The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division has ordered a stay of execution of the warrant of arrest on Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, pending the determination of his appeal.
Justice Stephen Pam of the Federal High Court in Abuja, had on August 1, 2018, ordered for the arrest of Yakubu, following his absence in court on three different occasions, to show cause why he should not be committed to prison over his alleged disobedience to the order of the court.
Justice Pam, also in a short ruling on August 8, reaffirmed the order, when Yakubu on the last adjourned date failed to show up.
His counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), had informed the court that Yakubu 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, the legality of the charge as well as the arrest order.
The INEC chief in the notice of appeal claimed that Justice Pam acted in bad faith in the issuance of the arrest order because he had already filed a pending appeal against the order and the attention of the judge drawn to the appeal.
When the matter came up yesterday, counsel to the INEC chief, told the court that he had filed an application challenging the judgment of the lower court as well as its jurisdiction to hear the matter, adding that the application was supported by a further affidavit dated August 10, praying for the appellate court to make five orders in favour of his client.
Awomolo said if the appeal was not heard by the time the court would be sitting in September, his client would have been sent to prison, adding that the lower court was bent on sending Yakubu to jail.
However, counsel to the respondents, Mr. Goddy Uche (SAN), insisted that the trial was yet to reach the stage where Yakubu could be jailed, adding that what the trial court was asking for was for the INEC chief to appear in court 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 court.
However, the trial could not proceed further, following the court’s decision to avoid going into the substantive matter.
The three-man panel of the court of appeal, presided over by Justice Abdu Aboki, held that it would be better for the court to take the appeal and the substantive suit together.
The court in the meantime then ordered for a stay of execution of the warrant of arrest on Yakubu as well as a stay of proceedings of the matter at the trial court.
The court in a short ruling held that hearing of the appeal could not go on without delving into the main suit, adding that parties were yet to file their brief of argument.
The matter was, therefore, adjourned till September 17, 2018 for the hearing of the appeal and the substantive suit.