Legal Nigeria

Court summons prison boss for refusing to produce ex-Mint chief, Okoyomon

A High Court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Apo, has summoned the Deputy Comptroller of Prison, Kuje, Abuja, for refusing to produce detained former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPM), Emmanuel Okoyomon  in court.
Justice Valentine Ashi had, by an order in relation to a motion by Okoyomon, ordered the defendants in a suit he (Okoyomo) initiated – Deputy Comptroller in Charge of Medium Security Prison, Kuje and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) – to produce him in court and show cause why he should not be granted bail.
Yesterday, rather than obey the court’s order, the Deputy Comptroller of Medium Security Prison, Kuje wrote directly to the judge, informing him that Okoyomon was being held in Kuje prison by virtue of a remand order by the Court of Appeal.
The prison officer insisted that Okoyomon could only be produced in any court with the permission of the court that ordered his remand, a position that infuriated Justice Ashi, who described the prison official’s conduct as a contempt of court and disobedience to a valid court order.
“The procedure adopted by the 1st respondent (Deputy Comptroller in Charge of Medium Security Prison, Kuje) is reprehensible and contemptuous of the court,” the judge said. He added that the decision by the prison officer to write directly to him (the judge) was disrespectful of the institution of the court.
The judge consequently ordered the prison official to attend court on the next adjourned date to show cause why he should not be imprisoned for contempt of court. Lawyer to the AGF, Muslim Hassan however, apologised on behalf of the prison official and assured that the defendants held the court in high esteem.
Justice Evoh Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had on May 4 this year, granted Okoyomon’s extradition to the United Kingdom where he was accused of complicity in the bribery allegation involving officials of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN NSPM and Securency International Pty of Australia between 2006 and 2008.
Okoyomon appealed the High Court decision at the Court of Appeal, Abuja. He applied to the court for bail and stay of execution of the decision by Justice Chukwu. But, in its ruling on June 26, the appellate court rejected his (Okoyomon’s) application for bail on the ground that it was unmeritorious.
The appellate court however granted Okoyomon’s request for stay of execution of the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja directing the Federal Government to proceed with his extradition.
Rather than pursue his pending appeal, Okoyomon went before the FCT High Court with a fresh suit, challenging his continued detention.
The Office of the Attorney General has faulted his new suit and accused him of misleading Justice Ashi into assuming jurisdiction on the case. In the counter-affidavit and notice of preliminary objection filed for the AGF, it was argued that Okoyomon, having been detained on the order of the Court of Appeal, ought to either proceed to the Supreme Court or pursue his pending appeal. It urged the court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction to hear it.
Justice Ashi has adjourned to August 12 to hear the objection filed by the AGF and for the prison official to attend court and show cause why he should not be imprisoned for contempt.