BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME & EGUFE YAFUGBORHI
An explosion rocked the Rivers State High Court, Ahoda, premises, in the early hours of yesterday, though no casualty was recorded in the blast. The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, building was partially affected in the incident.
The court was to have heard the application by the factional Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly, Evans Bipi, for the vacation of an interim order granted by the court, restraining him from parading himself as Speaker.
A second blast, was, averted, following the intervention of the bomb squad of the Police, which isolated the second device, concealed in a black cellophane bag.
Meanwhile, a fire incident at another River State High Court, Okehi, yesterday, affected the judge’s office. Some documents and furniture were also destroyed in the fire. When contacted on the incident, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ahmad Muhammad, said he was aware of the fire, adding that no life was lost. He said that the Police was investigating the incident.
On the Ahoda incident, Muhammad said: “We received a report that an object suspected to be explosive was sighted at the premises of the state High Court, Ahoada. Our anti- bomb squad was dispatched to make it safe. One unexploded improvised explosive device, IED, was recovered and rendered safe while traces of an exploded IED were identified.
“At the end of the operation, it was established that two IEDs were thrown into the premises from outside. The two were initiated, but one went off while the other failed to go off due to technical error. The exploded IED caused a minor damage to court building. Neither death nor injury was recorded. Considering the strength of the materials used in making the devices, they were very weak and couldn’t have caused severe harm.
“Investigation into the incident has commenced with a view to apprehending the perpetrators.” he added.
Rep condemns Okehi fire incident
Meantime, the member representing Etche Omuma constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr. Ogbona Nwuke, has condemned the fire incident at the state High Court, Okehi, Etche Local Government Area of the state, saying that it was the handiwork of enemies of democracy.
“My immediate reaction was that enemies of democracy are at work. Those who do not want to respect the rights of others, those who do not believe in the rule of law and those who have no regard for people’s lives are at work,” he said.
He called on security agencies to fish out those behind the act.
“The law enforcement agencies should apprehend these faceless persons, who for political reasons, think that the best thing to do is to turn Rivers State into an environment of terror. This is the worst thing that should happen in this country.
“The law enforcement agents should protect the interest of the common man, which the judicial process represents,” he said.
Some staff of the court, who spoke to Vanguard on the explosion at Ahoada, said it occurred before they resumed for the day’s work.
Residents, who live close to the premises of the court, said the night before, they heard an explosion at the canteen in the court premises operated by the Ahoada Branch of the NBA.
Media aide to Chairman of Ahoada East Local Government Area, Kassidy Ikegbidi, Blessed Oyagiri, who spoke to Vanguard on the incident, said it was discovered this morning (yesterday) that the canteen of the Ahoada Branch of the NBA at the state High Court, Ahoda, was destroyed.
“We contacted the police, who drafted an anti-bomb unit and confirmed that dynamite was employed in the blast. The state High Court itself was not affected. I suspect those who carried out the blast were not property briefed on the real target by the masterminds, but the damage was enough to shut the court as police continued investigation,” Oyagiri said.
The council boss condemned the incident and warned the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers State against playing politics with the judiciary.
Ikegbidi, who described the incident as barbaric and uncivilized, said: “The Judiciary is not the property of PDP, but a property of all Nigerians. It is very wrong for any right thinking individual or group to attack the judiciary, which is the last hope of the common man in the name of politics.”
It was gathered from workers in the court premises that if the second explosive had gone off, it would have had more devastating effect on vehicles and probably claimed lives because it was dropped at the car park, where most people would have left their vehicles.
The court, meanwhile, could not sit, yesterday, because of the incident. The workers said there was still tension in the air even after the police had scanned the whole area.
However, All Progressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the state, have engaged in a war of words over the incident. Interim Chairman of APC, Mr Davies Ikanya, in a statement, said that those behind the act were allegedly uncomfortable with the recent ruling of Justice Charles Wali of the state High Court ordering Bipi to stop parading himself as Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly.
He said: “It is very unfortunate and sad to note that the state High Court in Ahoada, was bombed this morning (yesterday) by agents of undemocratic elements. Those that perpetrated this act may not be far from those who are not comfortable with the ruling by Justice Wali, of December 16, 2013 barring Bipi, leader of the G6 rebel members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, from parading himself as Speaker of the Assembly.”
On its part, PDP, in its statement, blamed those allegedly against the High Court sitting to reverse its decision on Bipi as being behind the explosion.
State Chairman of the party, Mr Felix Obuah, said those behind the explosion at the state High Court, Ahoada, also wanted to create a picture of an insecure Rivers State.
“The case that temporarily restrained Bipi from parading himself as Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, was to come up today (yesterday) at the court. Our team of lawyers made up of over 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria from Abuja and Lagos arrived the state high court, Ahoda, this morning (yesterday) to argue for the vacation of the interim order, and saw the senseless and barbaric destruction of the court.
“The PDP makes bold to suspect that the reported bombing was carried out by agents of Rivers State Government to prevent the court from sitting, so that the court would not be able to vacate the interim order made by Justice Wali.”