There was breakdown of law and order at the Court of Appeal in Benin City late Friday as suspected thugs allegedly supported by persons in security outfit uniforms, invaded the courtroom, chased away court workers and carted away several court documents.
It was gathered that some lawyers had approached the Appellate court to file an appeal arising from a judgment of the State High Court on issues relating to the crisis rocking the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo state as it concerns whose faction of the party loyal to the governor of the state, Godwin Obaseki and the Vice-Chairman, South-South of the party, Chief Dan Orbih have the authentic delegates list to participate in the party’s primary elections.
A lawyer who does not want is name in print for security reasons said he was shuttling between a business centre in Akpakpava and the Appeal Court which is temporarily operating from a section of the Edo State High Court premises along Sapele Road as a result of the rehabilitation work going on its permanent premises in Aduwawa area of Benin City when the incident happened.
He said “There was an injunction against the PDP faction led by Dan Orih and Ogbeide-Ihama recognising the delegates from Obaseki as the authentic delegates for the purpose of the congress of the PDP primary elections.
“They retained our services and we quickly swung into action and we were at the court to file necessary documents because the state high court had refused to join us as interested parties and then went ahead to give the ruling.
“We went to the Court of Appeal which granted our application to be joined. They now directed that we should compile and transmit our records; file all the papers we needed to file so that they can hear us on Monday in the main appeal. That was what we were doing when suspected thugs and uniformed men came into the courtroom and chased away the staff. One of my staff was carried away in their bus because she refused to surrender the documents with her to the suspected thugs. She had to release the documents to save her life”
Confirming the incident, the Head of Department (HoD), Litigation of the court, Dennis Ayama said he was already at home when got a call to receive application from some lawyers at about 5 pm only for him to get there and saw some strange looking persons numbering about 20 who said they are from government house and that they heard something illegal was taking place at the court. “They demanded my ID card which I showed them, then they forcefully collected documents and files from the lawyers who came to file.”
On why he was receiving court documents at the time, he said “We can come at any time to collect court processes even at 12 midnight.”
Reacting to the incident, the chairman, Benin Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Pius Oiwoh said “I heard it too. We condemn in its entirety the invasion. We see it as an affront against the sanctity of the judiciary and we are not pleased at all. We are disturbed by it. We call on the security agencies to unmask those behind it. The judiciary is sacred and should not be invaded the way it has been so done.”
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Bello Kontogns said “I am not aware of it yet, no such report has come to my table.”