IKEJA, Lagos, Nigeria
Justice Hakeem Oshodi of Ikeja High Court will on Wednesday commence contempt proceedings against Redeemers International Secondary School and its Principal, Feyisara Osinupebi for refusing to deposit certificates of one of their students, Andre Oddiri with the registrar of the court as ordered on July 12, 2017 by Justice Oke-Lawal.
Justice Ganiyu Safari, a vacation judge for two weeks had slated the matter for August 29, 2017 after ruling last Friday but the matter could not be heard since the file was returned to the Chief Registrar for reassignment to Justice Hakeem Oshodi, present vacation judge and slated for hearing on Wednesday, August 30, 2017.
However, at the hearing on Friday, Justice Ganiyu Safari dismissed the objection filed by the school and its principal challenging the jurisdiction of the court to proceed with contempt proceeding against them after the plaintiff’s lawyer, Moses Odiri, asked the court to commit them to prison for disobeying a subsisting court order.
The judge held: “It is my view and I so hold that the failure of the 1st and 2nd respondents to obey the express order of the court, to deposit the documents listed in the order with the chief registrar of the court for preservation pending the outcome of the substantive suit is capable of impeding the course of justice in this case and I also hold that there is no other effective means of securing its compliance except to deny the respondents the right of audience to be heard on their application by way of preliminary objection to the suit until they have purged themselves of their contempt.
“I hold also that the contempt proceeding is completely independent of the jurisdiction to hear the substantive suit in the case.
“I accordingly hold that based on the foregoing consideration, the applicants’ application for an order to commit the 1st and 2nd respondents, especially the 1st respondent (the principal) to prison for disobeying the order of the court made on the 12th of July 2017 takes precedence over all other applications and will be heard first.”
Oddiri had dragged the Redeemers International Secondary School, Osinupebi, Pastor Ben Akabueze, Pastor Enoch Adeboye (the General Overseer of the RCCG), British Council and Cambridge IGCSE before the court challenging the refusal of the defendants to release the certificates of his son, Andre Oddiri, to him.
In an originating summons, Oddiri said the decision to withhold his son’s 2016 Cambridge I.G.C.S.E result, the updated transcript from Junior Secondary School 1 to Senior Secondary School 3, his testimonial/statement and the 2017 WAEC result over alleged non-payment of third term school fees, which he described as dubious, was unlawful.
On July 12, 2017, Justice Oke-Lawal ordered that the documents in the custody of the 1st and 2nd respondents be deposited with the Chief Registrar of the court for preservation pending the outcome and determination of the motion on notice for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the applicants.
However, the respondents have yet to comply with order following which the applicants sought the court’s permission to begin contempt proceedings against them with the issuance of forms 48 and 49 .
The respondents, through their lawyer, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit.
In a motion challenging the competence of the action, Etiaba contended that the suit was not properly constituted, the reliefs sought went beyond the realms of fundamental rights enforcements and the gravamen of the suit was one that affidavit evidence could not resolve.
Oddiri, appearing in person, contended that the suit initiated by motion on notice and not originating summons was properly constituted.
He also said that the reliefs sought, which he revealed bothered on the release of the confiscated school documents, breaches Article 17 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the Child Rights Law of Lagos State and sections 36 and 34 of the 1999 Constitution.
He also argued Adeboye is a necessary party and has submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court with an affidavit deposed to on his behalf and consent aligning himself with the confiscation of the documents.
He said from the affidavit evidence, the respondents owed him and that the confiscation of the documents amounted to barefaced stealing and not the exercise of any right of lien.
Citing Nebolisa Arah & Another vs Chief Osa Osunde, /LPELP-4413 (CA) and Oquebego vs PDP (2016) 4NWUR at 4559(Pt.1503), Oddiri urged the court to allow the contempt proceedings to take precedence over the application challenging the jurisdiction of the court.