The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday has refused to issue bench warrant for the arrest of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, over his absence in court to defend the charges of refusal to declare his assets.
Justice Binta Nyako refused to issue the warrant on ground that the Senator is already challenging the jurisdiction of the court and validity of the charge against him.
The Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Assets had, through its counsel, Mr Celsius Ukpong, applied to Justice Binta Nyako to issue bench warrant for the arrest of Ekweremadu to compel his attendance in court to defend the charges against him.
The counsel told the judge that Ekweremadu ought to be in court physically yesterday in connection with the criminal charge instituted against him since May 11.
The counsel further submitted that the Deputy Senate President decided on his own not to obey the summon despite been duly served with the charge as required by law.
However, Chief Solomon Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), counsel to 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.
He argued that the appearance of Ekweremadu in court was not necessary for now, until the issue of jurisdiction and competency of the charge have been resolved by the court.
He also argued that it would be more honourable for the presidential panel to withdraw the charge against his client in view of the court of appeal judgement delivered against the panel on November 5.
Awomolo who tendered a copy of the judgement 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’s jurisdiction and the competence of the charge against him.
The Special Presidential Investigative Panel on the Recovery Of Publics Assets had filed a two-count charge bordering on alleged refusal to declare assets against Ekweremadu since May but the trial could not commence due to the inability of the panel to serve the defendant personally as required by law
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