Tension was still high at the Rivers State judiciary on Wednesday after the forceful entry into the state’s High Court Complex in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
On Tuesday team of armedpolicemen drawn from the Rivers State Police Command numbering over 40 teargassed people, including journalists, as they escorted Justice Daisy Wotube Okocha into the complex that has been shut due to judiciary workers’ strike since 12 June this year.
Journalists and people who noticed the heavy presence of armed policemen, patrol vans and anti-bomb vehicles at the entrance and exit gates, tried to gain entry and find out what was amiss but were rebuffed.
Policemen started firing teragas cannisters after the State Commissioner of Police, Dan Bature, arrived and frowned at the presence of people milling outside the gates of the High Court complex.
It was later learnt that Justice Okocha had written to all High Court judges inviting them to a meeting at High Court One inside the State High Court Complex, and also wrote to the State Police Commissioner to beef up security around her, her residence and High Court complex to avert any breach of the peace in the judiciary.
On getting wind of the scheduled meeting at the complex, the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Worgu Boms, wrote to the Police Commissioner informing him about the implication of allowing the police to provide cover for anyone to break into the High Court complex.
Boms informed Bature, who is barely three weeks old in the state, through a memo dated 22 September, 2014, also made available to journalists about the crisis rocking the judiciary before his assumption of office in the state.
He posited that “Hon. Justice D.W.Okocha was not recommended by the state Judiciary Service Commission, JSC, for appointment as Chief Judge; her recommendation by National Judicial Council, NJC, to the Governor for appointment, was voided by the Federal High Court in a case between the Governor and two others versus National Judicial Council and she is neither the state Chief Judge nor its Acting Chief Judge”.
Based on the aforementioned, and others Boms dismissed her letter to the CP wherein she said that she had been directed by the NJC to assign cases and assume related administrative duties because by an amendment of the Rivers State High Court Law, only the Chief Registrar can assign cases. And allowing her to forcefully head the state judiciary with the aid of policemen would likely cause a breach of the peace in the state.
In her reaction to Tuesday’s clash at the complex, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, Commissioner for Information and Communications, raised alarm that the state Police Command under Bature could allow itself to be led by the nose and commit unlawful act of breaking and entry into a complex securely locked because of judiciary workers’ strike.
She said the Rivers Government is calling on the Acting Inspector General of Police to call CP Bature to order and ask him to remain “apolitical, non-partisan and do the job of securing lives and properties, which is the constitutional responsibility of the Police before the state is plunged into another round of crisis”.
She cautioned that the state government is aware that some CPs posted to the state erroneously believe that the easiest way to getting promotion to the Assistant Inspector General AIG, is to antagonize Governor Chibuike Amaechi, bully Rivers people to satisfy federal might unlawfully.
She said that the action of Tuesday was to ignite crisis in the state by those who are desperate for power ahead of 2015 without allowing Rivers people exercise their rights. It is not yet clear what would be the outcome of the meeting between Justice Daisy Okocha and the judges who honoured her invitation.
It is also not clear if Justice Peter Agumagu, the President of the Customary Court of Appeal and the most senior judge of the state judiciary, who the state government approved as the recognised Chief Judge of Rivers State, would equally be escorted by the police whenever he decides to resume as the Chief Judge of the state.