28th March, 2013
An Okene High Court in the Nigerian central state of Kogi, on Thursday, issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, the Head of Service (HOS) and the Accountant-General.
Justice Sunday Otu, who issued the bench warrant in Okene, said the three government functionaries had persistently ignored the court summons to appear before it.
He said the HOS, Mr Moses Atakpa; the Attorney General, Mr Joe Abrahams and the Accountant General, Mr Paul Audu, refused to implement the court’s judgment ordering the re-absorption of 346 State civil servants sacked illegally in 2009.
The court had on May 14, 2012, in its judgment, ordered the State Government to reinstate the sacked workers with immediate effect. The court stated that the workers were illegally sacked in 2009 during the Sally Titbot screening exercise.
It held that the affected workers had genuine documents of employment and were legally employed by the state government.
Otu held that there was no time the state government gave the affected staff official letters of termination to indicate their disengagement from service.
He, therefore, ordered their reinstatement and payment of all arrears of salaries and allowances.
Otu noted that the government in defiance of the court order, applied for stay of execution seven months after (December, 2012) the judgment. He said the application was denied by the court but yet, government still refused to reinstate them.
Otu said that the counsel to the appellants, Mr John Barry, had approached the court and intimated it that though the affected staff reported for duty and some were promoted and transferred to other stations.
He said that despite that, the state government still refused to pay their salaries and allowances.
The court had, at its sitting on the matter in February, threatened to issue a bench warrant on the three administration officials if they failed to appear in court on the next adjourned date (March 28).
They were being asked to come to the court to show cause why they should not be committed to prison for defying its order.
At the resumed hearing on Thursday, the defendants still failed to appear in court.
Their counsel, Messrs Gabriel Salihu and Saidu Okino, pleaded with the court that they could not appear physically because they were busy with election activities.
In his ruling, Otu said: “I find it despicable that the Attorney-General has refused to appear before the court while others followed him.
“The action is an attempt by the defendants to tell people that the law is meant for the common man.”
Otu thereafter issued the bench warrant on them and directed the police to arrest and compel them to appear before the court.
“This is for them to show cause why they should not be committed to prison,” the Judge said.
Otu adjourned the case to April 26, 2013 for continuation of hearing. (NAN)