A Lagos High Court in Igbosere Thursday struck out a contempt application filed against the National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, and other members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).
Justice Taofikat Oyekan-Abdullahi made the order following the applicants’ prayer to withdraw the charge.
The claimants in the suit are: Dr Adegbola Dominic, for state chairman of the party; Elder John Babatunde Agbaje, Alhaji Fatai Ajisefinni and Chief Taiwo Kuye, of the PDP’s Lagos State chapter.
But Oyekan-Abdullahi declined the respondents’ prayer to impose a N500,000 fine on the applicants for initiating the contempt proceedings.
The defendants, apart from Secondus, are: Senator Ben Obi, the PDP, Senator Biodun Olujimi, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, Danladi Baidu Tijo, Ahmed M. Mukthar and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The claimants alleged that Secondus, Obi and the others disobeyed the court’s order of last November 12, which restrained them from conducting a special election for vacant offices in the party’s Lagos chapter.
They claimed that the PDP conducted the “illegal” election, despite having foreknowledge of the case and pending application for interlocutory injunction.
The special election committee was chaired by Senator Obi at the instance of Secondus, they claimed.
Justice Oyekan-Abdullahi, last December 5, ordered the defendants to show cause why an order for committal should not be made against them.
Secondus, Obi and the other defendants appeared in court on the last adjournment, February 11, 2020, following which the judge adjourned till yesterday for hearing of pending applications.
At the resumption of Thursday’s proceedings, Secondus was absent. Only the first claimant, Dr Dominic, and second defendant, Obi represented the parties.
Francis Akinlotan appeared as counsel for all the claimants, Emmanuel Enoidem appeared for Secondus, Obi, the PDP and three other defendants.
Wendy Kuku represented INEC (the seventh respondent).
Akinlotan informed the judge of the claimants’ intention to abandon their contempt application.
“The second contemnor (Secondus) is not in court today. I don’t want to belabour the point.
“I want to withdraw my contempt application so that we can go to the merit of the case.”
But Enoidem opposed him, on the ground, according to him, that Akinlotan had not given a valid reason for the withdrawal.
He said: “My lord, we are not objecting, but we shall ask for costs. I am asking for costs of N500, 000 each for the first and second persons cited for contempt.”
Following Akinlotan’s refusal to concede costs, Justice Oyekan-Abdullahi held: “Since the learned counsel (Akinlotan) is the sole conducting officer of his case, he has graciously applied to court to withdraw the contempt proceedings application.
“I do not think that costs will be appropriate in the circumstances.
“There is nothing more important in contempt proceedings than attendance, composure and remorse in the face of the contemnors.
“While appreciating the learned counsel’s objection, I am of the view that money is not the price for contempt to compensate the contemnor, rather, his attendance of court proceedings to face his or her charge.
“This is however averted by the withdrawal and I hold the contemnor in high esteem for the remorse and attendance in court. No further respect must be shown by any court than this.
“Based on this reasoning, the contempt proceedings application is accordingly struck out and the substantive suit shall be taken forthwith. This is my ruling.”
Further proceedings was adjourned till April 29.
In the substantive suit, the claimants are seeking, among others, an order setting aside the election of officers for vacant offices in the party’s Lagos chapter.