BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, yesterday, summoned the National Publicity Secretary of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, to appear before it tomorrow, to show cause why he should not be committed to jail over alleged contempt of court.
The court, which issued a subpoena against the CPC scribe, yesterday, said he should come and explain himself over a statement he allegedly circulated to media organisations on September 28, wherein he accused the five-man panel of justices at the tribunal of dragging “the nation’s judiciary to the abyss.”
His summon was at the behest of counsel to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN, that of Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Amechi Nwaiwu, SAN, and lawyer to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mr Hassan Liman, SAN.
At the hearing, yesterday, the counsel condemned the publications which they said was not only “prejudicial” to the substantive petition filed against the April 16 Presidential election by CPC, but constituted “an affront on the integrity of the judicial system in Nigeria.”
The panel, presided by Justice Kumai Bayaang Akaahs issued the subpoena after the editor of Nigerian Tribune, Mr. Dickson Edward and a correspondent, Christian Okeke, identified Fashakin as the author of a statement that culminated to a news item that was published in the paper on September 29, captioned “Nigerian judiciary descending into the abyss.”
The Tribune editor, who produced documentary evidence indicating that the statement emanated from the CPC scribe, said the decision of his organisation to use the statement was sequel to its policy of granting equal access to every party in a matter to air its view on contending issues. He, however, apologised to the panel “over whatever inconvenience the publication may have caused the judiciary.”
Shortly after the Tribune editor who was ab-initio summoned to appear before the court yesterday finished his submissions, counsel to President Jonathan, Iziyon, urged the court to remand him and the correspondent pending when Fashakin appears before the court.
His oral application was countered by the CPC’s lead counsel, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi, SAN, who urged the tribunal to tread with caution over the issue, just as he dissociated himself from the actions of the party’s scribe.
After listening to all the parties, yesterday, Justice Akaas issued a subpoena against Fashakin, adding that the tribunal will consider the merit of the oral apology that was tendered before it by the Tribune Editor today.
Earlier, President Jonathan and his vice, Sambo, had brought nine witnesses who testified before the tribunal yesterday.
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