The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, declined to consider the issuance of a bench warrant against the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, for failure to make himself available for arraignment in court over his alleged involvement in failure to declare his assets.
Justice Binta Nyako said the application brought by the prosecuting lawyer, Mr. Celsius Ukpong, is inchoate as the court need to resolve the application filed by Ekweremadu’s lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
The judge said, “When this is resolved, the Court will now be in a position to decide whether or not it is in a position to issue warrant.
The Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Assets had filed two count charge against the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, over his alleged refusal to declare his assets.
When the matter came up on Thursday, Ukpong informed the Court that the panel has served Ekweremadu with the processes and wondered why the defendant was conspicuously absent in court.
He said as Ekweremadu had been served with the processes relating to the charge filed against him since May 11, 2018, he is applying for a bench warrant.
But Awomolo (SAN) told the court that the defendant had filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court, therefore he doesn’t need to be physically present in court until the issue of jurisdiction is determined.
He said in any case, the Court of Appeal had on November 5, voided the power of, “The Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Assets,” to prosecute any person.
Awomolo also argued that he was surprised that the prosecution went ahead after he had hinted him to withdraw the charge in the light of the Court of Appeal judgment.
The senior advocate therefore tendered a Certified True Copy of the Judgment. He prayed the court to dismiss the motion which he described as “highly unmeritorious.’’
In her ruling, Justice Binta Nyako, held that the action was hasty and cannot be justified more so when Ekweremadu had earlier filed processes challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
The judge further held that the defendant had also challenged the legal competence of the two-count criminal charge the panel preferred against him.
The judge then adjourned the matter until February 26, 2019 to hear Ekweremadu’s preliminary objection.
The panel had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/62/2018, alleged that Ekweremadu refused to declare his assets in a manner it prescribed for him.
It also alleged that the defendant ignored several invitations extended to him to “clarify issues in the allegation of excessive wealth or suspicious assets.”