A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Friday sentenced the Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr Fidet Okhiria to three months imprisonment  for contempt of court.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun ordered him to be  remand following the perpetual refusal of the railway boss to appear in court despite several summons.

According to the judge, ” 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 why he disobeyed the 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. She further ordered that he 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 the 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) asking 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 reinstate Iheakam to his employment and payment of his entitlements.

However, at the resume proceedings  after the expiration 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 in his 13 paragraph affidavit to show cause was sworn 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 Corporation 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 averments.

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 always be obeyed. He must not show himself to be above law. Is he too big to appear in court? I give him a week to obey this 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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