A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday declined the prayer by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike for an order stopping the police probe of complaints, allegations, petitions of crimes and acts of criminality during the December 10, 2016 re-run elections.
Wike suffered a similar fate on January 16 when Justice Gabriel Kolawole refused his ex-parte motion for an interim injunction restraining the police from conducting the investigation, but instead, directed the defendants to show cause why Wike’s prayers in his motion ex-parte should not be granted.
Defendants in the suit are the inspector general of Police (IGP), State Security Services (SSS) and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Damian Okoro.
Wike is, in the substantive suit, challenging the powers of the IGP to set up a judicial commission of enquiry to investigate allegations of violent crimes in his state.
He is, in the motion, seeking among others, an order of interim injunction restraining the defendants or their agents from enforcing or executing the matters contained in the letter written to him by the IGP on December 20, 2016.
The IGP in the letter titled, “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 requested the governor to furnish the police investigative team with necessary information and exhibits that might assist the team.
Yesterday, rather than file affidavit to show cause, as ordered by the court, the 1st and 3rd defendants, who responded to the case filed objection, challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case. The DSS did not file anything.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said he had been served with the 1st and 3rd defendants’ notice of objection and counter-affidavits to his client’s originating summons and motion for interlocutory injunction.
Ozekhome, who prayed the court for a short time to respond to the defendants’ processes (documents), urged the court to grant an interim order directing parties to maintain the status quo pending the hearing of his motion for injunction.
He noted that the defendants did not only admit conducting the investigation, which formed the thrust of his clients’ case, they confirmed they were proceeding with the investigation despite the pendency of the suit.
Responding, lawyer to the 1st and 3rd defendants, Deji Morakinyo, objected to Ozekhome’s prayer on the grounds that his clients were challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, which sought to question the exercise of the IGP’s statutory and constitutional powers to investigate crimes.
Justice Kolawole refused Ozekhome’s prayer on the grounds that there was no irreparable damage that could occur to the plaintiffs should the defendants proceed with their investigation.
The judge however, drew the defendants’ attention to the implication of the doctrine of lis pendens should the police proceed with its investigation despite the pendency of a suit challenging its powers to conduct such investigation.
“As I observed in my ruling of January 16, 2017, the plaintiff is, by his office, the chief security officer of Rivers State.
“The 1st defendant, by virtue of the provision of Section 215(1) (a) of the Constitution, is the chief law enforcement officer of the federation, who equally has the statutory duties to prevent, to detect and investigate any crime within the Nigerian borders.
“Both the 1st, 2nd plaintiffs and the 1st defendants appear to be exercising powers conferred on them by laws.
“The proceedings for today are for the defendants to show cause and for the plaintiffs’ motion on notice to be argued in the context of the defendants’ responses to the plaintiffs’ motion on notice.
“The question, which tasked my thought is whether the filing of a notice of preliminary objection, strictly speaking, is a process by which the defendant, against whom an order of interim injunction is sought, ought to file? I really do not think so,” the judge said.
Justice Kolawole said the facts in the case did not present themselves as the case of Lagos State and Ojukwu, decided by the Supreme Court in 1986, which Ozekhome relied on to apply for an order for the maintenance of status quo.
In distinguishing this case from that of Lagos and Ojukwu, the judge noted that there were constitutional issues bordering on the exercise of statutory and constitutional powers, which both the plaintiffs and the 1st defendant have.
The judge said: “The only issue is whether, as between both parties, the said powers were being exercised in good faith and for public interest.
“These are the issue on which I can hardly express any judicial opinion until I am able to listen to detailed forensic legal arguments on the provisions of the Constitution and the duties which it imposes on all persons and authorities, to apply and execute its provisions in good faith and for the public good.
“I really do not see any irreparable lost or damage, which the plaintiffs would suffer if no order is made even at this stage…
“In the light of these postulations, I will still refrain from acceding to the plaintiffs’ council’s request and leave the defendants’ counsel with a clear choice to make either to suspend the action or to continue with it when they realise that the final say, as to the validity of their investigation report will be a matter of judicial determination sooner or later,” Justice Kolawole said.
The judge adjourned further hearing to February 10.