Rivers PDP Crisis takes new twist …Accused Person drags Magistrate, Police Boss to Court …Alleges Abuse of Judicial Process, Bias, Political Persecution
CURRENT power play in Rivers State between the Governor Chibuike Amaechi administration and a faction of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, has taken a new twist.
Last August, the Police in the state arrested and detained some PDP chieftains for allegedly holding a political meeting in a private residence in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
In August 10, 2010, the police charged the arrested PDP stalwarts to a Port Harcourt Chief Magistrate Court Presided over by Mr. Israel Agbesor, on a three count charge.
The accused persons who are suspected to be chieftains of a PDP faction galvanized by former Governor Peter Odili, Celestine Omehia, former Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Mr. Austin Opara, among other PDP chiefs based in Abuja, however, pleaded not guilty and were granted bail accordingly.
But in a seeming dramatic twist, another Port Harcourt Magistrate Court presided over by Helen Hardy, a Senior Magistrate of Magistrate Court II, on September 8, 2010, issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the accused PDP chiefs who were earlier granted bail by the trying Chief Magistrate Court.
Apparently smelling a rat, the 8th accused person, Nwuke Anucha, has dragged the Senior Magistrate, and the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Suleiman Abba, to a Port Harcourt High Court.
In suit No PMC.2304/2010 instituted on September 17, 2010, the applicant is praying the superior court for an order of certiorari to remove into court for the purpose of quashing the proceedings of Magistrate Court II in Charge No. PMC/1360c/2010 – Commissioner of Police Vs Lolo Ibieneye and 10 others on September 8, 2010 where an order of bench warrant was issued against the applicant and the other accused persons.
He is also seeking an order of prohibition to prohibit Senior Magistrate Helen Hardy, from hearing or continuing to hear the charge.
Counsel to the applicant, Mr. Chuks Lester Uguru, has already deposed to a 22- paragraph grounds on which the relief is sought.
The 8th accused person/applicant is alleging lack of fair hearing, want of jurisdiction, abuse of the judicial process and real likelihood of bias.
Continuing, the applicant is claiming that the criminal charge is nothing more than political persecution since according to him, the accused PDP chiefs did not commit any offence.
The applicant is also claiming that he and the other accused persons – Lolo Ibieneye, Prince Ohochukwu, Sokuru Jaja, Dominic Saatah, Agiobu Fubara, Achinike Wonodi, Francis Ebenezer, Chidi Nwankwo Nancy, Ejor Ngowah Ejor, and Lali Green – are PDP members who had problems with the Amaechi administration.
They were having a meeting in Port Harcourt when they were allegedly rounded up by the police at the instigation of the Chief of Staff of Governor Amaechi. They are accused of forming a parallel PDP in the state.
After Chief Magistrate Israel Agbesor granted the accused persons bail on August 10, 2010, the case was adjourned to August, 18.
But the accused PDP chiefs had to sleep in Port Harcourt prisons because they could not immediately fulfill their bail conditions. One of the conditions was that the Surety must be a level 15 officer in the civil service.
On August 18, the prosecution allegedly sought to amend the charge by substituting a charge sheet that had six counts including counts bothering on cultism over which the trial court will have no jurisdiction.
The case was then adjourned to September 8, 2010 to consider the application for amendment. When the case called, one of the accused persons was absent on ground of hospitalization following which the prosecution applied to withdraw against the accused.
Based on the application, the court allegedly struck out the name of the accused and accordingly informed the others present in court and their counsel that he was not continuing with the case because it has been transferred by the Chief Registrar to Magistrate Court II.
The accused persons then left the court having allegedly been told by their counsel that they will inform them of the date the case will come up in Magistrate Court II.
Apparently unknown to the accused PDP chiefs and their counsel, the case was also listed in the cause list of Magistrate Court II the same September 8, morning it came up in the Chief Magistrate Court.
The applicant deposed that he was shocked when his counsel, Mr. Chuks Uguru, informed him at about 4pm on September 8 that when he tried to find out if a date has been fixed for the matter in Magistrate Court II, he was allegedly informed that the case came up before Magistrate Court II.
The accused/applicant is claming that no notice was served on him nor any of the other accused persons by the court or the prosecution that the case was coming up same September 8 in a new court.
On the bench warrant that was issued by Senior Magistrate Helen Hardy, the applicant deposed that it was a punitive order against him, and that it was allegedly procured by the prosecution in bad faith with an intent to see him sent to prison without trial or due process.
Continuing, he claimed that as part of the script to incarcerate him and the others, the PDP Legal Adviser in the state, Chief C. Chukwu, was allegedly granted a fiat by the Attorney General of the state to prosecute him and the other PDP accused persons.
The applicant is alleging that Senior Magistrate Helen Hurdy, has already shown her aversion for the rule of law, due process and procedure as evidenced by the haste with which she granted the application of bench warrant over the accused persons who had not been arraigned before her.
Going by the alleged conduct of the senior magistrate, the applicant further deposed that he cannot get justice in her court, claiming that his conviction in Magistrate Court II is a concluded matter.
The applicant insisted that there is real likelihood of bias on the part of Senior Magistrate Helen Hardy, against him.
Meanwhile, although no date was immediately fixed for the hearing of the application in the High Court, the matter will however, come up before Senior Magistrate Helen Hardy, on Monday, September 27, 2010.