Contempt: Nig. Railway M.D Jailed

A Federal High Court, Lagos, on Friday ordered that the Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr. Fidet Okhiria, be remanded in prison custody for three months over the contempt of court.

The court presided over by Justice Cecilia Mojisola Olatoregun, ordered Okhiria to be remanded following his perpetual and continual refusal to appear before court despite several summons.

In remanding the NRC boss in prison, Justice Olatoregun said: “I have looked at the various affidavit placed before the court and have examined the papers filed from both sides. The contemnor in particular continued to disobeyed the law, even if he did not have the notice between February, march till date he ought to have been guided by his lawyer.

“He has not given reason to disobey court. He treated the court order with levity. Am left with no option than to convict him.

“I hereby sentence him to three months imprisonment”.

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Justice Olatorefun further ordered that Okhiria should be in custody till September 25, 2018, when the case will continue.

Okhiria had through his lawyer sometime in March 2018 informed the court that he was out of the country on official assignment and court did ordered him to show evidence of been on official assignment outside the country as he claimed for his absent in court.

It would be recalled that the trial Judge had on February 15, 2018 threatened to order arrest of Mr Okhiria for his perpetual refusal to appear before the court in (committal proceeding) suit filed against him by a former employee of the Nigeria Railway Corporation, Mr. Benedict O. Iheakam.

The former employee had approached the court through his counsel, Mr Johnson Esezoobo (counsel to judgement creditor) asked the court for an order committing to prison, the MD of the NRC, and the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Canise Oklahoma for alleged refusal to comply with court order for over 14 years ago.

Justice Dan Abutu had in a suit marked as FHC/L/CS/926/95 ordered reinstatement of Iheakam and be paid his entitlements.

However, at the resume proceedings after the expiring of a week ultimatum given by the court, counsel to the Railway MD (Okhiria) Mr. Opeyemi Igbayiloye (counsel to the 2nd respondent judgement debtor) informed the court of his application (Affidavit to Show cause) dated February 21,2018.

Esezoobo (counsel to judgement creditor) told court he needed to file response to the application.

Igbayiloye said his 13 paragraph affidavit to show cause was sworned to by one Obiorah Emedolibe, stated “that initial non compliance immediately was not deliberate nor attributable to the act or inaction of Engineer Okhiria but due to the misplacement of the judgement creditor’s personnel file, the retrenchment, retirement and or death of key staff conversant with the suit and the bureaucracy usually associated with the civil service.

Emedolibe, who is the secretary of the NRC also averred that “Okhiria travelled out of the country to China on official duty since February 7, 2018, as part of Federal Government team on fund sourcing for the Railway Modernization projects,”among other averment.

Sequel to his application, Justice Olatoregun therefore ordered Okhiria to show evidence, exhibiting his travelling document such as his international Passport, flight ticket and Visa on the next adjourned date.

She subsequently adjourned till March 9,2018.

At the last proceedings, the court directed that Okhiria to show cause why he did not comply with court order.

Justice Olatoregun asked if Okihiria is bigger than the law.

“Order of the court must be always obey. He must not show himself to be above law. Is he too big to appear in court? I give him a week to obey court.”

She therefore adjourned till February 21, 2018 for him to appear in court.

It would be recalled that, Justice Abutu had declared in a judgment delivered on February 18, 2003, that Iheakam, a Principal Technical Officer’s purported retirement letter dated, November 1, 1994 is contrary to the contract of employment and is therefore unlawful, null and void.

However, since February 18, 2003 the management of NRC refused to reinstate the plaintiff nor pay his entitlements, not withstanding that they lost in all their applications to appeal the judgment from 2005 to 2014 when the last application was struck out for incompetence.

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