The Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday turned down the request by the Okoi Obono Obla led Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the recovery of Public Assets for the court to issue bench warrant for the arrest of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu on his absence in court to take his plea in the two-count charge of refusal to declare his assets.
The trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako refused to issue the warrant on ground that the Senator is already challenging the jurisdiction of the court and the competency 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 the Judge 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 filed against him since May 11, 2018 and 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.
The senior counsel submitted that appearance of Ekweremadu in court was not necessary, until the issue of jurisdiction and competency of the charge have been resolved by the court and added that, it will be more honourable for the presidential panel to withdraw the charge against his client in view of the Court of Appeal judgment delivered against the panel on November 5, 2018..
Awomolo who tendered a copy of the judgment to the court emphasised that the appellate court had made it clear in the judgment 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 Nyako said 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 Obla led panel 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.