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Nigeria: IGP, DIG Egbunike, Others Face Contempt Over Disobeying Federal High Court Order 

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Tension mounts as Deputy Inspector General, DIG Joseph O. Egbunike and other top police officers may be committed to prison following the alleged disobedience of court order made on July 1st 2021 by Hon. Justice I.N Buba of the Enugu Federal High Court.

The respondents including the Inspector General of Police, Deputy Inspector General of Police Joseph O. Egbunike  and Inspector Thomas Amonke had been ordered to stay all actions and release the applicants forthwith, having been granted bail by the court.

The applicants, Akpa Francis, Obinna Mamah and Joshua Ogbonna through their team of lawyers, stormed the court seeking to enforce their fundamental rights to life, liberty and dignity via the notice of application filed on  June 30, 2021 in Suit No. FHC/EN/CS/96/2021

Speaking on behalf of the over 15 other lawyers representing them, Barr. Valentine Umeha said “In line with Order IV of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules, 2009,  the applicants also filed a motion exparte praying for bail and interim order directing the Police to stay all actions relating to and/or connected with  the complaints of the applicants.

“Following the grant of the motion exparte, the bailiff of the court armed with the duly drawn order and other originating processes, proceeded to FCID  Enugu Annex office of the first to third respondents, being the address endorsed for service of the processes on the said respondents,” he said.

He explained that after placing calls on the D.I.G Joseph O. Egbunike,  the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the FCID Annex Enugu, Mr. Kasumu refused to accept service of the court order and accompanying processes.

“The bailiff of court in adherence to the rules of service of court processes, dropped the court order and the processes in the office of the police officer but he instructed his men to lock the bailiff and the applicants’ lawyers in the police premises insisting that the bailiff and the lawyers can only be allowed to go if he takes back the court order together with other processes.

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“Being constrained and in grave danger, the helpless  bailiff picked up the processes and left with the applicants lawyers who acted as pointer to the bailiff.

“Notwithstanding the above, the bailiff proceeded to Abuja and on July 2, 2021, he effected personal service of the order of court and the originating processes on the above named police officers who are the first to third respondents in the suit pending in court,” he said.

It was gathered that despite the service of the court order directing the Police to release the applicants having  been granted bail, the D.I.G Joseph O. Egbunike in flagrant disobedience of the order of court neither released the applicants on bail nor stayed further action on the matter.

Upon reporting to the court, the refusal of the D.I.G Joseph O. Egbunike to release the applicants as directed, the court on July 7, 2021, ordered the officer incharge of Police Legal Department State CID Enugu to appear before it to explain why the Police will disobey the order.

Also, the applicants through their lawyers initiated committal proceedings against D.I.G Joseph O. Egbunike, IGP and Thomas Amonke by filing in court Form 48 which has been served on the officers.

Meanwhile, the violation of the applicants rights followed alleged moves to shutdown Enugu Political Arena WhatsApp Platform by persons at the echelon of political governance in Enugu State said to be using their surrogates.

The crime allegedly committed by these applicants, the lawyer said, were their refusal to yield to the above antics and clandestine plots to gag the people of Enugu from airing their views on politics, governance and dividends of democracy in the state.

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It would be recalled that sometime ago, the news of Police invitation to the admin of Enugu Political Arena WhatsApp Platform, Comrade Francis Akpa and other participants emerged.

The people of Enugu, according to the Lawyer, were anxious to know the reason for the invitation and on whose behest the invitation was orchestrated.

Shortly after the news, he added, one of the participants Joshua Ogbonna was arrested by Police officers from Anti Kidnapping Squad and granted bail after being detained for about two days.

“The admin of the platform in strict adherence to the rule of law and respect for constituted authority, honoured an invitation from the Police.

“The admin was confronted with a petition written by one Mr. Ifeanyi Ossai, alleging character assassination among others.

“The principal suspects named in the petition were Chief Damian Odo and Comrade Obinna Mamah.

After writing his statement, the Lawyer said,  the Admin was released on bail same day.

“Comrade Obinna Mamah who is one of the participants in the platform, also presented himself to Police Officers at Anti kidnapping  Squad  for interrogation based on Mr. Ifeanyi Ossai’s allegations.

“Comrade Obinna Mamah made statement, interviewed by the Commissioner of Police who thereafter directed that he should be released on bail to a reliable surety. The directive was adhered to.

“Two days later, Mr. Joshua Ogbonna, Francis Akpa (Admin), Obinna Mamah, Ifeanyi Ossai, Commander Anti kidnapping Squad and his men and the lawyers for the parties, stormed the Enugu CP’s office for interview.

“Shockingly, the same Mr. Ifeanyi Ossai who orchestrated the arrest of the aforementioned persons, chose the forum of his choice for the investigation, suddenly wrote to the Inspector General of Police  and secured the transfer of the same case to Force CID Abuja,”

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The applicants together with their lawyers were said to have been confronted with the petition to the IGP and the team of Police Officers from Abuja who were in the CP’S office whisked the case file and the suspects to Abuja.

“The CP insisted that due process be followed, which saved the applicants  from being whisked off to Abuja that night.

“The applicants presented themselves for investigation, appeared whenever invited throughout the period of investigation, yet Mr. Ifeanyi Ossai and others were not satisfied, apparently because the CP refused their invitation to incarcerate the applicants.

“At the instance of Mr. Ifeanyi Ossai, the petition was transferred to Abuja and assigned to D.I.G Joseph Egbunike and on June 16, 2021, Comrade Obinna Mama, Comrade Francis Akpa and Joshua Ogbonna (Applicants) in obedience to the invitation of the DIG,  went to FCIID Abuja.

“In an ordinary bailable offence and considering the fact that the applicants were already on police bail at Enugu and that they obediently came to answer the D.I.G’s invitation, he clamped them in detention despite providing a Level 15 civil servant in the Federal Service who is with every documents required by the police and ready to stand for the applicants”,  Barr. Umeha said

Barrister Umeha lamented that the applicants have been in detention since June 16, 2021 till date.

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