PATRICK ABANG Calabar –
Against the backdrop of illegal occupation of IPMAN offices in some part of the country, The Federal High Court sitting in Calabar has ordered the Nigeria Police Force to vacate its secretariats in Abuja and the eastern zone.
The court also warned against the arbitrary enforcement and described the action as illegal and abuse of power.
In an originating summons filed by Daniel Mgbe, Esq, on behalf of the plaintiffs, including Engr, Sanusi Fari, Chidi Nnubia, Peter Okoye and seven others, had sought for among others a declaration that the continued siege at IPMAN national secretariat by police officers claiming to be acting on the instructions of the Attorney General of the Federation, Inspector General of Police and Deputy Inspector General of Police Force, CID Abuja and forcible removal of Engr. Sanusi Fari and his executive from legitimate offices as president and Executive members on July 5, 2021 as unlawful, unconstitutional and null and void.
It further sought an order of the Court to compel the Nigerian Police to vacate the national secretariat of IPMAN in Abuja to allow Engr Sanusi Fari-led executive possession to re-enter and continue their legitimate functions and also an order to vacate the the IPMAN offices at Port Harcourt and Enugu and continue their legal businesses.
Delivering judgment on Thursday, in Suit No: FH/CA/CS/69/2020 between Engr. Sanusi Abdul Fari and 9 others against Nigerian Police and 20 others, the presiding Judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, pronounced that the Nigerian Police lack the powers to forcefully occupy IPMAN offices on the grounds that that they are interpreting court judgment, neither do they have the powers to carry out execution without valid court order.
Justice Ojukwu further stated that the police occupation of IPMAN offices is not in tandem with the Supreme Court judgment which has already been interpreted in suit no:: FHC/CA/CS/3?2019, saying “their occupation of national headquarters or unit offices of IPMAN was not occasioned by the decision of the Supreme Court as that issue was not determined or pronounced upon by the Apex Court.”
The court held that “it does not lie with the police to arbitrarily enforce court order without an order of the court giving them such impetus as section 15 of the Sheriffs and Civil Processes Act does not donate such powers,” but rather states “that it shall be the duty of the police to assist in the execution of processes of the court, usually in giving protective cover to the Bailiffs of the court.’
The court further held that “In construing Section 4 of the Police Act 2020 and Section 15 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act 2002, the police have no powers to reverse the judgment of this court in suit No: FHC/CA/CS/#2019 and the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in Appeal No: SC/15/2018 or any judgment of a court.”
The Court also ruled that the Attorney General of Federation, AGF, is a necessary party and was rightly joined in the suit despite the protestation by the AGF who was the second defendant in the suit that there was no cause for action discussed against the AGF.
Reacting, the counsel to IPMAN, Daniel E. Mgbe, Esq, said with this judgment, “the legal tussle between factions of the IPMAN has been put to rest as the unlawful eviction of the IPMAN executives by the police in Enugu, Port Harcourt, Aba, Bayelsa, Makurdi and Calabar has been found to have no basis in law.”
Commending the judiciary for its steadfastness, the National President of IPMAN, Alh. Debo Ahmed, appealed to the Police to respect court orders and vacate their secretaries across the country since the court has declared their action illegal.
On his part, the Cross River State chairman of IPMAN, Comrade Robert Obi, who commended the court judgement, said he is optimistic that the ruling would restore some peace in the association.
He called on members to lay down arms and work towards the development of the downstream oil sector rather than engaging in an unnecessary in-fighting without making progress.