The Attack And Siege On The Portharcourt Division Of The Rivers State High Court : The Auguries Are Foreboding and Ominous

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– An Appeal to the Hon. Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, CON, to Personally Condemn the Attack and call for the arrest and prosecution of the masterminds and Perpetrators.

‘’If the enemies of our peace and democracy succeed or get away with what occurred at the High Court in Port Harcourt, it would be a source of encouragement to them to do the same to the Court of Appeal , and ultimately, the Supreme Court of Nigeria whenever anyone perceives that a Judgment may be delivered against any of them or the interest they represent.’—The Chief Justice of Nigeria, condemning the attack on the Port Harcourt High Court.

‘’The option open to a person against whom an Order was made or Judgment given is plain: he should apply to the Court to discharge the Order or appeal against the Judgment that it might be set aside, as the case may be. This is good sense for, as long as the Order or Judgment existed, it must not be disobeyed. A Judgment of a Court of competent Jurisdiction remains valid and binding, even when the person affected by it believes that it is void, until it is set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction”.
—The Supreme Court of Nigeria in BABATUNDE V OLATUNJI 2000 2 SCNJ P. 26

‘’Hierarchical and arbitrary power remains at the core of politics in our world and the source of all evils. What we do know, however, is that if we succumb to despair, we will help ensure that the worst will happen. And if we grasp the hopes that exist and work to make the best use of them, there might be a better world”.
-Noam Chomsky, American Professor and Public Intellectual, in his Book, ‘Optimism Over Despair’ p. 82.

INTRODUCTION:

On Thursday, 11 May 2018, a Port Harcourt High Court, presided over by His Lordship, Nwogu J, heard arguments in an Interlocutory application from Counsel to some 23 litigants as Claimants who are members of the Rivers APC.

They complained that they paid for forms as aspirants or candidates to the ward Congresses that held earlier and from which they were excluded by being denied the forms which they would have filled and submitted before the commencement of polls as provided in the Guidelines for the Congress and which would have entitled them to participate.

The documents submitted to Court showed their Bank tellers, indicating payments were made to the APC accounts for the forms. They also exhibited their APC membership slips showing they are members. They prayed the Court to put on hold, the recognition of the alleged flawed Congress which unlawfully excluded them, and to restrain the Party from holding the subsequent one since they ordinarily ought to have participated in that subsequent one, had they been allowed to contest in the earlier one and possibly won. This case exactly resembles the Supreme Court case of AMAECHI Vs INEC on unlawful exclusion.

The APC legal adviser, (by election and not by appointment) on whom all the processes including the Motion for Injunction were served, not only entered appearance, personally, but also swore to an affidavit personally, still, agreeing that the claimants as members of APC, were undemocratically and unfairly dealt with. He agreed that the Court should have suspended the next Congress until the issue of the legality of their alleged unlawful exclusion was determined and a path charted therefrom. He was categorical that he was not opposed to the application.

After the arguments in open Court, His Lordship adjourned till the next day, Friday the 11th of May to consider and deliver his Ruling.

That same day, after the Court rose, a faction of the party wrote to the State Chief Judge, complaining that the Party’s legal adviser who had always attended meetings with them and about whom nothing was ever heard in relation to suspension, was not the correct person to represent the party. The letter claimed he had since been suspended!

Then came the Morning of the Ruling. FRIDAY, 11 MAY 2018.

In the wee hours of that fateful day, scores and tens of roaring crowd besieged the Court and laid siege on it after they had firmly locked it to prevent ingress and egress. It was a theater of War in every sense as guns boomed and disorder took over, effectively preventing the Court from commencing the business of the day. The purpose, clearly, was to prevent the Court from sitting and delivering the Ruling from the Interlocutory application.

MY ATTORNEY GENERALSHIP UNDER THE ROTIMI AMAECHI GOVERNORSHIP

As it is known world-wide, this same Court and indeed, all Courts in Rivers State, were under lock and key for the nearly half period of the Rotimi Amaechi second tenure as Governor, in which, I was honoured to serve as Attorney General. The facts and circumstances leading to that unfortunate and clearly avoidable incident which led to misery and death, were as political as the ones now which also nearly culminated in the shut down of the Court last Friday.

It was said then, of me, as the Attorney General, that I shut down the Court. I had maintained then, in a dignified manner, that no one appointee of Government could shut down a whole judicial system. I prayed quietly that in my lifetime, events would occur that would make my position to be understood and known without a comment from me.

While not attempting to deny liability in any way or manner whatsoever for acts and omissions that occurred in a Government that I served especially since I did not resign if it was too much to bear, I wish to state with some relief, that with the events of last Friday, it is clear to discerning minds that I could not have shut down the courts, as claimed as am now no more in Government and not part of those on the part of the Minister now accused of being responsible for the siege. The events unfolding should also show and teach that there should be limit to blind loyalty.

THE REASON THE MINSITER, MY FORMER BOSS, SHOULD SPEAK UP AND CONDEMN THE ACT.

