The Federal High Court in Lagos has summoned the Chairman of Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc, Dr. Ambrose Orjiako, over alleged disobedience of an order of court.
Justice Hadiza Shagari on Wednesday ordered that Orjiako must appear before her on October 16 to defend the allegation of contempt of court levelled against him by a firm, AOS Orwell Ltd.
AOS Orwell had accused Orjiako of wilfully and deliberately violating an order made by Justice Shagari on November 8, 2016.
The firm, through its lawyer, Mr. Kunle Ogunba (SAN), is urging the court to commit Orjiako “to prison and/or protective custody of any of the detaining security agencies or at any designated prison/reformatory centre in Nigeria’s territorial landscape until he purges himself of the contempt of the majesty of this honourable court.”
The company alleged that Orjiako on January 6, 2017 sold the shares of his other company, Shebah Exploration & Production Limited, in spite of a November 8, 2016 by Justice Shagari restraining the “directors, staff, management, employees, officers and agents” of the company from dissipating the assets and funds of the company pending the determination of a suit marked FHC/L/CP/1227/2016.
On Wednesday, Justice Shagari, while adjourning the case till October 16, said she would, on the adjourned date, hear the contempt proceedings initiated by AOS Orwell against Orjiako and the report of settlement in the suit, stressing that Orjiako must appear in court.
The court had on May 4 ordered Orjiako to appear, but on the adjourned date, the court was informed that parties were exploring out-of-court settlement.
At the Wednesday’s proceedings, Ogunba accused Orjiako of insincerity in the settlement process.
“The respondents are not sincere about the settlement. We have not heard anything from them. We did not hear from them throughout the vacation period despite the length of time afforded them. Until now, they have done nothing.
“In May, My Lord did order that the alleged contemnor should appear. Since then, he has not been forthcoming. Your Lordship needs to send a message that this is a serious assembly, a solemn assembly. No party should hold the court to ransom.
“I, therefore, urge Your Lordship to renew the order and give them one last chance. The court has to show that it is not a circus show,” Ogunba said.
The respondent’s counsel, Kami Dayo-Alade, however, said the settlement talks were still on and sought for more time.
“We are still committed to settlement. There were a lot of banks and other parties that came up,” he said.
Justice Shagari noted that contempt proceedings were “sui generis” and must be taken seriously.
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“We are not here to be too harsh on anybody. This case will be adjourned till the 16th of October for report of settlement, hearing of contempt proceedings, and for the alleged contemnor to be in court,” the judge said.