A Beninoise businessman, Gnanhoue Nazaire, has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to commit his estranged wife, Rashidatou Abdou, to prison.
The applicant and his company, Rana Prestige Industries Limited, accused Mrs. Abdou of violating a court judgment delivered by a former judge of the court, Justice Mohammed Yunusa.
Mr. Nazaira, through his lawyer, Ajibola Oluyede, accused Mrs. Abdou of invading the company with policemen led by the Divisional Police Officer of Meiran Police Station, Akpama Okoi, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP).
Mrs. Abdou, through her lawyer, Femi Falana, filed a preliminary objection challenging the proceedings.
Mr. Falana said the judgment sought to be enforced was obtained by fraud while the judge who delivered it had been sacked and is on trial in relation to the case.
Mr. Nazaire and Mrs. Abdou had been at loggerheads over the company’s ownership, with the latter petitioning the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the matter.
The EFCC later filed charges against Mr. Nazaire, accusing him of fraudulently “converting huge sums of money" belonging to the company "to his own use.”
Mrs. Abdou said she and Mr. Nazaire jointly established Rana Prestige and were the company's only two directors.
She said she was fraudulently cut off as the company's director to the extent that money was withdrawn from the company's account without her consent despite the fact that she is a signatory to the company's accounts.
While investigating the case, the EFCC had sought to arrest Mr. Nazaire at the premises of the Lagos State High court, but the anti-graft agency was allegedly prevented from doing so by Mr. Nazaire’s lawyer, Rickey Tarfa.
The commission subsequently arrested Mr. Tarfa, who was charged with obstruction of justice and alleged bribery.
Justice Yunusa, who was retired in connection with the case, had earlier ordered the EFCC to unseal the company’s business premises and to unfreeze its bank account.
Mr. Nazaire, through his new counsel, Mr. Oluyede, accused Mrs. Abdou of violating Justice Yunusa’s verdict by invading the company’s premises with policemen.
He said if she was dissatisfied with the verdict, she should have appealed the decision rather than take the law into her own hands.
“Our application is about the subversion of the judicial process by the alleged contemnor. The first respondent (Abdou) went with the police to prevent the company from doing its business after getting the EFCC to seal up the company.
“The applicant approached the court and the court (Justice Yunusa) made an order restraining her. Despite that, she went to the police and unleashed mayhem on the premises with the help of the second respondent (DPO of Meiran Police Station).
“It is her subversion of the purpose of the order that makes it a criminal contempt – the judgment that the company should continue to carry its business,” Mr. Oluyede said.
Responding, Mr. Falana urged the court to dismiss the suit for being an abuse of court process.
In a preliminary objection, he contended that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the case on the ground that the applicant did not comply with provisions of Order IX of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act.
“This suit constitutes a multiplicity of and forum shopping in that a similar criminal matter is pending before a Magistrate Court, Igbosere, Lagos.
“The judgment being enforced was obtained by fraud, as the judge who sat over the suit had been retired and sacked and is now on trial alongside with the respondent’s counsel, Mr. Ricky Tarfa,” Mr. Falana said.
Justice Idris adjourned the case till November 24 for judgment.