By Jimitota Onoyyme P/Harcourt
THE Department of State Services, DSS yesterday raised a preliminary objection to the application filed by the Majority leader of the Rivers state House of Assembly, Hon Chidi Lloyd challenging his invitation by the Police over his alleged role in the recent fracas in the hallowed chambers of the Assembly.
The Majority leader in his application on matter of fundamental rights filed by his Counsel, Bello Olisa Nwafor, SAN, had among other things sought an order of the court to set aside the “declaration made by the Police on 17/7/2013 with the authority/connivance of the respondents declaring the applicant as a wanted person by the police, the said declaration being unlawful, ultra vires, unwarranted, illegal and unconstitutional, null and void.
“A declaration that whatever that happened or transpired on the floor of the Rivers state House of Assembly on the 09-07-2013 with respect to the illegal taking over of the House by the five members of the Rivers state House of Assembly through the use of thugs, hoodlums, and ex militants armed with AK47 assault rifles and actively backed by the men of the Nigeria Police was done in defence of the applicant’s right to life under section 33(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended”
“A declaration that the applicant has the constitutional right of immunity in anything said or done on the floor of the Rivers State House of Assembly and in particular as the Leader of the House in a bid to restore sanity, peace and order in the hallowed chambers of the Rivers state House of Assembly on the 09-07-2013 and therefore cannot be invited, arrested, interrogated , investigated and or prosecuted by the respondents or anybody whatsoever”
His counsel had argued in court that the police violated the immunity of his client by inviting him and subsequently declaring him wanted. According to his Counsel, Nwafor, the police allegedly stormed the residence of his client with lorry loads of Policemen, an act he sought the court to declare as a violation of the rights to privacy of his client. He argued that his client was entitled to immunity from the Legislative House Act.
Meantime, in the preliminary objection filed by the DSS, its Counsel, Mr Dike Udena among other things argued that a State High Court lacked jurisdiction on the relief sought by the applicant. The principal relief sought by the applicant do not relate to rules of this court, so they are matters for a Federal High Court”, he said
He further argued that the immunity claimed by the applicant was not a fundamental right, adding that even if it was available to him, the immunity does not cover acts of violence and crime committed on the floor of the House and outside.
“Also there is a difference between investigation and institution of proceedings. According to the Supreme Court on Fawehinmi in a case involving Bola Tinubu, “a person who has immunity can be investigated. Immunity only covers prosecution . So whichever way, the case is incompetent. The court should dismiss it”, he pleaded.
On his part, Donald Wigwe, SAN, Counsel of the first to fourth respondent which is the Police argued that the applicant has no immunity for crimes, adding that legislative immunity only covers words spoken and written while functioning as a law maker.
Earlier, Counsel to Lloyd had challenged the preliminary objection filed by the DSS, ie the 5th respondent, arguing that it should be thrown out since it did not come as motion on notice.
The trial Judge, E. Teetito adjourned the matter to 6th August for ruling.
Chidi Lloyd brought into the state blindfolded
Meantime, Hon Chidi Lloyd was brought into the state yesterday by security men. At press time, Saturday Vanguard could not establish contact with him. His Counsel, Nwafor, SAN, said he was worried over the safety of his client because of the way the Police was allegedly treating him. He said Hon Lloyd was driven in, blind folded and driven in a Black Maria from the Port Harcourt International Airport.
“Because of my client’s information to me that he was detained at the Force Headquarters above the one-day that was allowed, Chidi Lloyd was flown into Port Harcourt yesterday, and instead of bringing him to court to defend himself , we found, he was blindfolded and we don’t know what is happening to him. There is genuine fear for his life.
“If the Police have nothing to hide, they would have brought Chidi Lloyd to court this morning. He is still not brought to court till about 5pm. Even an armed robber is brought to court in a Black Maria, so why won’t he (Chidi) be brought to court. If he is brought to court, then, we will know that he is alive.
“The Chief Justice of the Federation has made rules that we are following at the Federal High Court and the High Court and both have concurrent jurisdiction to hear fundamental rights application” Nwafor said.
Emenike Ebete who is also one of his lawyers said it was sad that the Police was yet to arraign the lawmaker twenty four hours after he went to the Force Headquarters, Abuja . Continuing, he corroborated claim by Nwafor, that his client was blindfolded when he arrived Port Harcourt, adding that at the moment, he could not say where he was. He further expressed deep worries over his security.
“We arrived Port Harcourt at 8.45am this morning and over 500 policemen escorted Chidi Lloyd from the Port Harcourt Airport to the office of the Commissioner of Police. He was blindfolded when he alighted from the Black Maria as if he was a common criminal. He walked into the CP’s office and spent about three minutes. After that, we don’t know his where about.”
Saturday Vanguard gathered that there were plans to prosecute Hon Lloyd over the fracas on the floor of the House of Assembly recently.
On his part, the member representing Andoni/Opobo Nkoro Federal Constituency, Rivers State in the House of Representatives, Hon Dakuku Peterside condemned the alleged torture of Hon Lloyd by Police in the state yesterday.
“This is not only condemnable but regrettable. Rivers State Police Command under Mbu seems not to be bothered by the fact that any evidence that is obtained by force, torture, intimidation or by any form of abuse is not admissible in the court of law, and this is unfortunate.
“This inhuman conduct by Rivers State Police Command is not only a gross abuse of the fundamental human rights of the accused but further confirms our fears that Mbu is out to eliminate Lloyd who has been subjected to horrific ordeal since his return to Rivers State.
“This ugly development in our country today is anti-thetical to the Geneva Convention which expressly demands that countries take effective measures to prevent torture within their borders. Other international laws also confirm that torture and other mistreatment of persons in custody are also prohibited in all circumstances under international human rights law.
This, no doubt, is diminishing and a major setback to our nascent democracy.
“The Police High Command should do the needful and stop subjecting the accused to this inhumanity until full investigation into the crisis is concluded. He has neither been convicted of any offence nor condemned to perpetual incarceration in police custody by any court of law,” Peterside said in a statement by his media aide, Sylvester Asoya.
The statement further lauded the Inspector General of Police, for the way Hon Lloyd was allegedly treated while at the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
On his part, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Leyii Kwanee also expressed worry over the whereabout of Lloyd.
“ There are dangers of his where about. You can recall the case of Abiola, when he was arrested and held in custody, few days after he was released, he died. So, we don’t know what the police authorities are doing with Chidi Lloyd. I gathered few hours ago that he was at the Police Officers’ Mess, but now it is about 5pm, Chidi Lloyd is not in court and nobody knows what might happen to him. I was told that he was handcuffed and tortured. Even if there are assumptions that he committed any crime, he deserves an opportunity to express himself before he can be charged to court. Nobody has the right to torture Chidi Lloyd, not to talk of any Nigerian”, Kwanee said
“If you’ll recall what happened, Chidi Lloyd was invited by the Police Force Headquarters, Abuja for alleged conspiracy. It is not possible to conspire with oneself. Who are the conspirators? I have spoken severally that there is a grand plan, a design to undermine democracy in Rivers State. There are elements that are anti-democratic, working to undermine the developmental efforts of Governor Amaechi. It is the grand plan by those who are against the progress of the current administration. There is development everywhere, but, the enemies are at work”, he said.