Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman
By Adebiyi Adedapo
Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, yesterday cautioned counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) AB Mahmud (SAN) against delay tactics in the trial of a suit filed against the commission by Beddings Holdings Limited.
Beddings Holdings accused INEC of infringing its patent right by contracting three companies to produce voters register for the 2011 general elections without first seeking and obtaining a written licence, consent and authority from it.
It claimed that it was the only company with the patent right to produce Electronic Collapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes, ECTBB, as well as the patentee in respect of Proof of Address System/Scheme, PASS, used for collation and collection of data.
At the resumed hearing in the matter at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Justice Auta condemned the attitude of the defence counsel in opening their defence, saying members of the bar were more responsible for the delay in the dispensation of judgment.
He refused to hear oral application made by counsel to INEC, AB Mahmud (SAN), for re-examination of the plaintiff witness due to the inability of Mahmud to cross examine the witness.
“I don’t hear applications filed on the day of proceedings because it is not before me yet,” he said.
Also, all the witnesses listed by the defendants from the 1st defendant to the 5th were not present in court for one reason or the other.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Karina Tunyan (SAN), agreed that his witness be reexamined in order to facilitate speedy dispensation of justice in the matter.
He also urged the court to enter no defence and close cases for the 4th and 5th accused persons as he said they have no tenable reason not to produce their witnesses.
Obviously frustrated with the trial of the case, Auta lamented the unprofessional conduct of some senior counsel in the practice, as he enjoined counsel to imbibe the culture of best practice.
Hearing in the case has been adjourned till 31st January 2012 when defense counsel are expected to open their defence.
Justice Auta however warned that the court would not entertain flimsy excuses at the next adjourned date.
“Let us help the profession and stop blaming the judiciary. The judiciary cannot prosecute and give verdict at the same time. I will not enter a case of no defence for any party. I will give every party fair hearing in the matter,” he said
Beddings accused INEC of infringing on its patent right. It is therefore seeking a total of N10 billion as damages as well as an order of the court restraining INEC from going ahead with the planned voters registration exercise pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.