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INEC chairman shuns court summons

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Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Tuesday, failed to honour a court order directing him to appear in court or risk going to jail.

Justice Stephen Pam of the Taraba division of the Federal High Court but sitting in Abuja on the directives of the Chief Judge of the court gave the order on July 5.

At the resumed hearing, counsel to Yakubu, Mr Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, told the court that it was the right of a respondent to decide if he wanted to be heard during vacation.

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Mr Awomolo said that he had not consented to his case been heard during the court’s vacation.“There is also no affidavit of urgency stating that the case needs to be urgently heard. I also want to notify the court that I have filed an appeal against the ruling.

” I have also filed an application praying further hearing to be stopped until the appeal is heard and determined by the Court of Appeal.”

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The senior lawyer added that in any case, he was not in the right frame of mind to argue the matter because he had lost his mother and wanted to go and bury her.

Mr Chris Uche, (SAN) counsel to the other party Mr Ejike Oguebego, however, said that the chief judge in the exercise of his administrative discretion, agreed to having the matter heard during the vacation.

“Order 46(5) of the court rules that govern vacation has two arms and it makes room for a case to be heard during vacation except on a Sunday or public holiday.

” Where the action is urgent or where the parties apply, and in this case, given the nature of the case, the chief judge applied his administrative discretion in our favour.

“This is a preelection matter which started since 2014, what could be more urgent,” he wondered.
Justice Pam in a short ruling said that court orders must be obeyed and counsel must ensure that their clients obeyed them.

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“Counsel must desist from making their clients disregard orders of court. Consistent disregard of orders of court amount to contempt of court.

” An applicant cannot while continuing to be in contempt of court, seek the court’s favour.”
According to the judge, the fiat issued by the chief judge to hear this matter during vacation is still subsisting and the case will go on during the vacation.

“The contemnor must appear in person before this court on the next adjourned date.”
He adjourned the matter until Aug. 1 to allow Awomolo go and bury his mother.

It would be recalled that the Supreme Court had in Jan. 2016 declared the list of candidates submitted by the Ken Emekayi led faction of the Anambra PDP, illegal.

That pronouncement emanated from a suit filed by the Ejike Oguebego faction on behalf of themselves and others including Mr Chris Uba.

The suit was for the apex court to determine who were the legal and validly nominated candidates of the party to stand for the last general elections for the party in the state.

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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 INEC.

In the list, Chris Uba, John Emeka and Annie Okonkwo were 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, had in 2017 ordered INEC and its chairman to appear before it 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.

The proceedings were initiated against them by Oguebego and Chuks Okoye – Chairman and Legal Adviser of PDP in Anambra.

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