The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday turned down a request by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Assets for the arrest of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
The Okoi Obono-Obla-led committee had through its counsel, Mr. Celsius Ukpong, applied to the judge to issue bench warrant for the arrest of Ekweremadu to compel his attendance in court to defend the charges of non-declaration of assets brought against him.
The counsel told the judge that Ekweremadu ought to be in court physically yesterday in connection with the criminal charges filed against him earlier in May. According to the counsel, the senator has decided on his own not to obey the court summon in spite of the fact that he was duly served with the charge as required by law.
But counsel to Ekweremadu, Chief Solomon Awomolo (SAN), objected to the request for bench warrant on the ground that his client had on November 1 filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the charge against him, and also the validity of the charge itself.
The counsel submitted that appearance of Ekweremadu in court was not necessary until the issues of jurisdiction and competency of the charge have been resolved by the court.
He said it would be more honourable for the presidential panel to withdraw the charge against his client in view of the Court of Appeal judgment delivered against the panel on Monday.
Awomolo, who tendered a copy of the judgment to the court, emphasized that the appellate court had made it clear in the judgment that the panel, which filed the criminal charge against Ekweremadu, has no power under the law to prosecute any accused person.
The counsel, therefore, urged the court to discountenance the arguments of the complainant.The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, had on Monday held that the Obono-Obla-led panel lacked prosecutorial power and hence cannot initiate criminal proceedings against any accused person.
The court gave the position while delivering judgment in an appeal filed by a staff of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Tijani Tumsah. Returning to the Federal High Court yesterday, the trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako, refused to issue the warrant to arrest Ekweremadu on the ground that the senator is already challenging the jurisdiction of the court and the competency of the charge brought against him.
The judge held that there was no necessity to issue bench warrant against Ekweremadu and subsequently, fixed February 26, 2019, to hear the objection filed by the lawmaker against the court’s jurisdiction and the competence of the charge against him.