It is clear that those who blocked the Court and laid siege on it feared it would deliver a Ruling against its interest in the matter referred to earlier. Indeed, immediately after the Ruling was delivered, Adol Dakuku Peterside, Phd, Director General NIMASA and the man the Honourable Minister is insisting to be his own preferred candidate for the Gubernatorial APC ticket in 2019 election, caused to be announced that he would be on a radio Programme the next morning on Rhytm 93.7 called View Point. It is usually paid for.

It was from him, for the very first time, I heard of the linking of the Minister’s name to the mayhem as he denied that the Minister was involved nor knew the perpetrators. He swore and said he was denying on his honour.

To deny that a person did not do something means, logically, that there is an accusation or allegation against such a person with respect to that which is being denied. Indeed, a denial is always preceded by an accusation or allegation. If Dr. Peterside did not make that denial on behalf of the Minister, I would not call on him to speak for himself.

Dr. Peterside also announced that the subject matter of the restraining Order, i.e., the planned LGA Congresses of that Saturday 11 May 2018 would go on despite the Court Order.

That is why it is clear to conclude as all right thinking persons have, that those who laid siege on the Court were sent by those who feared an unfavourable Ruling. To say, as Dr. Peterside said, that the Ruling would not be obeyed, amounted to a mere culpa. It was unfortunate. It cast the Minister on the spot and the insistence that the Minister did not know the persons or was not involved was too eerie and I waited for the Hon Minister’s rebuttal and condemnation of the event especially since Dr. Peterside is not his official spokesperson. None has come hence, this Press Release.

ANOTHER REASON THE MINISTER SHOULD RISE TO THE OCCASION AND CONDEMN THE SIEGE

He is the Director General, we are told, of a species of the President’s numerous Re-election bid Organisations and Groups. A Presidential Reelection Chieftain with a public toga, false or true, of association with siege and attack on Court, especially since one happened under his watch as Governor, is not good for electoral fortune. I am an avid APC member and interested in the President’s reelection.

ANOTHER REASON:

My Colleagues in the Noble and learned profession of Law and indeed, clients and Court users, cannot continue to be left with the impression that we are professional Court Enemies and yet we want to govern Rivers State. Our APC that wants to govern Rivers State, whether through the Minister’s entrenched, preferred Dakuku Peterside or through Senator Magnus Abe as some of us desire, should not be seen to be haters of the Judiciary.

The Judiciary is apolitical and there are remedies for aggrieved litigants; shutting down the Court is not one of them. Luckily, Senator Magnus Abe has distanced himself and his followers from the shame. The Minister and his Group should similarly do so.

THE CONSTANT REFERENCE TO GOV. WIKE EACH TIME WE DON’T SEEM TO SUCCEED AS THE REASON WE FAIL

In the aftermath of the crises and the Ruling, the public, both here and in Abuja, have been fed with the (mis)information that Governor Nyesom Wike aided the judiciary to give the Injunction!!!

As Governor in this State, and during my Attorney Generalship, Minister Wike, as he then was, got Rulings and Orders and Injunctions and Judgments against our Government and our political interest several times from this same High Court under Rotimi Amaechi’s Governorship. Did Governor Amaechi aid him that time to get those Orders and Rulings?

In particular, the closed Obio/Akpor Council which Governor Amaechi effected, was lifted by a Judgment of the Rivers State High Court.

The Social Services Levy Law enacted by the Amaechi Government was shut down by a Judgment of this same Rivers State Judiciary with Amaechi as Governor.

Following the turbulence, then, at the Rivers State House of Assembly, a Commission of Enquiry was set up to investigate and report to the Governor but no sooner had they commenced sitting than the same Rivers State High Court shut it down, all during the Amaechi Governorship.

So, who was assisting Minister Wike and his political groups then to have their day in Court under Rotimi Amaechi as Governor? Was it Gov. Amaechi?

‘Dear Brutus, the fault is not in our Stars, but…’

DISOBEDIENCE OF A SOLEMN ORDER OF COURT

The culmination of the agitation is now the country-known fact that the faction that sought to prevent the court from delivering its Ruling announced shortly after the Ruling was delivered, that it would not obey it.

It has made good its promise on spurious and ridiculous grounds to show power.

This is against the Supreme Court Judgment quoted at the outset.

That is for the Court and the litigants to sort out at the appropriate time. For me, it is unfortunate.

CONCLUSION:

The Minister, my former Boss, whether his group obeys the Court Order or not, (the victory of evil over good is temporary) should, for the reasons earlier stated, take steps to condemn the attack on the Rivers state Judiciary, and call for the arrest and prosecution of all those involved.

To continue calling some of us PDP; alleging Senator Magnus has political romance with Governor Wike; that the Governor aided the obtaining of the Order etc, etc, all in a bid to score cheap political goals with the party at the National level in order to bring down Senator Magnus’ Gubernatorial ambition, is preposterous and puerile and amount to begging the issues and trivialization of a serious and grave issue of state.

There must be time to play politics, to show maturity and statesmanship and to govern especially as a Minister.
Let us be wise today, now: it is madness to defer it to tomorrow.

Thank you and Godbless.

Worgu Boms, Esq.
Honourable Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State (2011 – 2015).


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