For allegedly flouting a court judgment, a Beninese businessman, Mr. Gnanhoue Nazaire, on Monday asked the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos to commit his estranged wife, Mrs. Rashidatou Abdou, to prison.
The duo of Nazaire and his company, Rana Prestige Industries Limited, have accused Mrs Abdou of violating a court judgment delivered by a former judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Mohammed Yunusa.
His lawyer, Ajibola Oluyede, accused Abdou of invading the company with policemen led by a Chief Superintendent of Police, Akpama Okoi, the Divisional Police Officer, Meiran Police Station.
But, Mrs Abdou, through her lawyer Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), in a preliminary objection challenging the contempt proceedings said the judgment sought to be enforced was obtained by fraud while the judge who delivered it had been sacked and is on trial in relation to the case.
Mr. Nazaire and Mrs Abdou had been at loggerheads over the company’s ownership, with the latter petitioning the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
EFCC later filed charges against Nazaire, accusing him of fraudulently converting the company’s share to his use and to Mrs. Abdou’s prejudice, as well as “converted huge sums of money” belonging to the company “to his own use.”
Mrs. Abdou said she and Nazaire jointly established Rana Prestige and were the company’s only two directors.
She said she was fraudulently cut off as the company’s director to the extent that money was withdrawn from the company’s account without her consent despite the fact that she’s a signatory to the company’s accounts.
EFCC had sought to arrest Nazaire at the premises of the Lagos State High court, but was allegedly prevented from doing so by his lawyer Chief Rickey Tarfa (SAN).
The commission subsequently arrested Tarfa, culminating in his being charged with obstruction of justice and alleged bribery.
Justice Yunusa, who was retired in connection with the case, had ordered the EFCC to unseal the company’s business premises and to unfreeze of its bank account.
Nazaire, through his new counsel Oluyede, accused Mrs Abdou of violating Justice Yunusa’s verdict by invading the company’s premises with policemen.
He said if she was dissatisfied with the verdict, she ought to appeal rather than taking laws into her hands.
His words: “Our application is about the subversion of the judicial process by the alleged contemnor. The first respondent (Abdou) went with the police to prevent the company from doing its business after getting EFCC to seal up the company.
“The applicant approached the court and the court (Justice Yunusa) made an order restraining her. Despite that went to the police and unleashed mayhem on the premises with the help of the second respondent (DPO of Meiran Police Station).
“It is her subversion of the purpose of the order that make it a criminal contempt – the judgment that the company should continue to carry its business,” Oluyede said.
But, Falana urged the court to dismiss the suit for being an abuse of court process. He contended that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the case on the ground that the applicant did not comply with provisions of Order IX of the Sherriff and Civil Process Act.
“This suit constitutes a multiplicity of and forum shopping in that a similar criminal matter is pending before a Magistrate Court, Igbosere, Lagos.
“The judgment being enforced was obtained by fraud as the judge who sat over the suit had been retired and sacked and now on trial alongside with the respondent’s counsel, Mr Ricky Tarfa (SAN),” Falana said.
Justice Idris has adjourned the matter till November 24 for judgement.