Posted by News Express | 14 March 2017 | 1,944 times
Piqued by the continued refusal of some officials of the Imo State government to appear before it on charges of contempt of court, the Owerri Judicial Division of the Federal High Court on Monday directed the Inspector General of Police, Commissioners of Police in all the 36 states of the federation and the Nigeria police in general to arrest the erring officials wherever they are without delay.
The affected officials are: the State Commissioner for Works, Housing and Transport, Mrs. Josephine Udoji; the director (civil) in the ministry, C.E. Egbuka and permanent secretary of the ministry, Dr. Chibuzor Iwuagwu; the head of department (works), Government House, Owerri, Emeka Duru; the general manager of Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA), Chidiebere Nwogu, as well as the Commissioner for Land, Survey and Urban Planning, Chief Law Eburuo.
This is even as counsel to the state government, J.C Ibe (Mrs), an Assistant Director (civil litigation), state Ministry of Justice, had argued that the state government had already filled an appeal and which had been properly entered.
Justice A. Lexis Allagoa, who issued the directive on Monday at the resumed hearing of the case between ex-Interior Minister, Captain Emma Iheanacho, and the state government as contained in suit No FHC/OW/CS/133/2016, explained that the measure became inevitable to protect the integrity, respect and credibility of the judiciary, warning that contempt and utter disregard to court orders by any individual no matter how highly placed in society would never be tolerated.
Counsel to Captain Iheanacho, Ken C.O Njemanze (SAN), had earlier in his submission frowned at the continued absence of the officers in court despite earlier summons.
Njemanze recalled that the court had on 14th of last month deliberated on a motion bordering on alleged contempt of court by the people in question.
He vehemently dismissed the argument of appeal raised by Ibeh as ridiculous, baseless and untenable, insisting that there was no evidence before the court such as affidavit of facts to back up the argument. He stressed that no court of competent jurisdiction could afford to speculate on any matter before it.
In his words, “Whether appeal has been filed and entered for is a mere question of facts which the court can assume or be forced to assume because there is no statement of facts before the court. The fellows in question are under unqualified obligation to be in court this morning. Whether appeal has been filed or not is immaterial and they are bound, to appear before you my lord, but they are not here.
My lord, you have the powers to compel them to appear before you, no matter how highly placed they think they are because we have a duty to protect the integrity and seriousness of the court and to stop this culture of impunity being demonstrated by the Imo State government.
“I therefore urge you, my lord to issue a warrant of arrest on all the alleged contemptors. We cannot be making laws for the good of the society only for some individuals to flout such laws with impunity because of their privileged positions.”
Justice Allagoa, who took serious exception to the absence of the officials in court on the pretext that the case had gone on appeal directed the Inspector General of Police and Nigeria Police at large to arrest them immediately.
The case was later adjourned to May 2, 2017. (Independent)
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