From Judex Okoro, Calabar
The Calabar Depot of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has threatened to shut down depots and 400 petrol stations owned by its members over frequent police harassment.
IPMAN’s Calabar Depot is made up of over 500 members from Makurdi, Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, comprising members of the eastern zone of the association.
The eastern zone has been having a running battle with officers of the Nigeria Police Force over alleged attempts by the police to impose a factional leadership on the association across Enugu, Aba, Rivers, and Cross River.
In early September, the national president of the association, Alhaji (Engr) Sanusi Fari, noted in a statement with dismay attacks by police officers at their secretariats in Port Harcourt, Aba, Calabar, Enugu and Makurdi Depots and directed its members to withdraw their services immediately from all loading depots if police harassment continues.
However, barely three weeks after the suspension of the strike following intervention by some top government officers and police authorities, the IPMAN Calabar secretariat was allegedly invaded by a crack team of policemen from the Federal Housing Police Division Calabar about 6:00 pm on Thursday, September 29.
Speaking to reporters on the matter, the Calabar Depot IPMAN Chairman, Robert Obi, said it is becoming a habit by the police to not only harass the leadership and attempt to impose a factional leadership even when the issues cornering who is the authentic chairmen and national president have been settled by the Supreme Court.
Questioning the involvement of the police in the affairs of the association, Obi explained that the Supreme Court judgment of February 21, 2019, and that of Federal High Court Calabar on June 19 of the same year had settled the succession tussle ‘as both judgements recognised automatic succession of the Deputy National President, Alh Sanusi Abdu Fari, as National President of IPMAN, based on 1997 constitution of the association.’
He disclosed that even the legal unit of the police headquarters headed by one 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.
According to him, rather than police authorities enforcing the orders and restoring peace in the association in the eastern zone, they are rather igniting a fire and trying to impose a leadership on the members, especially in Calabar Depot, thereby creating an unknown faction to take over our secretariat at Calabar Depot.
‘We want to draw the attention of the general public to the continued harassment of our leadership and some members of IPMAN in the name of enforcing a directive by a top Deputy Inspector-General of Police. We were surprised that on Thursday, 29, 2021 about 6:00 pm, a police team from the Federal Housing stormed our secretariat and tried to force us out and install an illegal leadership.
‘When we confronted them they told us they got orders from above to come and take over our office at Calabar Depot. And if this act of impunity continues, we shall not hesitate to withdraw the services of our over 500 members. Besides, we would go further to shut down the over 20 depots in our branch and close down over 400 petrol stations to protest the attack on our office and harassment of our members. We have over suffered in the hands of the police.
‘The police have no business in how we run our affairs; neither do they have the right to determine who and who our members are. They have attempted to take over our secretariat in Port Harcourt, our members resisted them there. Now they have come down to Calabar to chase our members out of our secretariat and we shall continue to resist such illegal moves.
‘Our last option is to embark on an indefinite strike in the days ahead. It is the economy and the public that would suffer the consequences of the strike as other branches would not hesitate to join us in the fight to liberate IPMAn in the zone. So, we call on the federal government and police authorities to call their men to order,’ he stated.
Reacting to the allegation of police attacks on their office and plot to install a factional leadership in Calabar, the Cross River State Police Public Relation Officer, Irene Ugbo, said: ‘We are not aware that a team of policemen from THE Federal Housing Division went to IPMAN office to take over the secretariat. We would investigate that and revert.’