Justice Stephen Pam of a Federal High Court has ordered Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to appear before him to show cause why he should not be sent to prison for contempt of court.
The judge made the order, Thursday, while ruling on a preliminary objection by INEC and its chairman in a contempt proceeding filed by the Ejike Oguebego’s faction of the Anambra State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In dismissing the preliminary objection, the court held that the filing of two suits could not be classified as an abuse of court proceedings.
Instead, the court reasoned that “it is the filing of the same application with different suit numbers that constitutes an abuse and forum shopping.”
More so, the court stated that the contemptor had failed to establish, through verifiable and affidavit evidence that the plaintiff’s tenure of office had expired.
“I hereby hold that further objections further raised by the contemptor is irrelevant because they have not established the date by which the plaintiff’s office had expired.
“In any case, the tenure of office is hardly relevant for a case as serious as contempt against the court,” Justice Pam said.
Consequently, the trial judge discountenanced the submission by counsel to the INEC chairman that the contempt suit amounted to forum shopping and an abuse of court process.
The contemptor had argued that there was a similar suit pending at the Federal High Court on the same subject matter.
“In view of the foregoing, the court stated that the preliminary objection fails in its entirety and is accordingly dismissed,” the judge added.
The court also ordered the INEC boss to appear before it at the next adjourned date to show cause why he should not be committed to prison for contempt.
It would be recalled that the Supreme Court had in January 2016 declared the list of candidates submitted by the Ken Emeakayi-led faction of the Anambra PDP illegal.
That pronouncement emanated from a suit filed by Oguebego, on behalf of themselves and others, including Chris Uba, who is the Anambra South Senatorial zone candidate for the apex court to determine who were the legal and validly nominated candidates of the party in the last general elections in the state.
Going by the ruling, the list of nominated party candidates in the 2015 general election from the Oguebego-led executive of the Anambra PDP was the only one to be recognised by the INEC.
In the list were Chris Uba, John Emeka, and Annie Okonkwo said to be the duly nominated senatorial candidates for Anambra South, Central, and North in the March 28, 2015 general election.
Similarly, Justice John Tsoho of a Federal High Court, Abuja, in 2017 ordered INEC and its chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, to appear before him to answer to contempt proceedings pending against them.
Justice Tsoho gave the order in his ruling on arguments 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 of the PDP, Anambra State.
The judge rejected the argument by INEC’s counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, that the nature of the contempt proceedings against his clients was civil and could be determined without their physical presence.
Justice Tsoho said whether civil or criminal, contempt proceedings were always quasi-criminal, which required the physical presence of the alleged contemptor in court for him/her to be heard on whether or not the order of committal should be made.