By Emmanuel Ogala
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja will on Monday, September 30, hear an application seeking to join President Goodluck Jonathan, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and others in a contempt suit pending before the honourable court.
According to the hearing notice obtained from the court, President Jonathan and ten others, cited as alleged contemnors in an application filed by a firm, Bedding Holdings Limited (BHL), are accused of alleged unlawful use of patented ballot boxes for the PDP’s last special convention, without the consent of BHL, which is the original patent owner.
BHL’s Group Executive Chairman, Chief Sylvester Odigie had on September 9, 2013 through its lawyer, John Okoriko of Karina Tunyan (SAN) and Co. law firm, filed an application at the court challenging the action(s) of the defendants.
However, the applicant told ICIR that he withdrew the earlier application and later refilled it last week to include other major actors in the PDP’s special convention held in Abuja on August 31, 2013.
Specifically, the application seeks an order joining President Jonathan and ten others in “the contempt proceedings already commenced by plaintiff/applicant,” the court notice stated.
Those sought to be joined include the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, Senate President, David Mark, Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, the PDP and its Chairman, Bamanga Tukur.
Also to be joined include the Chairman, PDP’s Board of Trustees, Anthony Anenih, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State (who acted as Chairman, PDP Essential Electoral Materials Committee) and Chairman, Police Service Commission, Mike Okiro (who served as Chairman, PDP Special National Convention Sub-Committee on Security) and the party. Others are Professor Jerry Gana (who acted as the Chairman, PDP’ special convention committee) and Ken Nnamani (who was the Chairman, PDP’s electoral committee).
According to the plaintiff, the application was informed by its realisation that the 11 alleged contemnors were “necessary and desirable parties” to the contempt proceedings.
BHL stated that the ground for its application was that Jonathan and others “are serial contemnors, who contemptuously connived with sixth and seventh defendants/respondents (the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and its Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega)” to use the applicant’s transparent ballot boxes for the PDP’s convention in violation of a subsisting judgment of the court delivered on June 5, 2012 by Justice Adamu Bello.
Odigie stated in a supporting affidavit that his company had initiated the contempt proceedings against INEC and Jega on July 18, 2012 via a motion on notice, seeking an order committing the two to prison, for their alleged contemptuous use of the ballot boxes for all the elections they have conducted since the June 5, 2012 judgment.
He cited some of the elections for which the ballot boxes were used, without his company’s consent, to include the last governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, and other elections conducted subsequently by INEC.
He stated that those being sought to be joined in the contempt case, were seen casting their votes at the August 31 convention, using his company’s patented ballot boxes.
Odigie had through his lawyers queried the legality of the outcome of the convention in view of some reliefs granted by the court in the June 5, 2012 judgment in suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/82/11.
“By virtue of reliefs 6 and 7 as contained in the enrolled judgment order, the elections of the PDP conducted at its special national convention held on August 31, 2013 in Abuja is unconstitutional, illegal, unlawful and therefore stands null and avoid,” Odigie said.
He argued that the outcome of the convention stands nullified because his company’s ballot boxes were used without its consent, in violation of the court’s judgment.
Justice Bello had in the June 5, 2012 judgment held that the plaintiff, BHL owns “valid and subsisting patent rights” over transparent ballot boxes and electronic collapsible transparent ballot boxes being used for elections in the country.
The judge upheld BHL’s claim to being the bona fide patentee and the exclusive owner of the invention named “Transparent Ballot Boxes” on which it was issued certificate of registration patent rights No. RP12994 and registration of industrial designs rights No. RD5946 by the Registrar of Patents on January 12, 1998.
Justice Bello also upheld the subsequent certification of an improvement on the invention named “Electronic Collapsible Transparent Ballot Boxes” (with certificate of registration of patent rights No. RP16642 and registration of industrial designs rights No. RD13841 issued on November 27, 2006 which are still valid.
The judge voided the rights over similar inventions purportedly issued later, to three firms – Emchai Limited, Tambco United Nigeria Ltd and Anowat Project and Resources Ltd – by the Registrar of Patent, for being illegal.
Justice Bello also granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants and any other person from utilising or dealing with the patented boxes of the plaintiff “except with the express and prior consent, license and authority of the plaintiff to that effect.”
According to the Court notice, defendants in the current suit are the Registrar of Patent, Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Emchai Limited, Tambco United Nigeria Ltd and Anowat Project and Resources Ltd, Attorney General of the Federation, INEC and Jega.