We cant order Ekweremadu’s Arrest

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Justice Binta Nyako, of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday declined to order the arrest of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, due to his absence in court to defend the charges of refusal to declare his assets before the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Assets.
The presidential panel had, in May this year, filed a criminal charge against Ekweremadu following alleged failure to declare his assets in a manner that was prescribed by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.
Justice Nyako refused to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the Deputy Senate President on the ground that the PDP Senator is already challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter as well as validity of the charge against him.
The court had on October 10, granted the Okoi Obono Obla led presidential panel leave to arraign Ekweremmadu on November 8.
However, at a resumed hearing on Thursday, the arraignment was stalled as Ekweremadu was conspicuously absent in court.
Consequently, Mr Celsius Ukpong, counsel to the complainant had to apply to Justice Nyako to issue bench warrant for the arrest of Ekweremadu to compel him to appear in court and defend the charges against him.
Ukpong told the judge that Ekweremadu was supposed to be in court in person to answer the criminal charge instituted against him by the presidential panel.
He contended that Ekweremadu out of his own volition decided to ignore a valid court summons despite being duly served with the charge as required by law.Reacting, Solomon Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), representing Ekweremadu objected to the request for bench warrant on the ground that the Senator 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.
Awomolo argued that “appearance of Ekweremadu in court was not necessary for now, until the issue of jurisdiction and competency of the charge have been determined by the court.
Further more, Awomolo posited that it will be more honourable for the Obla panel to withdraw the charge against the DSP, in view of the November 5, judgement of the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
Awomolo who tendered a copy of the judgment to the court emphasised that the appellate court had made it abundantly clear that the panel, which filed the criminal charge against Ekweremadu has no prosecutorial power under the law and urged the court to discountenance the arguments of the complainant.
In a short ruling, Justice Binta Nyako said that there was no necessity to issue bench warrant against Ekweremadu.
The judge subsequently fixed February 26, 2019 to hear the objection filed by Ekweremadu against the Court jurisdiction and the competence of the charge against him.
The appellate court had held that the Okoi Obono-Obla led Presidential Panel on Assets Recovery lacked prosecutorial power and hence cannot initiate criminal proceedings against any accused person.
The Appeal Court further held that the panel lacked the constitutional power to seize properties of alleged offenders.
The judgement of the court was sequel to an appeal filed by a staff of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing , Tijani Tumsah challenging an order forfeiting his properties ,alongside that of his brother , Ibrahim Tumsah,who is the Director of Finance and Accounts in Ministry of Power,Works and Housing.
Specifically, the two-count charge against Ekweremadu read: “That you, Ike Ekweremadu ‘M’ on or about 28th day of March, 2018, being a public officer with the National Assembly Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, committed an offence to wit: refuse to declare your assets without reasonable excuse and upon the notice to declare your assets in the manner prescribed by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property contrary and punishable under section 3 (3)[1)a of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act 2004.
“That you, Ike Ekweremadu ‘M’ on or about 28th day of March, 2018 being a public officer with the National Assembly Abuja within the jurisdiction of this court, committed an offence to wit: neglect to declare your assets without reasonable excuse and upon the notice to declare your assets in the manner prescribed by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property contrary and punishable under Section 3 (3)(1)a of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act 2.0014”

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