By Anayo Okoli
UMUAHIA—SCORES of suspected political thugs said to have been mobilised by a faction of the APC in Abia State yesterday, disrupted activities at the State High Court sitting at Okpuala Ngwa and stopped the court from sitting.
The activities of the thugs alleged to be supporters of the Donatus Nwankpa faction of the party in the state, had arrived the court premises early in bus and were positioned by one of their leaders in strategic places in the court premises, including the two entrances through which lawyers and litigants enter the court room.
They also blocked the narrow road leading to the court which is located in a remote area of Isiala Ngwa North Council headquarters, with one of the buses to prevent those in the other faction from having access to the Court. The leader who directed affairs for the thugs was overheard boasting that the court would not sit.
As instructed by their leader, the thugs who were armed with dangerous weapons, including machete, identified members of Dr. Emmanuel Ndukwe-led executive committee, backed by an order of the court and stopped them from gaining access to the court and even beat some of them, including the youth leader of that faction who had his shirt torn to pieces.
The situation degenerated to a level where some vehicles belonging to the Ndukwe camp were attacked and the windshield of a four- wheel Toyota Jeep belonging an official of the camp was broken. Worried by the development, one of the lawyers to Ndukwe camp approached his colleague from the Nwankpa faction to prevail on the people but his effort did not stop them.
Sensing danger under the tense and chaotic atmosphere, aimed at frustrating the Court from sitting, the presiding Judge, Justice Collington Okoroafor directed the registrar of the court to take a date with the parties, who after a long argument, eventually, agreed on October 31st, 2018.
The matter has been enmeshed in controversies ranging from disparaging the rulings of the court and the Judge; to transferring the case file to another court without the knowledge of the presiding judge and lawyers to Ndukwe faction, an action the Judge has since directed the Court registrar to reverse and return the file for him to hear the motions on transfer and other pending motions before him.
Meanwhile, the Ndukwe faction has petitioned the State Chief Judge over the unauthorised removal of the case file which they said was a “criminal obstruction of justice, and muzzling and ridiculing of the judiciary and to pervert the course of justice in our suit”.
The petition signed by Ndukwe and other officers of the party, said: “We write to strongly protest the unilateral, fraudulent removal of the case file of our suit no: HIN/4/2018 [Fabian Okonkwo and others vs All Progressives Congress and 5 others] before His Lordship HON. Justice C. U. Okoroafor without due notification, consent and approval of the presiding Judge.
“This illegal action, we humbly submit, is tantamount to criminal obstruction of justice and ridiculing of the judiciary with the aim of perverting the course of justice in our suit.”
“Please note that the court, by an interlocutory order on May 8, 2018, gave our executive legitimacy as authentic and legally constituted party EXCO in Abia State. Since the order was issued, several motions and counter motions which have been filed are still pending in the court, which were adjourned to October 2, 2018 for hearing.
“On the said date, October 2, 2018, the court sat, called up the case and it was discovered that the case file was strangely missing.
“The defendants’ penchant for disrespecting judicial orders and processes has been curious right from the outset, when they were served with the suit. They ignored it, and refused to appear in court after three adjournments. The court in its wisdom granted an interlocutory order in our favour. Only then did they bestir themselves into action, which regrettably, was to disparage the honourable court as a “kangaroo court” and instructed their supporters to ignore the order.
“Thereafter, they approached the same court they maligned to set aside the order. When that ruse failed, they went to town again characterizing the refusal as “judicial rascality”. To worsen matters, the sacked state APC chairman, Donatus Nwankpa [allegedly] boasted that the matter would be wrestled from the current Judge to “a friendly Judge.
“We appeal to the commission to wade into this unacceptable development by doing a thorough investigation of the involvement of these officers of the law with a view to restoring the integrity and sanity of our judicial system in Abia State in particular and Nigeria in general. We trust in your timely intervention”.