By Francis Onyeukwu
A Federal High Court sitting in Owerri on Monday threatened to issue warrant of arrest against five officials of the Imo Government should they fail to appear before it on Dec. 8.
The order followed the failure of the officials to appear before the court on a suit filed against the state by a former Minister of Interior, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho (rtd), over the demolition of part of his property in Owerri.
The affected officials are the state Commissioner for Works and Transport, Mrs Josephine Udoji; the Commissioner of Lands, Survey and Urban Planning, Chief Lawrence Eburuoh; and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works, Dr Iwuagwu.
Others are the Director of Civil Works in the ministry, Engr. C.E. Egbuka, and the Director of Works, Imo Government House, Arc. Emeka Duru.
The named officials, and Gov. Rochas Okorocha are defendants in a suit (Suit No.FHC/OW/133/2016) filed by Iheanacho.
The plaintiff had approached the court to prevent his property located at No. 6 Orlu Road, Owerri, from being demolished by the state government.
The court on July 3, ordered the defendants not to enter, encroach or demolish the said property pending the determination of the Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction filed by the plaintiff.
In spite of the order, the officials went ahead to demolish the property.
When the matter, pending before Justice Andrew Lewis-Allagoa, came up on Monday in Owerri, Counsel to the plaintiff, Ken Njemanze (SAN) filed a motion to commit the defendants to prison for “continuously violating the order made on July 3 by the court”.
Njemanze told the court that the defendants were treating court’s order with levity and contempt, adding: “they think they are above the law”.
He claimed that the defendants had continuously absented themselves from the court and violated the earlier order made by the court.
Njemanze, therefore, urged the court to issue an order summoning the defendants to physically appear before the court in line with the law.
Counsel to the defendants, Mrs J.C. Ibe, appealed for an adjournment on the matter to enable all her clients appear in person.
Ibe denied knowledge of an order served on her clients barring them from demolishing the claimant’s property.
The court turned down the motion which Ibe wanted to file challenging the jurisdiction of the court in entertaining the matter.
Before adjourning the matter to Dec. 8, Justice Lewis-Allagoa said it was not the problem of the court whether the defendants were served or not.
He said that the defendants must appear before it and show cause why they should not be committed to prison.