By Ike Uchechukwu
There was pandemonium in the early hours of Tuesday following the invasion of the office of The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria ,IPMAN by a tactical squad of the police in a bid to enforce a court judgement.
Vanguard learned that men of the Anti Kidnapping & Cultism Squad AKCS, who cordoned off the area were there following directives of the DIG Egbunike to the Commissioner of Police ,Cross River state, Aminu Alhassan who then directed the squad to carry out the order.
Speaking with newsmen at the scene of the incident, Roberts Obi, Chairman of IPMAN in the state, said the action of the police was capable of setting the stage ablaze stressing that the action of the police could instigate huge crisis which could degenerate into chaos.
His words:” The police barricaded my office as you can see. With all the court judgements available, they are disobeying these judgments.
‘The police are not prepared to look at the judgements and in Calabar, there is a restraining order on the police from what they are doing which is not only illegal but unconstitutional, because the matter in question is still in court.
‘What they are trying to do is to instigate crisis so that they can tag us, criminals, set the state ablaze and arrest us. The judgement is with us and the directive of a senior police officer is not above that of the Supreme Court,” he bemoaned.
On his part, counsel to IPMAN, Daniel Mgbe Esq disclosed that there were Supreme Court and Federal High Court judgements stating clearly who are the rightful occupants of IPMAN offices.
He said these judgements have been executed long ago and wondered how some people just came from nowhere and instigated tension in the state as well as IPMAN.
He said:” The directive by a senior police officer is unlawful as they have been given superior documents by courts of competent jurisdiction.
“What they are doing here today is illegal, unlawful, what they are doing is wrong, and that is why we are calling on the IGP to intervene, the IGP must intervene for peace to reign in IPMAN,” he said.
When contacted the state Police Commissioner, Aminu Alhassan said he was aware and that his men were only enforcing a valid court judgement.
“I am aware that by officers are there at IPMAN secretariat. We are obeying a directive asking the Anti Cultism and Kidnapping Squad to seal the office. We are enforcing Supreme Court judgement.
“The person who won the court matter is to take over and one and will come and take over the state chapter of IPMAN,” he said.
Vanguard gathered that IPMAN has been factionalized between the leadership of Chief Obasi Lawson and Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo both from Abia state since 2015 over who is the authentic National President of IPMAN.
However, the Supreme Court had in a judgement in Suit No SC/15/2018 delivered on December 14, 2018, and its subsequent interpretation by Federal High Court Calabar dated June 19, 2019, recognized automatic succession of the Deputy National President, Alh Sanusi Abdu Fari, as National President of IPMAN, based on 1997 constitution of the association as against one Chinedu Okoronkwo
Also, Fari belongs to Chief Obasi Lawson faction which according to the IPMAN constitution should be the authentic President of the Association.
Following the judegments, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had in a letter dated January 4, 2019, sighted by Vanguard, and sent to Rivers IPMAN Chairman led by Chief Richard Orianwo, acknowledged and congratulated Alh Sanusi Fari as the President of IPMAN following Supreme Court judgement.
He advised ‘the association and all parties to abide by the Supreme Court and the Federal High Court interpretation on the matter and condemned any acts of contempt of court and the attendant proactive disputes that are escalating tensions and violence in the host community and thus threatening lives and property by any member or organ of IPMAN.’
Findings also showed that the letter was also copied to Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo for attention.
In the same vein, the Hon Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timire Sylva, in a letter dated January 27, 2020, congratulated Engr Sanusi Abdu Fari and promised to work with the new leadership.
The letter read in part: ‘The judgements of the Federal High Court, Calabar dated June 19, 2019, as to the tenure of the erstwhile National Preaident, Chief Obasi Lawson, and the automatic succession of the Deputy National President , Alh Sanusi Abdu Fari, as the National President, is further noted.’
Moreso ,the legal department of Inspector-General of Police headed by CP Daso Oruebo had advised police to recognise the leadership of Alh Fari and withdraw from the occupation of the national secretariat in Abuja in compliance with the court orders which incidentally should be extended to other branches having emerged from the same process.
However, DIG Egbunike in a letter addressed to the Commissioner of Police, Department of Finance and Administration, State Command Headquarters, Port Harcourt, and dated July 23, advised the command ‘to give effect to the Supreme Court judgement by ensuring that the parties favoured by the judgement are five areas to IPMAN office and adequate security provided to maintain peace and order.’
A cursory look at the letter showed that DIG Egbunike did not mention the beneficiary of the judgement, Alh Sanusi Abdu Fari, as the new National President and other branches chairman in the same league with Fari, thereby creating room for misinterpretation and subsequent confusion.