A High Court in Effurun, Delta State, has barred the Inspector-General of Police (IG), the state Commissioner of Police and the Ughelli Area Commander of the police division from further harassing, disrupting and arresting members of Brothers Across Nigeria (BAN) on their forthcoming annual convention, and planned medical outreach on COVID-19, among others.
BAN, according to the group, is a non-governmental and not-for-profit organisation, which fights against perceived societal ills and defends the masses against any form of oppression, and will hold its annual Dinner, General Assembly, Convention and elections in Ughelli, Delta State tomorrow.
While talking to THISDAY yesterday about the event, the BAN President, Dr. Lewis Atuife, stated that the event, which will also cater for their long-running issue of election of their Board of Trustees (BoT), will include a medical outreach for the Nigerian public on the COVID-19 pandemic as well as visitations to charity homes with relief items for them and other displaced persons in the area.
However, he lamented that the Nigeria Police Force seem maliciously hell-bent on disrupting their gathering by threatening to harass or arrest their members and by calling hoteliers in the areas to breach their contract with the association by withdrawing bookings, which have already been paid for by the association.
He alleged that the IG is not happy with the group for writing to President Muhammadu Buhari on some officers who dress on mufti and carry guns.
Atuife said that his association has always had a very cordial relationship with the security agencies such that they all cover their ceremonies “since time immemorial and that the only time the police stepped out of the line was in August 2018 when, after covering our event happily, they came on the Sunday after the event to start harassing our members who were preparing to leave. Of course, we went to the High Court in Delta State and in the case No A/M/97/2018 INCORPORATED TRUSTEES OF BROTHERS ACROSS NIGERIA vs IGP & two others obtained an order against them on May 21, 2019, which was a perpetual injunction restraining them from ever disturbing us or arresting our members. That order is still subsisting. Since then, we have had about five events in Warri, Abeokuta, Calabar, Abuja and Awka and they (police) were there to provide security without incidents.”
He added that on September 21, 2020, following police latest harassment and unlawful threats, “we have approached the courts again. There was another order restraining them from disturbing us or arresting any of our members. It is disheartening that the police force which is to protect citizens and enforce court orders are engaged in this malicious contempt all because we complained to the president about a danger posed to the citizens on police officers on mufti.
While restraining the defendants (Police) from further harassment of the applicant, in his ruling on the matter on September 21, 2020, the Judge of the High Court, Effurun, Delta State, Justice Emmanuel Dolor, urged the police to maintain status quo and refrain from taking any step that would undermine the court integrity.
In the court papers made available to THISDAY by Atuife, Justice Dolor said: I have carefully considered the application before me and I take the following others: ‘Leave is granted to the applicant (BAN) to serve the originating process and all other processes in this suit on the respondents by way of substituted service, to wit-by delivering same to the O/C Legal of the Nigerian Police, Nigerian Police Headquarters, Delta State Police Command, Asaba, and such service shall be deemed to be good, proper and effectual service.
“With respect to prayer two on the motion paper seeking an order of interim injunction against the respondent, I direct that the said respondents be put on Notice in respect thereof by serving them with the relevant processes either personally or by the way of substituted service approve above.
“Pursuant to my power under order IV rule 4(c) (I)-(v) and order XI of the fundamental rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rule 2009, I hereby direct each and everyone of the respondent herein to generally maintain the status quo and to refrain from doing anything or taking any step against the applicant that would undermine the integrity of this court or the integrity of this order, pending the date appointed herein for both side to appear before the court to be heard on the claims and grievances of the applicant.”
He, therefore, adjourned to October 5, 2020, for hearing of the motion on notice/substantive application for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the applicant.
Atuife, meanwhile, said: “Our country has to change. Law enforcement agencies and officers need to know that we have rights and those rights must be respected. We are not their slaves or children. They should respect themselves. We do not pay them with our taxes only for them to treat us as slaves, breach our constitutional rights and disobey orders from competent courts.”