before the Court of Appeal in Abuja, raised six objections which he claimed nullified the arrest warrant as a misnomer.

In the appeal marked CA/A/2018 in reference to suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/854/2015, Awomolo is praying the appellate court to issue an order allowing the appeal; issue an order setting aside the entire ruling of Justice Pam of August 1, 2018 and issue an order remitting the case file number FHC/ABJ/CS/854/2015 back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another judge for hearing and determination of the suit.

Chief Awomolo, who also spoke to newsmen in Abuja on the development, said the INEC chairman was not served with any order of the court as required by law, adding that the INEC boss could not be said to be in disobedience of the court.

“All the orders that were made by the court, none was served on him as required by the law.

“Secondly, he has an application filed on the 27th of June 2016, which is challenging the competence of the contempt proceedings and the jurisdiction of the court,” he said.

He said the Supreme Court in its judgement of July 2017 said the INEC boss could not be compelled to appear in court until the motion of June 27, 2016 has been determined and “so, he is not guilty of disobedience of the court. He is not guilty at all.”

He said “the warrant of arrest is putting the cart before the horse,” adding that it was more or less pre-judging all the appeals against that suit.

“The Supreme Court has said it that you cannot say someone is guilty of contempt of court until you have exhausted all the preliminary objections. I have two before the court, he answered one and he left one undetermined and the one he left undetermined is the most critical. The one of 27, June 2016,” the counsel said.

According to him, beside the fact that no enrolment was served on the INEC boss, the warrant of arrest was against the Supreme Court judgement.

He said the court had, without hearing his application before it which he said was unopposed, struck out the motion and ordered the arrest of the INEC chairman who, he said, was not in contempt.

In the processes already filed before the Court of Appeal, the senior lawyer also stated that the order of 5th July 2018 compelling the personal attendance of the chairman was not served on the chairman as required by the law. There was no evidence of the enrolment and service of the order,

He listed other grounds as including “the chairman had as at the 1st of August 2018, an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court filed on 27/6/16. The Supreme Court had held in this same case that where jurisdiction is being challenged the chairman did not have to personally appear.

“The existence and entry of the appeal has been brought to the notice of the court on 10/7/2018 but the court ignored same.

“On the 10th July, 2018, the ruling of the court again ordered the appearance of the second respondent. That ruling has been appealed against. The law is that the second respondent could not be regarded as a contemptor

“It was also brought to the attention of the court that there was a pending application for stay of proceeding before the Court of Appeal. It is the law that where a trial court is aware of pending application at the Court of Appeal, the court should not take any step that will foist on the Court of Appeal a fait accompli.

“The commission and indeed the chairman have obeyed all lawful orders of the court, brought to its attention in this matter and have not disobeyed any court order

“The Supreme Court had in several judgements and positive orders, held that the commission is only bound to accept and recognise the list of candidates sent or forwarded to it by the National Executive of the Party as the party is one and is only divided into states for the party’s internal and administrative convenience

“The Supreme Court had made this clear even in the appeal of the Applicants where the Supreme Court made it clear that it did not order that the Commission should collect or recognise the list by the Oguebego-led executive.”