The Federal High Court, Abuja has refused to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, over his absence in court to defend the charges of refusal to declare his assets.
Justice Binta Nyako declined to issue the warrant on Thursday, noting that the senator was already challenging the jurisdiction of the court and validity 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 Justice Nyako to issue a 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 the lawmaker ought to be in court physically in connection with the criminal charge instituted against him since May 11.
He also informed the court that the Deputy Senate President decided on his own not to obey the summon, despite being duly served with the charge as required by law.
Ekweremadu’s counsel, Mr Adegboyega Awomolo, however, objected to the request for the bench warrant on the ground that the senator had filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the charge against him and also the validity of the charge itself.
He submitted that appearance of Ekweremadu in court was not necessary for now until the issue of jurisdiction and competency of the charge have been resolved by the court.
Awomolo added that it would 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.
While tendering a copy of the judgment to the court, he emphasised that the appellate court had made it abundantly clear that the panel which filed the criminal charge against Senator Ekweremadu had no prosecutorial power under the law.
He then urged the court to discountenance the arguments of the complainant.
In a short ruling, Justice Nyako held that there was no necessity to issue a bench warrant against Ekweremadu.
She also adjourned the matter till February 26, 2019, to hear the objection filed by the lawmaker against the court’s jurisdiction and the competence of the charge against him.
The Presidential panel had filed two charges bordering on the alleged refusal of the Deputy Senate President to declare his assets.