Contempt: Court remands DG Arts and Culture, Runsewe

By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja

Justice Jude Okeke of the Federal Capital Territory, High Court, yesterday, sentenced Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, the Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture to Kuje prison.
The trial judge, in his ruling ordered the Inspector General of Police to give effect to the court order.
The court held that Runsewe should be in jail until he “purges himself of all the contemptuous acts” he committed at the Arts and Craft Village Abuja, which the claimant complained of.
The order was sequel to a committal motion drawn from a suit filed by Ummakalif Ltd against the Minister, Federal Capital Territory, Federal Capital Development Authority, the Director General National Council for Arts and Culture, and the Minister for Culture and Tourism, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants respectively.
The motion dated the 21st day of June, 2019, was brought pursuant to Order 47 rule 10 subrules 1 , 2 and 3 of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Civil Procedure Rules 2018.
The motion of the claimant sought for an order of court committing Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, the Director General of the 3rd Defendant to prison for contempt of the order of court made on the 15th December, 2017.
The court had made an interlocutory order for parties in the suit to maintain status quo pending the determination of the substantial suit, which Runsewe flouted severally.
In defiance to the court order that status quo be maintained, Runsewe (3rd defendant) had directed his staff to put a banner that the area (some portions of Arts and Craft Village), which is the subject matter of the suit be closed due to repair works.
Based on processes pleaded before the court by Ogwuche Agbonika, counsel for the claimant, Runsewe directed that the roofs of buildings belonging to the claimant be removed and demolished.
Though Runsewe claimed his contractor “honestly” made the mistake by removing roofs of buildings of the claimant, however, the court noted that the 3rd defendant did not show any evidence that the roofs were replaced or called the contractor to testify via affidavit how he removed the roofs in error and effort made to replace them.
In his ruling, Justice Okeke described the act of Runsewe as highly contemptuous, adding that committing him to custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services will serve as deterrent to others who abuse office and disobey court orders with disdainfully.
“The conducts of the party cited as 3rd defendant are not only invidious but also aimed at denigrating the integrity of this court.
“The act of the 3rd defendant was an abuse of office and display of unbridled arrogance.
“The measure taken by the court is to serve as deterrent to others in positions of authority who might act like the 3rd defendant.
“The party cited (Runsewe) had ample opportunity to retrace his steps but he didn’t,’’ the court ruled.
Justice Okeke said the “main reason court evokes its coercive powers through committal is to enthrone rule of law, rather than allow parties to resort to self-help.
The court held that Runsewe was guilty of “flagrant violation of a court order made on December 15, 2017, after Form 48, now 99, was served on him, reminding him of the need to obey the court order.
“Due to the unrepentant conduct of the party cited, this court in exercise of its inherent powers, sentences the Director General of National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe to prison, that is to say, Kuje correctional centre until he purges himself of the contempt order of court made on 15th December 2017, by replacing the roofs to their previous state” Justice Okeke held.

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