A federal high court in Calabar has barred the Nigerian Police from the secretariat of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria IPMAN in Abuja and that of the eastern zone, over what the court described as illegal and an arbitrary abuse of power.
This follows an originating summons filed by Daniel Mgbe, Esq, on behalf of Sanusi Fari, Chidi Nnubia, Peter Okoye and seven others.
In it, the plaintiffs had sought, among others, a declaration that the continued siege at IPMAN national secretariat by police officers claiming to be acting on the instructions of the Attorney General of the Federation, Inspector General of Police and Deputy Inspector General of Police Force, CID Abuja and forcible removal of Sanusi Fari and his executive from legitimate offices as president and executive members on July 5, 2021 as unlawful, unconstitutional and null and void.
They had further sought an order of the court to compel the Nigerian Police to vacate the national secretariat of IPMAN in Abuja to allow the Fari-led executive possession to re-enter and continue their legitimate functions and also an order to vacate the IPMAN offices at Port Harcourt and Enugu and continue their legal businesses.
Delivering judgment on the suit, the presiding judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, said the Nigerian Police lacked the powers to forcefully occupy IPMAN offices, neither did they have the powers to carry out execution without valid court order.
The court held that “it does not lie with the police to arbitrarily enforce court order without an order of the court giving them such impetus as section 15 of the Sheriffs and Civil Processes Act does not donate such powers,” but rather states “that it shall be the duty of the police to assist in the execution of processes of the court, usually in giving protective cover to the bailiffs of the court.”
The court further held that “in construing section 4 of the police Act 2020 and Section 15 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act 2002, the Police have no powers to reverse the judgment of this court in Suit No: FHC/CA/CS/#2019 and the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in Appeal No: SC/15/2018 or any judgment of a court.”
The court also ruled that the Attorney General of Federation, AGF, was a necessary party and was rightly joined in the suit despite the protestation by the AGF who was the second defendant in the suit that there was no cause for action discussed against the AGF.
Reacting, the counsel to IPMAN, Daniel E. Mgbe, said with the judgment, “the legal tussle between factions of the IPMAN has been put to rest as the unlawful eviction of the IPMAN executives by the Police in Enugu, Port Harcourt, Aba, Bayelsa, Makurdi and Calabar had been found to have no basis in law.”
Admitting that IPMAN has been faced with leadership tussle leading to a series of litigation, Obi stated that the Supreme Court had in a judgment in Suit No SC/15/2018 delivered on December 14, 2018 and its subsequent interpretation by Federal High Court Calabar in Suit No: FHC/CA?CS/3/2019 dated June 19, 2019 recognised automatic succession of the Deputy National President, Alh Sanusi Fari, as National President of IPMAN, based on the 1997 constitution of the association as against one Chinedu Okoronkwo.