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Contempt: Court Jails Ahoada East Councillors

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A Port Harcourt High Court in Rivers State presided over by Justice George Omereji, has sentenced four principal officers of the Ahoada-East Local Government Legislative Council to three months imprisonment with hard labour, and without option of fine for showing lack of respect to court directives.

Those sentenced include the former leader of the legislative arm, Hon Emeka Golden, Deputy Leader, Hon Goodlive Whiegbe, Chief Whip, Hon Onwudiwe Abraham as well as the clerk of the House, Mr Aaron Ikechukwu Odum.

The principal officers had earlier been convicted along side the other nine councillors of the local government council by the court following an application for committal to prison of the councillors brought by the embattled Vice Chairman of the council, Hon Britain Ewor through his counsel, Barrister Agent B. Ihun-Maduenyi in the case before the court challenging his purported impeachment and removal from office by the councillors despite the court order restraining them from such legislative exercise .

Sentencing the principal officers yesterday, the trial judge, Justice George Omereji ruled that the convicts failed to purge themselves and grab the window of opportunity earlier given them by the court to free themselves from the  wrath of the law and punitive consequence of their disobedience to the court.

According to him, the court has on February 25 2013, found the principal officers, including the other nine councillors culpable of court contempt, and admitted them to bail so as to enable them show remorse  to their offences before the next adjourned date.

Justice Omereji averred that the convicts were warned of the consequence if they failed to comply with the court directive.

He described the purported impeachment of the Vice Chairman by the councillors after the court had restrained them from doing so as an act meant to undermine the integrity and honour of the court.

He stated that the convicted councillors and their colleagues, rather than comply with the court directive to reinstate the vice chairman, approached an Appeal Court to challenge their conviction by the High Court.

The trial judge posited that on the 16th May, 2013, the councillors, through their counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) brought an oral application informing the court that the matter was before an Appeal Court, and requested the court to adjourn the case beyond June 5, 2013 which is the date of hearing of the matter at the appellate court.

He averred that the oral application was not enough reason to stop the court from giving its ruling on the matter, noting that there was no evidence of notification from the Appeal Court on the matter.

‘There is no process or Appeal filed from the appellate court to my court. There is no record from the registry that the court will  rely on”, he said.

‘The rule is that when a matter under trial at any lower court be it Magistrate, High and Appeal Court , and the matter is moved to a higher court of jurisdiction with evidence of proof, then, the  lower court will stop hearing the matter. But in this case, it is not so”, he declared.

Justice Omereji warned that the court could not fold its arms and watch people ridicule the integrity of the court, even when their crimes are contemptuous in nature, adding that such would brew anarchy and lawlessness in the society.

However, the sentencing did not come without some legal drama displayed at the court room.

At about 11.40am, when the  case was called by the court clerk and  the counsel in the matter announced their appearance, and the judge was set to rule, it was observed that three of the convicts were absent.

The development forced the court to stand down the proceeding for 2 hours, 2mins and Justice Omereji directed the counsel to the defendants to ensure that all the convicts in the matter were present in the court.

He said the order became imperative because the nature of the offence committed by the convicts was “quasi criminal”, adding that the law required all the parties to be in court during the proceedings.

It would be recalled that the High Court had on the 27th of June, 2012 given an order restraining the Ahoada East Local Government councillors from impeaching the vice chairman of the council, Hon Britain Ewor pending the determination of the suit before the court, which the legislators failed to abide by but rather described the court order as “a mere pieces of paper”.

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Declare Buhari’s Seat Vacant, Owuru Urges Court

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The candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) in the last presidential election, Chief Ambrose Owuru, has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, asking it to declare the seat of President Muhammadu Buhari vacant.

Owuru, who was among the four petitioners that went to tribunal to challenge Buhari’s re-election, in his fresh suit, sought for an order to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), from “undertaking or planning any other election into the office of the President”, in 2023.

The Plaintiff, in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/480/2021, maintained that Buhari is “an unlawful President that is illegally occupying the Presidential seat”.

It would be recalled that Owuru and his party, HDP, had in an earlier appeal they litigated up to the Supreme Court, insisted that the Justice Mohammed Garba-led Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, erroneously dismissed a petition they lodged against the return of Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as winner of the presidential election that held on February 23, 2019.

They specifically prayed the apex court to sack Buhari on the premise that he emerged through an illegal process.

According to the Appellants, INEC, failed to follow condition precedents stipulated in the Electoral Act, when it unduly postponed the presidential election that was originally fixed for February 16.

The HDP claimed that its candidate, Owuru, secured over 50million votes in a referendum that was conducted by both electorates and observer networks that were dissatisfied with the unilateral postponement of the presidential election by INEC.

However, in a unanimous decision, a five-man panel of Justices of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Odili, struck out the appeal for constituting “a gross abuse of the judicial process”.

Meantime, in the fresh suit, Owuru and his party argued that their suit against Buhari at the Supreme Court was inconclusive.

