Hon. Chidi Lloyd
• Assembly calls for probe into torture allegations Police stop rights activists' protest
By Ernest Chinwo
A Rivers State High Court has ordered the police to produce the Leader of Rivers State House of Assembly, Chidi Lloyd, in court today for prosecution over his alleged attempt to murder a colleague, Michael Chindah, during the fracas that erupted in the assembly last month.
The police, in charge NO. PHC/1685 C12/2013, had accused Lloyd of attempted murder contrary to Section 320 of the Criminal Code Law Cap 37 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
They also accused him of conspiring with some other persons now at large to murder a fellow lawmaker, Okechukwu Chinda.
He was also accused of intending to maim, disfigure or disable Chinda who was purportedly hit with a dangerous weapon on July 9 during the fracas inside the chambers of the state assembly.
He is also to face a charge of wilful and unlawful destruction of government property, to wit a legislative mace and other property of the state House of Assembly.
It was a waiting game Tuesday as people had thronged the court expecting that Lloyd would be arraigned. They were however disappointed as the court waited until about 3.20pm without the police or Lloyd being in court.
Justice L.L. Nyordee, in whose court the matter was slated for trial, gave the order Tuesday after the police had failed to arraign Lloyd in court or to produce him despite the hearing notice served on them to do so.
The trial Judge noted that a hearing notice had earlier been served the complainant (police) by the counsel to Lloyd to produce him in court to take his plea Tuesday.
“Accordingly, it is hereby ordered that fresh hearing notice be served on the prosecution to appear tomorrow (Wednesday). Accordingly too, the hearing notice would be sent to the police to produce the accused for plea,” he said.
He, however, adjourned until today for the accused to be arraigned so that he could take his plea.
Earlier, lead counsel to Lloyd, Beluolisa Nwofor (SAN), drew the attention of the court to the absence of his client.
Nwofor told the court that the police had violated the State High Court Practice Directory, 2013, which calls for impartial and speedy adjudication of matters.
He, therefore, urged the court to order the complainant, who was also absent, to arraign the accused, so that he could take a plea because the matter is a criminal charge.
Nwofor also asked the court to strike out the case if the police failed to arraign Lloyd, threatening to sue the complainant for malicious prosecution.
In an interview with journalists shortly after the sitting, Nwofor also expressed fears over the health condition of his client.
He stressed that Lloyd had been in detention for over a week and under torture, adding that he had not even had access to his client.
Meanwhile, members of the assembly have dismissed claims by the police that they did not torture Lloyd, describing the police assertion as a mere face-saving device.
The Deputy Speaker of the state assembly, Hon. Leyii Kwanee, while speaking to journalists in Port Harcourt Tuesday, called for an investigation into the torture allegations by the police high command.
He said what was expected of the police, if they were honest, was to investigate the allegations and fish out the culprits rather than deny it without any investigation.
He described the torture meted out to the house leader as a custodial crime for which any police officer involved in it should be punished.
The Deputy Speaker further stated that the torture of Lloyd conflicted with the 1984 international convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
In another development, members of the civil rights community, under the aegis of the Niger Delta Civil Societies Coalition (NDCSC) were Tuesday in Port Harcourt prevented from holding an earlier announced ‘defence of democracy rally’ by heavily armed policemen.
Renowned civil rights activists such as Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Femi Falana (SAN), Joe Okei-Odumakin and many others, were billed to address the rally to protest what they described as a rape on democracy in the state following the crisis in the state chapter of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The activists were however barred from entering the Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt, venue of the rally, as riot policemen took over the area.
THISDAY observed that armed policemen and a mounted Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) were stationed around the arena.
There was also police presence at other alternative venues, such as the Isaac Boro Park, Abali Park area.
The activists were forced to resort to a press conference to air their grievances.
Addressing the media on the development, the chairman of the coalition, Anyakwee Nsirimovu, lamented the resort by the police to muzzling the people from exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression, assembly and movement.
According to Nsirimovu, accompanied by representatives of member organisations within the NDCSC, the rally was planned to be peaceful, but the conduct of the police had further showed the level of impunity going on in the state.
He said: “It was planned to be a peaceful rally; we had slated the Liberation Stadium to be our meeting venue, on getting there this morning (Tuesday), the police, under the leadership of Joseph Mbu, took over the stadium and didn’t allow us to get into the stadium to do what we wanted to do."
“It’s in that regard that we relocated to this place, to inform and share with all of you that this is a sad day for democracy, not just in Rivers State, but in Nigeria; a day when freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association was jettisoned with the presence of law enforcement officers, who are meant to protect us, to allow us to participate freely in a democracy.
“Democracy is absolutely nothing without expression, without assembly, without movement, it is on that note that we have come here to re-emphasise to all of us that the need for peace in Rivers State cannot be over-emphasised.”