• IGP urges court to throw out Wike’s suit against police investigation
From Tony John, Port Harcourt and Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike-led administration to investigate the killings and other violent acts during the December 10, 2016, legislative rerun elections, has commenced sitting.
Wike inaugurated the commission on December 22, 2016, saying it was in exercising his powers, pursuant to Section 2(1) of the Commission of Inquiry (Cap 30) Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999 and other powers..
The commission chairman, Justice Chinwendu Nwogu, in his speech yesterday, said the commission would not witch-hunting anybody or group of persons. Nwogu maintained that the commission would employ and adopt known procedures that would ensure fairness to all parties.
“The commission is a fact-finding body and not a regular court of law. The target of the commission is not to witch-hunt anybody or group of persons; but, its activities and findings will be based strictly on the contents of the memoranda submitted to the commission and the oral evidence presented before it.
“The commission, being a fact-finding body, will not follow strict rules of evidence, but shall employ and adopt all known procedures that will ensure fairness to all parties concerned,” he stated. The chairman further called for the support and cooperation of all parties that would appear before the commission.
“We solicit for maximum co-operation from all parties that will appear before the commission in order that the purpose of creating it will be achieved to the overall interest of the citizenry.”
A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Commissioner for Urban development, Chinyere Igwe, testified at the maiden sitting of the commission, but could not conclude due to a video which, according to him, needed to be tendered before the commission
However, two other witnesses cross-examined by the commission, Lekuu Mgba and Frank David, in their separate statements, accused the Nigerian Army, Bari Mpigi and Nnala William, of master minding the violence that erupted in Tai Local Government Area of the state, where one Donwi Nte was allegedly killed.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris has challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Abuja to adjudicate on the suit filed by Wike, seeking to stop police investigation of the complaints, allegations, petitions of crimes and various acts of criminality during the December 10, 2016 rerun elections in Rivers State. This was contained in a preliminary objections filed by the police boss and a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Damian Okoro, who are first and third defendants in the suit.
The defendants told the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole that his court lacked the jurisdictional competence to stop the police from investigating the crimes allegedly committed during the last rerun elections in Rivers State. Counsel to the defendants, Deji Morakinya told the court that the defendants had, on January 27, 2017 filed a notice of preliminary objection, a counter affidavit to the plaintiffs originating summons as well as a counter affidavit to the motion on interlocutory injunction.
The defence counsel said the issue of jurisdiction was important and should first, be decided before anything could be done in the matter, adding that the defendants would be opposing any application that sought to prevent the police from carrying out its constitutional duties.
In his ruling, Justice Kolawole said the matter was adjourned till yesterday for the defendants to show cause why they should not be restrained from investigating the allegations of crimes following the rerun election in Rivers State, rather, the defendants filed a preliminary objection and counter affidavit to plaintiff’s originating summons.Kolawole said: “I did not see any irreparable damage that the plaintiff will suffer if the police is not restrained from carrying out the planned investigation.”
He said even if the first and third defendants went ahead with the investigation, the court has the power to set aside the report on the investigation for being conducted during the pendency of the matter in court.
The judge then adjourned the matter till February 10, 2017 to hear the plaintiff’s motion on notice along with other applications filed in the matter.
In a motion ex parte, which Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) argued on behalf of Governor Wike, the court was urged to make an order of interim injunction restraining the IGP, the, State Security Services (SSS) and Okoro, who were defendants in the motion, or their agents from enforcing or executing the matters contained in the letter written to governor by the the police boss on December 20, 2016.
The IGP in the letter entitled: “Investigation into allegations of crimes committed during the last rerun elections in Rivers State,” said the, “purview of the investigation will cover allegations of bribes taken, several brazen murder incidents (including that of serving police officers), reports of gross human rights abuses, acts of sabotage/terrorism, kidnapping for ransom and ballot box snatching, all of which were perpetrated in connivance with several federal and state civil servants as well as highly placed politicians within and outside the state.”
The letter also requested the governor to furnish the police investigative team with necessary information and exhibits that may assist the team in the investigation.
Ozekhome, while arguing the motion, told Justice Kolawole that the action of the police to constitute a panel to investigate the crisis that trailed the rerun elections in Rivers State was illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and null and void.
He said it would be in the interest of justice for the court to set aside the IGP’s letter to Governor Wike and direct the police boss to await the outcome of the commission of inquiry set up by the governor.
Ozekhome told Justice Kolawole that the terms of reference of the panel of investigation set up by the police suggested that the goal of the intended investigation was already pre-determined and biased or likely to be biased against Wike, having regard to the numerous conclusions already reached in the said letter.
The counsel said the intention of the police was to produce a predetermined damning report against Wike through the medium of the commission of inquiry, adding: “The defendants are working from the answer to the question with the predetermined objective of convicting the 2nd plaintiffs (Wike).”
With conclusions already drawn and reached by the police, without hearing from Wike, he said the police boss had already ‘convicted’ the governor unheard and was merely using the alleged investigation as a smokescreen and rubber stamp to give credence to the governor’s (2nd plaintiff) guilt.
He, therefore, urged the court to set aside the content of the letter by the IGP and that the police should await the outcome of the commission of inquiry set up by Wike.