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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Edo State Attorney-General And Commissioner For Justice Sentenced To 30 Days In Prison For Contempt Of Court

The Federal High Court in Benin yesterday sentenced Edo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, to one month jail for contempt in a case pending against him before the court.
Justice Adamu Hobon, who sentenced Obayuwana, had last week adjourned till yesterday for the hearing of committal proceedings against the attorney-general. At that sitting, Hobon had expressed concern over Obayuwana's continued absence in court despite an earlier order directing him to appear in person over the case.
Consequently, the court ordered the commissioner of police to execute the bench warrant by effecting Obayuwana's arrest.
Even as the case came up for hearing yesterday, Obayuwana was absent, which eventually forced the court to sentence him in his absence.
The committal proceedings was brought against the attorney-general and  the State Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Chief Osaro Idah, by Churchgate Industries Limited over the state government's alleged refusal to obey an injunction given against it in 2003 by the Federal High Court, Benin City.
The court had, upon hearing the case instituted by Churchgate, restrained the government from interfering with the management of Bendel Brewery Limited. The company was said to be the core investor following a privatisation agreement between the state and Churchgate in 1992.
The injunction of the Federal High Court was later upheld by the Court of Appeal, Benin on October 17, 2006, which dismissed the appeal filed by the government for lack of merit.
It was gathered that dispute arose between Churchgate and the government in 2003 over the management of Bendel Brewery, previously owned and managed by Edo State government.
Thereafter the control of the brewery was transferred to Churchgate in 1992 under a privatisation agreement, which gave 51 per cent equity to Churchgate, leaving the state with 24 per cent and 19 per cent to the public.
The recent dispute was ignited when the state attempted to reassume management of the brewery despite the pendency of the privatisation agreement.
Confirming the sentence, Edo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Umar Manko, said though he did not personally arrest attorney-general, it was the judge's insistence that jailed him.
"I did not arrest him. I am in Abuja, but I was told that that the man reported himself in court and despite intervention of some people, the judge insisted that they should remand the man in prison", he said.
He disclosed that last week, the court registrar actually brought a warrant of arrest to his office and he told them that this matter was better settled between the state government and Churchgate, adding, "The police did not play any role at all in the matter."

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