Rivers Re-run Election Crisis: Court Declares Police Probe Panel Illegal

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Alex Enumah in Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday declared as illegal, the 15-man probe panel constituted by the Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, to investigate the violence, killings, destruction of property and other criminal activities that took place  during and after the December 10, National Assembly rerun election in Rivers State.

 Justice Gabriel Kolawole, in a judgment he delivered on the suit filed by Rivers State Government and Governor Nyesom Wike (1st and 2nd plaintiffs) on January 11, 2017, said the “the police panel was unknown to law” because it lacked constitutional backing.

Consequently, the court held that the report of the panel was not valid and of doubtful source.
In view of this, the judge said it remains to be seen whether the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) would prosecute those indicted by the police probe panel based on a report that is illegal.

“The police panel is unknown to Nigerian criminal justice system.
It’s a contraption. The said report is unknown to law and its validity to be used by the Attorney General of the Federation to press a charge is in great doubt, the court said.
According to the court, it was wrong for the IG to constitute a police panel that had the Department of State Services (DSS) as member.

Justice Kolawole noted that under Section 11 of Police Act, the IG requires presidential assent to delegate power to another prosecutorial agency.
“The special multi-agency panel is not a statutory body but a product of ministerial act.”
Though the court agreed that the IG, in line with Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 4 of the Police Act, that police can conduct investigation of any crime, however such duty must be carried out in strict adherence with the law.

 In addition, the court said it would have quashed the report but for the fact that it was not pleaded before it.
“The report was not presented before the court, if not, it would have been quashed.
Also, the court held that there was no merit in the 2nd defendant’s (DSS) preliminary objection on grounds of jurisdiction.

Consequently, It was dismissed.
Justice Kolawole had earlier fixed May 2, 2017 to deliver judgment in a suit after parties in the matter adopted their written address and oral submissions.
While adopting his briefs and tendered video clips of Channels Television reports on the re-run election before the court as exhibits, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) representing Governor Wike and the Rivers State Government, told the court that security personnel deployed to Rivers State for the purpose of the election did not carry out their duties the way it should be.

He said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) indicted security agencies, especially the police in their report on the election, adding that the plaintiffs have raised ten issues for the determination of the court.
He said the pivot of the case is that the defendants cannot set up a special panel of investigation, not withstanding the police power under Section 4 of the Police Act and Section 214 of the constitution.

Ozekhome said the police investigation is, ‘”specifically targeted at the 1st and 2nd plaintiffs, with a pr-mediated design, contrite and bias to rubbish the plaintiffs after they (defendants) have already made up their mind to rubbish them.”

In a counter affidavit to the plaintiffs’ originating summon, council to the police and DSS, who are defendants, Femi Falana (SAN), said the commission of inquiry set up by the state government cannot investigate criminal offences, except the police.

“We have shown in our address that no citizen of the country will go to the court, praying the court to stop investigation of criminal offences, as that will amount to conferring permanent immunity on criminal suspects”, Falana told the court.

He said there was no evidence placed before the court  by the plaintiffs to show that their rights have been violated, saying that the policemen indicted in the crisis have been dismissed and will be prosecuted.

Justice Kolawole, having listened to the submissions of both parties in the matter and adoption of their written and oral submissions, adjourned till May 2, 2017 for judgment.
But the absence of the judge however stalled the delivery on the last adjourned date and the matter was adjourned to yesterday May 9, 2017.