By Wandoo Sombo/Abuja
The Federal High Court Abuja, on Wednesday, issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) for “flagrant” disobedience of court orders.
Justice Stephen Pam gave the order following Yakubu’s absence in court for the third time.
On July 5 and 10, Justice Pam ordered Mahmoud to appear in court and show cause why he should not be sent to prison for contempt of court.
At the resumed hearing, Mr Adegboyega Awomolo, (SAN), counsel to Mahmoud told the court that his client was absent in court because he was attending an urgent national assignment in Mali.
Justice Pam in a short ruling held that the reason given by Mahmoud was not tenable because he had refused three times to honour the court summons to defend the contempt charge against him.
The charges were brought against the INEC 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 Dec. 2014.
Justice Pam maintained 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 an excuse for the INEC chairman’s absence in court on the grounds that the letter of Awomolo contradicted that of the INEC chairman dated July 29.
Justice Pam thereby ordered that Mahmoud 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 Mahmoud, INEC Chaiman, this repeated act of disobedience to court order to show cause can no longer be accepted by this court.”
Earlier, the court struck out the 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 the grounds that it was in contravention of 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 Dec. 2014 to recognise him as PDP chairman.
Counsel to Oguebego, Mr James Odiba had prayed the court to commit Mahmoud to prison for not obeying the order.
He had told that court that on the contrary, INEC and its chairman were relating with another faction of the PDP in Anambra.
In an interview with newsmen, Awomolo said that the judgment on which the contempt proceeding was initiated was delivered in 2014 when Mahmoud was not yet INEC chairman.
Odiba, however, also told newsmen that government was a continuum and it behoved on whoever was in office to obey the judgment adding that “no one was above the law”