The Plaintiffs argued that the case was fixed outside the 60 days period that was allowed by the law.

Owuru asked the court to declare him the authentic winner of the last presidential poll, as well as, to issue an order for his immediate inauguration to take over from Buhari.

He prayed the court to declare that he is entitled to serve out a tenure of 4 years after his formal inauguration.

More so, the HDP presidential candidate, aside from asking for Buhari’s immediate removal from office, equally prayed the court to compel him to refund all salaries, allowances and emoluments he collected while he unlawfully stayed in office as President.

Owuru also asked the court to give an order that salaries, allowances and emoluments be paid to him from May 29, 2019, when he ought to have been sworn in, till date.

The Plaintiff further applied for, “An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the Respondents by themselves and acting through their agents, servants, privies and or proxies howsoever from any further organizing, undertaking or planning of any other election into the office of the President of Nigeria or any such other Presidential Election interfering, harassing and or disturbing the Applicant adjudged acquired right as unopposed and unchallenged winner of the original scheduled and held the February 16 Presidential Election thereof until the 1st Applicant unserved constitutional four years term of office is served pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit by this honourable court”.

Cited as 1st to 3rd Respondents in the matter were Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, and INEC.

Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the matter to be heard.

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World Bank Report Exposes Buhari’s Lies, PDP Affirms

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the report by World Bank that 7 million Nigerians have been pushed into poverty in the last year, has clinically belied the integrity posturing of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The opposition party said the World Bank report came in the face of the recent claims by President Buhari that his administration has lifted over 10 million Nigerians out of poverty in the last two years.

The PDP asserted that the report by the World Bank has further vindicated its position that President Buhari runs an uncoordinated and clueless administration that thrives on lies, false performance claims, deceit, and perfidious propaganda.

The statement added that, “Nigerians can now clearly see why the APC and President Buhari’s handlers are always in a frenzy to attack our party and other well-meaning Nigerians whenever we point to the poor handling of the economy and on the need for President Buhari to always be factual on pertinent issues of governance in our country.

“Unfortunately, it indeed appears that Mr. President enjoys living in denial while watching millions of Nigerians go down in abject poverty, excruciating hunger, and starvation as our country now ranks 98th out of 107 in Global Hunger Index under his watch.

“Otherwise, why would Mr. President claim that his administration has lifted over 10.5 million Nigerians out of poverty while official figures even from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show worsening poverty rate with 142.2% growth in food inflation and over 82.9 million Nigerians being unable to afford their daily meals due to the failure of the administration to take practical steps to grow and protect the food sector?

“Under President Buhari, Nigerians are now subjected to the worst form of poverty and hardship, with collapsed purchasing power, occasioned by a voodoo economy management that has wrecked our productive sectors and pummeled our naira from the about N167 to a US dollar in 2015 to the current over N500 per dollar.

“It is unfortunate that Mr. President will choose to always bandy fictitious figures and false performance claims, when he has, in a space of six years, destroyed our national productivity and reduced our country to a beggarly nation, a laughing stock and object of pity among the comity of nations.

“The PDP invites Nigerians to note President Buhari and APC’s similar false performance claims in other critical sectors, including power, transportation, road infrastructure, health, education, agriculture, security, aviation among others, where the Buhari administration has been bandying fictitious figures with no tangible project to point at.

“Our party counsels President Buhari, his handlers as well as their party, the APC, to note that Nigerians have seen through their deceitful clams.

“The PDP, once again, urges Mr. President to end his false performance claims and get more competent hands to manage the economy before every Nigerian is turned into a street beggar.”

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Amnesty Kicks As FG Pushes Social Media Regulation

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Amnesty International has strongly opposed the call by the Nigerian Government to regulate the use of social media and online broadcasters.

It would be recalled that the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had urged the House of Representatives to include regulation of Twitter in the National Broadcasting Commission Act.

The minister made the call at the public hearing on a bill to amend the NBC Act organised by the House Committee on Information.

“I will want to add, that specifically, internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have responsibility to monitor content— including Twitter,” he said.

Reacting, Amnesty International, in a tweet via its Twitter account, yesterday, kicked against the motion.

It noted that when social media is regulated, authorities can arbitrarily have powers to shut down the internet and limit access to social media.

It further noted that criticizing the government will be made punishable with penalties of up to three years in prison.

“When social media is regulated, authorities can arbitrarily have powers to shut down the Internet and limit access to social media.

“Criticizing the government will be made punishable with penalties of up to three years in prison.

“Regulating social media in Nigeria could be easily abused to punish critics of government policies and actions, and anyone who asks difficult questions could find themselves liable for ‘diminishing public confidence in the government.’

“Seeking a law to prohibit abusive, threatening and insulting behaviour is open to very wide interpretation. This section would pose a threat to critical opinion, satire, public dialogue and political commentary,” the statement added.

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