Your Action Reckless, Stupid, Judge Tells Amadi

A judge of the Federal High Court, Lagos, Mohammed Idris, on Wednesday, September 23, 2015 descended heavily on the chairman of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Sam Amadi, for having the “audacity and courage” to lie against judicial officers in a petition he addressed to the Chief Judge (CJ) of the court, Justice Ibrahim Auta.

A visibly angry Idris described Amadi’s action as a reckless, senseless and stupid exercise of executive powers and an attempt to intimidate and distract the court.

Amadi had, in a petition to Auta, accused judges of the court of frustrating the reforms in the power sector with various “reckless and ill-informed interim injunctions.”

Amadi made specific reference to an order handed down by Idris in a suit filed by a lawyer, Toluwani Yemi Adebiyi, challenging the planned increment in electricity tariff.

The judge had issued an ex parte order asking parties to maintain the status quo in respect of the planned tariff increment pending the determination of the suit.

However, Amadi, in his petition, had quoted a completely different order from that which the court made, which enraged the judge.

Adebiyi, in response, filed Form 48 (notice of consequence of contempt of court) against Amadi, stating that the NERC boss should be punished for bringing the court to disrepute.

When the matter came up on Wednesday, Adebiyi had attempted to brief the court on the developments in the matter since the last adjourned date, but he was frequently interjected by NERC’s lawyer, Anthony Idigbe (SAN), who urged the court to ignore all the “distractions” and concentrate on hearing the substantive suit.

Idigbe had said the suit was very important because it would allow the court to make judicial pronouncement on the administrative and executive reforms carried out in the power sector so far where the sector had been moved from monopolistic to market-driven sector.

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Amadi’s lawyer, Edwin Anikwem, had also told the court of his objection to the Form 48 filed against his client, adding that the application should be given priority and heard first.

At that point, Idris intervened and gave his side of the story. The judge said while he was out of the country on vacation, he received a call drawing his attention to newspaper publication about the petition written by Amadi to the CJ.

Idris said: “I don’t know where the author of the petition got his information from. The first thing that came to my mind was where did he get the courage and audacity to lie against me and even copying the Vice President (VP) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Minister of Power in the petition he addressed to the CJ?

“I began to wonder the stupid and reckless audacity of Amadi to write such petition and copy the VP and Power Minister. I was very upset because it was nothing but reckless, stupid and senseless exercise of executive powers, which was clearly intended to intimidate the court.

“But I tell you, this court can never be intimidated. Never! I can never be intimidated and I can never be distracted. Without the Form 48, I can even order Amadi to come and explain the content of his petition. I’m not saying that people cannot complain about what we do here, but certainly not to clearly lie against us.”

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The judge, however, pleaded with Adebiyi to withdraw the Form 48 against Amadi, saying that the polity had been heated up lately about orders of arrest, and that he would not like to join the fray.

He added: “It is not my style and I want to plead with lawyers to save me from that hurdle. But Amadi should be warned not to play politics with matters in court. They should leave the court out of politics and allow us to deal with substantial justice.”

Adebiyi, who was not pleased with the judge’s position on withdrawal of the Form 48, said the change that Nigerians have been yearning for would not come “if the courts would continue to allow people like Amadi to get away with such acts of contempt.”

According to Adebiyi, despite the interim order against electricity tariff increment, NERC had been making secret moves to effect the increment, and there was the need for the court to make an example of the defendant.

He, however, withdrew the Form 48, after which was struck out.

On his part, Idigbe tendered an unreserved apology to the judge for Amadi’s action, adding that he could personally vouch for the integrity of the judge.

“I have the greatest confidence in your Lordship. The parties to litigation are sometimes emotional and they do things wrongly. I publicly give my apology on behalf of NERC and Dr. Amadi for errors contained in the petition,” Idigbe said, adding that he would personally write the NERC chairman to also apologise to the court.

The matter was adjourned to November 24 for hearing of the substantive suit.