By Alex Enumah
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has fixed Wednesday May 27 for hearing in a fresh application by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Kano Commissioner of Police against the judgment of the court that ordered the unsealing of a rice factory in Kano State.
Justice Abang fixed the date for hearing on Thursday, after lawyers to the rice company filed a counter affidavit in opposition to the police motion seeking to either stay or set aside the May 4, 2020 judgment of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
The company, Tiamin Rice Ltd, together with Tiamin Multi Services Global and one Alhaji Aliyu Ibrahim (the judgement creditors) in their fresh motion accused the Police of working to frustrate the enforcement of a judgment directing the immediately reopening of its factory sealed by the Kano State Government.
In the fresh counter motion, the firm also alleged that the IGP and the Kano CP are frustrating efforts to rescue staff trapped in the factory since it was forcefully sealed by agents of the state government on April 18, 2020.
The Kano State government citing closeness to a Covid-19 isolation centre created for COVID-19 had moved to seal the rice factory, located at C14 AA Shehu House, Amana City, Zaria Road, Kano State.
Following the seal up, Tiamin Rice Ltd, Tiamin Multi Services Global and Alhaji Aliyu Ibrahim instituted a legal action against the Kano State government and the police.
Delivering judgment on May 4 in the fundamental rights enforcement suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/448/2020, trial judge, Justice Okon Abang faulted the Kano State Government’s decision to seal the factory and ordered for its immediate reopening.
Justice Abang in addition awarded the sum of N300 million as damages in favour of the applicants.
According to the judge, the closure of the factory, without a valid court order, violated the rights of the applicants and the exemption accorded food production companies by the Federal Government.
Rather than comply with the judgment, the IGP and Kano CP filed a fresh motion on May 15, 2020 asking the court to either stay the execution of the judgment or set it aside.
The police in their motion claimed that the lockdown announced by the Federal Government prevented them from participating in the earlier hearing conducted in the case, which lead to the May 4 judgment.
But in their counter affidavit, the applicants queried the interest of the IGP and the Kano CP in seeking to frustrate the execution of the judgment that do not directly affect them.
They argued that the new motion was not only designed by the IGP and the Kano CP to frustrate the execution of the judgment, it was an abuse of the court’s process since they have already filed a notice of appeal against the judgment.
The applicants added that the conduct of the IGP and the Kano CP “are, on the facts of this case, a direct challenge to the authority of the court and it demonstrates impunity, showing that they have the right to ignore and dare the court.
“They have shown inhuman treatment to innocent employees of the judgment creditors trapped in the facility since 18th April 2020.
“The judgment debtors do not care even for the lives and welfare of staff for these innocent trapped and locked up in the factory premises.”
They prayed the court to reject the fresh motion by the police and ordered them to comply with the judgment of May 4 otherwise they would be liable to be held for contempt.
At Thursday’s proceedings, lawyer to the judgment creditors, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) said he has served the judgment debtors, including the IGP and the Kano CP with his clients’ counter-affidavit.
Lawyer to the IGP and Kano CP, Celestine Odo confirmed being served, but sought a short time to enable him file a reply.
Although the Kano State Government and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) are also judgment debtors in the case, they were not represented in court on Thursday.
Justice Abang in a ruling however ordered that hearing notice be served on the Kano State Government and the NSCDC through email, in view of the existing inter-state lockdown.
Hearing in the matter was however adjourned till May 27, 2020.