After Temporary Closure, Court Stops Rivers APC LG Congresses

0

•     We’ll go ahead with congresses, insists party

By Ernest  Chinwo in Port Harcourt
 

After a lock down by hundreds of youths suspected to be factional members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has issued an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the APC in the state from holding its local government congresses scheduled for today. 

However, the APC has said it would go ahead with congresses despite the injunction as the process for the exercise had already started.

Although the party said it would proceed with the local government congresses, governorship aspirant, Senator Magnus Abe, expressed gratitude to the court for checking impunity and restoring confidence as the last hope of the common man.

 Before the court sat in the afternoon, hundreds of youths suspected to be members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) loyal to one of the factions with the aid of the police, barricaded the Rivers State judiciary in the morning.

 The youths stormed the judiciary as early as 6.45am and blocked the gates of the High Court Complex, beating up both lawyers and litigants who tried to gain access into the complex while the police who came in several vans watched. 

The Chief Security Officer of the complex, Mr. Douglas, told THISDAY that the youth locked the gates by 6.45am and beat up several persons. 

THISDAY gathered that the move by the political thugs was to forestall the court from sitting so that it would not grant an injunction sought by Senator Magnus Abe to stop the local government congresses of the APC slated for today.

 While the police looked on, the youths padlocked the gates and chased the judges, lawyers and litigants away, and laid siege to the complex. 

However, the incident took a turn for worse when another group of youth suspected to be members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and backed by another set of policemen stormed the place to open the gates.

 Violence erupted as both sets of youth attacked each other with bottles and other dangerous weapons, including guns, and in the process destroyed some structures within the complex.

 The police shot sporadically into the air and assisted to chase away the PDP group while the other group relocked the gates. The police also used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

 However respite came to the judiciary when the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, went to the complex and ensured that it was opened for business. 

Friday last week, the court had served motion on notice on the APC, although, the leader of the party in the state and the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, had denied knowledge of such notice. 

Last Thursday, the court sat to hear the motion on notice as presented by the counsel for a faction of the APC who were allegedly barred from the ward congress seeking to stop the planned local government congresses today. 

However, after the shooting had died down, the presiding judge, Justice Chiwendu Nwogu, who delivered ruling on the motion on notice, barred the APC from going on with the congress and adjourned till 26th of June for hearing.

One of the counsel for the applicants, Henry Bellow, said: “I am counsel for the members of the APC who were unconstitutionally excluded from participating in the purportedly congress even after they had satisfied the conditions precedence to their participation in the congress according to APC guidelines. 

“They paid money for nomination forms. They paid but got to APC secretariat, it was locked only to hear winners have emerged in the congress and it is against the constitution of the party.”

Meanwhile, the counsel for the APC, who was sent from the national secretariat to take over the matter, Cuturu Eddeh, accused the state legal adviser of the party, Mr. Chiwikpe Chieme, of professional misconduct, adding that he (Chiwikpe) did not have the mandate to represent APC on the matter. 

Eddeh said: “This matter was brought to Port Harcourt from Bori on Monday. Him (Chiwikpe) coming to say he represented the APC is wrong. He went there and made damaging comments and representation of APC. The Chairman of the Party did not instruct him to stand in for the matter. I have a letter from the national party to represent the party. ” He knows the implication of that.

 “Chiwikpe does not have the right to represent the APC and make any submission on its behalf; he has been suspended by the party since last year.” 

In his reaction on the incident, the Attorney General of the State, Emmanuel Aguma (SAN), expressed worries over the attitude of APC supporters, noting that there was an attempt to close down the state judiciary. 

Aguma said: “The APC supporters came here and closed the court, but youths of Rivers State came and opened it. The police behaved well except for the men of Special Anti-Robbery Squad, who were shooting at Rivers youths.  

“I am surprised that there were no casualties. My gratitude is to the youths of the state who came out en masse to chase the APC away. 

“The court was totally destroyed. The judge that came to work this morning, His Lordship Andrew Jaja was manhandled and his car totally vandalised.” 

 

“What is happening is not related to court. It is APC versus APC and they came to close the court. Tomorrow they will come to say that the state is unsafe. They are not politicians.

 

“We are prepared to lay down our lives. Never again will courts in this state be closed. They did it in 2014, they will not do it again.”

 

But in his reaction, the state Publicity Secretary of the APC, Chris Finebone, said the leadership of APC in the state would go ahead with today’s local government congress despite the order of the Rivers State High Court.

 

Addressing journalists at the party secretariat yesterday, Finebone accused Wike of attempting to cause crisis within the APC using the Judiciary.

He said, “Our position is that the congress started long ago. The congresses are not stand alone. It is a process that has started and there is nothing anyone can do about a process that kicked off last weekend. 

 

“As a party, the APC has not received any court processes or motion. The local government congress scheduled for tomorrow will go on and that of May 19 will also hold.”