CASE SUMMARY OF:
Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017) - SC
1. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
2. Professor Mahmood Yakubu
1. Ejike Oguebego (CHAIRMAN, PDP ANAMBRA STATE)
2. Hon. Chuks Okoye (LEGAL ADVICER, PDP, ANAMBRA STATE CHAPTER SUING FOR THEMSELVES AND ON BEHALF OF THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE STATE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE PDP IN ANAMBRA STATE)
3. Chukwudi Okasia
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C.
LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
FOR THE APPELLANT
- Asiwaju Awomolo, SAN,
FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Chief Chris Uche, SAN,
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Bank: Zenith Bank.
Name: Branham Paul Chima.
Account No.: 2178756839.
On July 14, 2016, the application before the trial Court was the one in which the appellant objected to the competence of the issuance and service of Forms 48 and 49 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process.
The appellants herein upon being served with the 1st and 2nd Respondents application for committal proceedings for disobeying the order of the Federal High Court delivered on 5th December, 2014, filed a notice of preliminary objection and application on Notice, challenging the compliance of the proceedings and the jurisdiction of the Court.
As shown above, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, of senior counsel for the respondents, drew the trial Court's attention to the absence of the INEC and its chairman. He implored the Court to command their appearance in Court. The trial Court obliged him; hence, it ordered the personal appearance of the "two alleged contemnors ... in this proceedings ... on the next date of hearing on pain of arrest in default."
The Court of Appeal (lower Court) agreed with the said Court.
That is the background to the present appeal.
1. Whether, in an application of this nature, the applicants must be present in Court to take their application?
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. The Supreme Court held for the Appellant.
i. As indicated above, it is now tolerably settled that where a defendant, in a cause, challenges the validity of an order directed against him, either by way of an appeal or other application, he cannot be proceeded against for contempt of that order unless and until the issue of its legality is settled one way or the other.
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Here, I take liberty to restate that there are two broad classifications of contempt that committed in facie curiae and that committed ex facie curiae. In the latter category, a charge and a plea are necessary and the accused is entitled to a fair hearing of the cases against him. - Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C. Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017)
For words or actions used in the face of the Court, or in the course of proceedings, to be contempt, they must be such as would interfere with the course of justice. - Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C. Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017)
A superior Court of record has the inherent jurisdiction to deal with contempt in facie curiae and punish for the offence summarily. - Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C. Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017)
Above all, the cases must be one the facts surrounding the alleged contempt are so notorious as to be virtually incontestable, where the Judge would have to rely on evidence or testimony of witnesses to events occurring outside his view and outside of his presence in Court, he should not try the cases himself. The matter must be placed before another judge where the usual procedure for the arrest, charge and prosecution of the offender must be followed, Oku v. The State. In other words, in the trial of criminal contempt ex facie curiae, an offender is entitled to the benefit of a full process of a criminal trial. - Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C. Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017)
In First African Trust Bank Limited and Anor v. Basil O. Ezegbu and Anor (supra) at 151 Karibi Whyte, JSC, spoke so incisively, about these exceptions thus: "In my respectful opinion, the rule precluding hearing a contemnor before the Court is founded on principle. To every rule there are always exceptions. The exceptions to the general rule that a party in contempt may not be heard as distilled from the authorities referred to (supra) are:
(1) Where the party is seeking for leave to appeal against the order of which he is in contempt;
(2) Where the opposition to the order is one on the ground of lack of jurisdiction;
(3) Where the contemnor is seeking to be heard in defence of the Order and
(4) Where it can be shown that there were certain procedural irregularities in making of the orders which irregularities make the order unsustainable. - Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C. Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017)
The order of the Court directing the personal attendance of the appellants is an interference with their liberty as provided under Section 35 of the Constitution 1999 (as amended) when there is no law or rules of Court expressly authorizing the infringement. - Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C. Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017)
The trial does not commence until the plea is taken. - Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C. Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017)
The end of this brief.
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