Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
An Abia State High Court sitting at Okpuala Ngwa, was wednesday sacked by hoodlums, who stormed the temple of justice apparently to halt the ongoing legal tussle over the authentic leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
The court case is expected to determine if Abia APC would present candidates in the 2019 general election as a court order was ignored to conduct party congresses and when the primaries later held, it produced parallel candidates.
The presiding judge, Justice Collinton Okoroafor, was forced to stay away from the court as pandemonium reigned inside and outside the court before his arrival. The court clerk later told lawyers that the judge had sent words that for security reasons, the court would resume sitting on October 31, 2018.
The Abia chapter of APC has been engulfed in leadership tussle with Hon. Donatus Nwankpa, as chairman of a faction, while Emmanuel Ndukwe, leads the faction recognised by the court as the authentic leadership of Abia APC.
The judge was billed to hear the motion filed by Nwankpa and his co-respondents seeking to transfer the case to another court and another motion filed by the plaintiffs seeking to nullify every action taken by Nwankpa after the court had issued an order sacking him from office.
Hell was let loose as the hoodlums took over the entire court premises, blocked the two entries into the court and screened people entering the court room to ensure that only APC members belonging to the faction led by Nwankpa were allowed into the court.
Signs of trouble started manifesting when a bus loaded with hoodlums arrived at the court premises and discharged hefty looking men some wearing masks and armed with guns and matchets. The bus driver made several trips bringing more thugs to saturate the court premises.
Some of the hoodlums positioned along the road leading to the court intercepted people from the opposing faction, beating them and inflicting wounds on several of the people in the opposing camp.
The state Publicity Secretary of the Ndukwe led faction, Mike Ozoemana, was beaten black and blue and his Toyota 4 Runner jeep seized by men who claimed to be from the State Anti-Robbery Squad, said to have been called by those that brought the thugs.
Justice Okoroafor had on March 8, 2018, issued an order restraining Nwankpa from parading himself as the chairman of Abia APC pending the determination of the case brought against him by aggrieved party members. The then national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was also restrained from recognising Nwankpa as chairman.
However, the embattled Abia APC chairman was peeved by the court order which he described as “kangaroo court order and a nullity” and on June 28, 2018, when he failed in his bid to be granted extension of time to file application to vacate the order, he described the affirmation of the earlier restraining order as “judicial rascality”.
The respondents in the matter have already expressed dissatisfaction at the way the case was going and without the knowledge of the presiding judge and the legal team of the plaintiffs the case file was removed.
Sensing an attempt to pervert justice, the Ndukwe- led APC petitioned the Abia State Judicial Service Commission (SJC) calling for thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the case file.
Specifically, the petitioners urged the SJC to investigate the chief registrar of the state high court, Mr. Benson Anya, and senior registrar at the high court in Okpuala Ngwa, Mr. E.E. Nwogwugwu, for “connivance” in removing the case file “without due notification of the, consent and approval of the presiding judge, Hon Justice C.U. Okoroafor.”