House Leader, Councillors Sentenced


A Port Harcourt High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, Southsouth Nigeria, has convicted Emeka Godwin, the Leader of Ahoada East Local Government Legislative Assembly in Rivers State, and other principal officers of the House for flouting the court’s order

The conviction was sequel to the impeachment of the Vice Chairman of the council, Britain Ewor even when the case challenging the impeachment was pending in court.

Other principal officers convicted include the Deputy Leader, Goodlive Whiegbe, the Chief Whip, Onwudiwe Abraham and the Clerk of the House, Mr Aaron Ikechukwu Odum.

The presiding Judge, Justice Omereji George said the court found the councillors guilty for not showing respect to the order of the court which restrained them from impeaching the Vice Chairman of the council from office.

The applicant had asked the court, through his counsel, Mr A. B. Ihua-Maduenyi, to commit the principal officers to prison for contempt.

In his ruling, the Judge said the court found the councillors guilty.

Justice George stated that the impeachment undermined the integrity and honour of the court even when the Principal Officers of the Council were fully aware of the existence of the suit in court.

Justice George noted that the court had on the 27th of June, 2012 given an order restraining the respondents from impeaching the applicant pending the determination of the matter before the court. Rather than complying with the order, they proceeded to impeach the Vice Chairman, and directed that his entitlements, allowances and remunerations be withheld.

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The trial judge posited that the councillors had contemptuously insulted the court by describing its processes as ‘ mere pieces of paper’, while declaring that the Assembly was superior to the court in any matter pending before it.

He warned that the court cannot fold its hands and watch its processes abused with impunity or its lawful orders flouted, adding that the court was not only entitled in the circumstance but bound to commit the respondent contemnors to prison in order to preserve its honour, integrity and dignity.

Justice George, however, granted the accused persons bail in the sum of N2 million each with two sureties in like sum.

The sureties, according to the order, must deposit two passports each and must be residents within the jurisdiction of the court, which must be verified by the police prosecutor.

He further ordered them to reinstate the Vice Chairman as well as ensure that all his salaries, allowances and emoluments were paid to him before the new adjourn date, adding that the opportunity of bail granted them was to know if they carried out the impeachment willingly or not.

He said that if they fail to reinstate the Vice Chairman, the court would formally pronounce their sentencing on the next adjourned date.

The case was adjourned till April for proper sentencing.

—Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt

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