Law News
Groups disagree over clash at Rivers High Court
Justice Daisy Okocha

Justice Daisy Okocha

TWO groups; the International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights and the Grassroots Development Initiative, have disagreed over the forceful opening of the main gate to the Rivers State High Court by the police.

While the ISSJHR insisted that the police had no right to break into an institution like the court, the GDI said it was wrong for judiciary workers to lock a senior judge out of her office because they (judiciary workers) were on strike.

A group of policemen had on Tuesday broken the gate leading to the state High Court so as to pave the way for the most senior High Court judge in Rivers State, Justice Daisy Okocha, to hold a meeting with other judges in the state.

The Chancellor of the rights group, Dr. Jackson Omenazu, described the action of the police as the height of indiscipline and lawlessness, adding that the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Dan Bature, and Justice Okocha did not lead by example by forcefully entering the state High Court.

Omenazu explained in Port Harcourt on Wednesday that since the constitution availed the state Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, the right to appoint the most senior judge in the state as the chief judge, it was wrong for the National Judicial Council to attempt to usurp the power of the governor by appointing Okocha as an acting chief judge.

He said, “It is unacceptable for the Commissioner of Police to approve the breaking into a High Court and for her (Justice Okocha) to have partaken in the invasion of the High Court. What example would they be showing the younger ones?

“We have an elected governor that should by law appoint the state chief judge. What interpretation are some people giving to all these? What is the difference between the State High Court and the Customary Court of Appeal?

“That Justice Peter Agumagu was seconded from the High Court to the Customary Appeal Court does not make him a junior judge. The truth is that Justice Agumagu remains the most senior judge in the state.

“We have tolerated (Joseph) Mbu’s lawlessness, but we are not ready to tolerate Bature. Any attempt to undermine Amaechi’s administration will be seriously resisted because the governor is holding a sacred mandate given to him by the people.”

But the Secretary General of GDI, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, told our correspondent that the police did not err in breaking into the High Court.

Nwanosike argued that university lecturers were never locked out of their offices when the Academic Staff Union of Universities was on strike, adding that doctors were allowed to enter their offices when the Nigerian Medical Association went on strike.

“The Nigeria Police acted properly by securing the lives of the judges. These are judges and not lawyers and they should not be stopped from having access to their offices because of judiciary workers’ strike.

“I am seizing this opportunity to call on the state commissioner of police to continue with his job. The Nigeria Police should not allow themselves to be intimidated by anybody,” the GDI secretary general added.

Nwanosike, however, explained that the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Port Harcourt Local Government Area, Mr. Nnamdi Wuche, had no right to threaten to mobilise youths to stop judges from holding a meeting.

“What right does the CTC chairman have to mobilise people to stop judges from holding a meeting in the state High Court?” Nwanosike queried.

Meanwhile, twenty-four hours after some youths clashed with policemen at the Rivers State High Court, security operatives are still mounting guard at the premises of the court.

Our correspondent who visited the place on Wednesday noticed that though the over 14 Hilux vehicles that were parked at the front of the main entrance to the court on Bank Road area of Port Harcourt had been removed, one Hilux vehicle with five armed policemen still mounted guard at the Station Road axis of the state High Court.

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