The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division has ordered a stay of execution of the arrest warrant on the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, pending the determination of his appeal.
The Federal High Court, Abuja had on August 1, 2018 issued an order for Yakubu’s arrest following his absence from three sittings of the court.Justice Stephen Pam had given an order requesting the INEC boss to show cause why he should not be committed to prison over his alleged disobedience to the order of the court.
The judge, in a short ruling on August 8, reaffirmed the order when Yakubu on the last adjourned date failed to show up again.His counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), had informed the court that the INEC chief was not in court as a result of the appeals he filed at the appellate court challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the contempt charge, legality of the charge as well as the arrest order.
Yakubu, in the notice of appeal, claimed that Justice Pam acted in bad faith by issuing the arrest order having already filed a pending appeal against the warrant which he was allegedly aware of.Respondents in the notice of appeal are Ejike Oguebego and Chuks Okoye, Chairman and Legal Adviser of the Anambra chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who instituted the contempt charge for themselves and on behalf of other members of the State Executive Committee.
When the matter came up for hearing yesterday, Awomolo told the court that he had filed an application challenging the judgment of the lower court and its jurisdiction to hear the matter supported by an affidavit dated August 10, 2018 praying for the appellate court to make five orders in favour of his client.He contended that the appeal if not heard by the time the court would be sitting in September, Yakubu would have been sent to prison, adding that the lower court was bent on sending his client to jail.
Counsel to the respondents, Goddy Uche (SAN), insisted that proceedings were yet to reach the stage where the INEC chair could be jailed, noting that what the trial court is asking for was for Yakubu to appear to show cause why he should not be committed to prison.He said the trial judge had been unable to deliver his ruling on the contempt charge because of Yakubu’s continued absence. In a brief ruling, the three-man panel of the appellate court, led by Justice Abdu Aboki, held that it would be better for the court to take the appeal and the substantive suit together.