The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday declined a request by the Federal Government for an arrest warrant against the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
The Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property had, on behalf of the Federal Government, urged the court to order the arrest of Ekweremadu following the absence of the senator, who was scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday on charges of non-declaration of assets.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Celcus Ukpong, informed the judge, Justice Binta Nyako, that two counts of failure to declare assets were filed against the senator on May 11, 2018.
Ukpong said the summons for the arraignment scheduled for Wednesday had been served on the Deputy Senate President, but he chose to ignore it.
“He decided not to obey the summons. We, therefore, apply for a bench warrant to be issued against him.”
But responding, Ekweremadu’s lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), urged the court to disregard the application for a bench warrant to be issued against his client.
He informed the court that his client had, on November 1, 2018, filed a motion challenging the competence of the charges and the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case.
Awomolo argued that without first resolving the application, the matter could not proceed to stage of arraignment.
He cited some Supreme Court decisions to back his contention.
Ekweremadu’s properties targeted for interim forfeiture comprised nine in Abuja, two in London, eight in Dubai, and three in Florida, USA.
Following its findings on the allegedly undeclared assets, the panel, in May this year, filed two counts against Ekweremadu, alleging in one of the counts in the case marked FHC/ABJ/CR/62/2018, that upon notice to declare his assets in the manner prescribed by the SPIPRPP, the Deputy Senate President “refused” to make the declaration “without reasonable excuse.”
In the second count, the prosecution alleged that the defendant “neglected to declare” his assets “without reasonable excuse upon the notice to declare” his assets “in the manner prescribed by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property”.
The alleged offences were said to be contrary to and punishable under Section 3(3)(1)(a) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provision) Act 2004.