The National Industrial Court in Abuja on Wednesday began contempt proceedings against the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike and others over alleged disregard of a series of court orders.
The development was sequel to the decision of the Minister to include the Managing Director of the Abuja Markets Management Limited (AMML), in the list of heads of agencies dissolved on September 27.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Wike had, on Sept. 27 in a statement, relieved the heads of 21 parastatals, agencies and government companies of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) of their appointments with immediate effect, including AMML.
The contempt charge, filed by Abubakar, also joined the FCTA, AMML and Abuja Investments Company Limited (AICL) as 2nd to 4th defendants respectively, including the former acting MD of AMML, Yakubu Abbas.
In the Form 48 marked, NICN/ABJ/62/2023, dated and filed on Nov. 3, the application was titled: “Notice of Consequences of Disobedience to Order of Court.”
It was brought pursuant to Section 72 Sheriff and Civil Process Act, 2004; Order IX Rules 1-3 of the Judgment Enforcement Rules and Under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.
The application reads: “Take notice that unless you (the defendants) obey the orders and directions contained in the judgment of the court on July 20 and the order of this Honourable Court made on July 26, you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison.”
NAN reports that Abubakar’s counsel, Faruk Khamagam, had, following the dissolution, written to Wike on Sept. 28, to inform him about the peculiar situations that surrounded the agency’s headship and the legal tussle that preceded his appointment as minister.
Khamagam, in the letter, told Wike a series of court judgments that affirmed Abubakar’s status as substantive MD of AMML.
The contempt proceeding was against the allegation that the minister and others were acting in disobedience to the orders of the industrial court made on July 20, restraining them from giving effect to the purported letter of termination of the employment of Abubakar as the AMML’s MD.
Justice R.B.Haastrup had restrained the defendants from giving effect to the termination of the employment of Abubakar Usman Faruk as the M.D of AMML, which was contained in their letter dated July 17 until the hearing and determination of the counterpart motion on notice.
The judge also ordered the defendants not to, in any way, interfere in the management, business and corporate affairs of the AMML and that the status quo ante be maintained until the counterpart motion on notice was heard and determined.
NAN also reports that Justice Donatus Okorowo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, had, on July 10 in a judgment, restrained the FCT Minister, the FCTA and others in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/499/2023 from dissolving and reconstituting the Board of AMML by political fiat or press statement, without first following the procedure of CAMA, 2020.
The court declared that doing so is ultra vires the powers of the FCT Minister and the FCTA, while also affirming Abubakar as AMML’s MD.
Khamagam, who said the AICL and FCTA had continued to insist on the termination of Abubakar’s employment as contained in their July 17 letter, also said that Abbas had been parading himself as AMML acting MD against valid court orders and judgment.
“Engr. Yakubu Abbas himself has been parading himself as the acting MD of AMML and has been signing and issuing documents in that capacity, in the name of AMML from unknown locations,” he alleged.
The AMML Legal Adviser and Secretary, Mr Felix Edache, also alleged that on Monday, policemen from various commands stormed the AMML head office in Gudu on the orders of the FCT Commissioner of Police.
Edache said the officers, led by DSP Bello Adamu, said they were deployed to ensure peace and workers’ safety.
“When I resumed, I saw a flood of armed policemen all over the premises.
“Upon getting to the office, I was told that they had come to ensure the safety of the place but I told them that I am not aware that AMML made any complaint to the police to that effect.
“In fact, if there should be any such complaint, it should have come from me,” he said.
According to him, the real agenda unfolded later in the evening when they provided a memo from the FCTA signed by the General Counsel, Salman Dako, purportedly written on behalf of the FCT Minister asking the CP to prevent the MD, Abubakar, and the Legal Adviser from gaining entrance into the office.
“Although the memo by Dako cited the termination of Abubakar’s employment as the reason for the request, it did not say why the police were being asked to prevent me from entering the office.
“We are law-abiding citizens. We will never do anything to subvert the law.
“However, any attempt to trample our rights would be resisted with every legal tool.
“It is time for the Minister to reassess his legal team at the ministry so that they don’t end up misleading him into running afoul of the law which he also swore to protect as both lawyer and public servant.
“I am hopeful that the minister will act accordingly,” he said.