By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Justice Sylvanus Oriji of an Abuja High Court sitting at Apo, yesterday, maintained that the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, must appear before him March 13 to explain why he should not be committed to prison for flouting court orders that barred Police from interfering with activities of Peace Corps of Nigeria, PCN.
Justice Oriji dismissed as lacking in merit a preliminary objection the IGP filed to challenge his personal appearance before the court.
The IGP had, through his lawyer, Mr. David Igbodo, contended that he was not personally served with the Form-48 (contempt of court charge) that Peace Corps entered against him.
He prayed the court to void the contempt proceeding and set it aside on the premise that the summons contained in the Form-48 was served on the Commissioner of Police in charge of legal matters at the Force Headquarters.
However, in his ruling, Justice Oriji slammed the IGP for employing technicality he said was only aimed at frustrating the proceeding before the court.
Consequently, aside ordering the IGP to appear to show cause why he should not be jailed for breaching a lawful order of the court made since March 26, 2014, the judge equally imposed N25,000 fine on the IGP.
The Peace Corps had through its lawyer, Dr. Joshua Musa, SAN, prayed the court to commit the IGP to prison for two years for flouting a subsisting judgment of the court regarding its activities.
The applicant told the court that in spite of the order that restrained Police from interfering with its operations, its head office was sealed-off by armed policemen on the strenght of a directive from the IGP.
Musa, SAN, further told the court that since 2014 when the verdict was delivered, Police neither appealed against it nor allowed the rule of law to prevail in the matter
It will be recalled that the court had in the said judgment, awarded N12.5million damages against Police which it found giulty of arbitrarily arresting principal officers of the Peace Corps across the country and detaining them in various cells.
The court equally voided a proscription order that Police placed on the Corps, stressing that the defendant (Police) lacked the statutory powers to ban or proscribe any organization in the country.
Similarly, the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, in a judgment that was delivered on January 15 this year by Justice John Tsoho, also ordered the Nigerian Police Force to immediately unseal PCN’s head office in Abuja.
The order followed a motion that was filed by the National Commandant of Peace Corps, Ambassador Dickson Akoh and the Incorporated Trustees of the organisation, who are facing trial over alleged N1.4billion recruitment scam.
Police had told the court that the PCN head office and properties inside it were proceeds of crime still under investigation, saying it took over assets of the organisation at No. 57. A. Abubakar Crescent, off Alex Ekwueme Way, Opp Jabi lake, Abuja, to avert the break down of law and order.
Police, in the charge, accused members of the Corps of wearing uniforms and other identification marks contrary to section 24 (1) of the Private Guard Companies Act Cap P30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and punishable under section 32 (1) of the Act.
It accused the defendants of laundering funds obtained through unlawful activity contrary to section 7(1)(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other fraud related Offences Act, Cap A6 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same section of the Act.
More so, the defendants were charged for organising and training of members of Peace Corps of Nigeria as a quasi- Military organization contrary to section 6(1)(a) of the Public Order Act, Cap P42, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same section of the Act.
Under the offence of obtaining money by false pretence, Police alleged that the defendants had between January 1, 2013 and March 6, 2017, committed an offence to wit: by false pretence and with intent to defraud, obtained for yourselves the sum of N274, 712, 126. 18 from unsuspecting citizens of Nigeria who paid into your Eco bank’s account No. 4582022099.