Bayelsa Guber Candidate Regains Freedom after 26 Days in Custody

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*As police bows to court order

By Alex Enumah

Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Monday, ordered the release of the candidate of the Liberation Movement (LM) in the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa State, Mr Vijah Opuama, after 26 days in custody.

His immediate release from custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services centre in Suleja, Niger State, was sequel to an order by Justice Taiwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.

Justice Taiwo had, in a judgment on the bail application filed by his lawyer, Mr Mike Odey, held that the governorship candidate was unlawfully detained by the police.

Justice Taiwo however ordered the release of Opuama on bail in the sum of N100,000 and a surety in like sum.

The surety, who must be resident in Abuja, must depose to an affidavit of means as well as undertake to produce the applicant in court throughout the duration of the case.

Justice Taiwo, who frowned on the attitude of the police towards the orders of the court, ordered that the police must not detain the applicant in respect of this case, adding that the applicant should only visit the police twice in a week and in the company of his lawyer, within the hours of 12 noon and 3pm.

Justice Taiwo, in addition, ordered that the police to conclude their investigations of Opuama within 14 days and file charges against him if any wrongdoing is discovered in their findings.

He subsequently ordered the officials of the Correctional Services Centre to release Opuama to his lawyer, Odey.

Some policemen in the Inspector-General of Police (IG)’s monitoring unit had arrested Opuama on August 15, at the venue of the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja, while waiting for judgment to be delivered in his petition against the November 16 governorship election.

Opuama had, in his petition, prayed the tribunal to sack Governor Douye Diri on alleged perjury and forgery on the part of his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo.

However, Opuama was whisked away by the police before the tribunal, in a unanimous judgment, dismissed his petition for being incompetent and lacking in merit.

Following his arrest, he was detained by the police for 20 days before his purported arraignment before a Magistrate’s Court in Zuba, which eventually ordered his remand at the Suleja Correctional Services Centre.

However, the court faulted the action of the police including his arraignment at the Zuba Magistrate’s Court, which he noted lacked jurisdiction to entertain any criminal matter.

Before Opuama’s release on bail on Thursday, Justice Taiwo had on several occasions ordered the IG to produce him in court in relation to his bail application.

Justice Taiwo had on August 31, 2020, while ruling in an exparte application filed on behalf of the detainee, ordered the police to produce the applicant in court on September 2 but the order was not obeyed by the IG.

On September 2, the judge again made a similar order to produce Opuama in court on September 7, which the police again declined to obey.

In a short ruling last Monday, Justice Taiwo however, threatened to summon the IG, Mr Mohammed Adamu, if he failed to comply with his latest order.

“The court made an order that the applicant be produced in this court. That order must be obeyed.

“I shall, therefore, make an order that the applicant must be produced on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.

“The applicant must be produced in court on that day unfailing,” he added.

He subsequently adjourned to September 9 for the hearing of Opuama’s bail application, which subsequently came up on Thursday.

Meanwhile, speaking to journalists shortly after his release, Opuama, while thanking the judge for granting his bail, reiterated his resolve to continue to work in the interest of the people of Bayelsa State.

He disclosed that his unlawful detention did not in any way threatened his political ambition to occupy the office of Governor of Bayelsa State, adding that while in detention, his was able to appeal the judgment of the tribunal which had dismissed his petition against the election of Governor Diri.