Rivers PDP crisis takes new twist

* Accused Person Drags Magistrate, Police boss to Court
* Alleges Abuse of Judicial Process, Bias, Political
Persecution

CURRENT power play in Rivers State between the Governor
Chibuike Amaechi administration and a faction of the ruling Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, has taken a new twist.

Last August, the Police in the state arrested and detained some
PDP chieftains for allegedly holding a political meeting in a private
residence in Port Harcourt, the state capital.

In August 10, 2010, the police charged the arrested PDP stalwarts
to a Port Harcourt Chief Magistrate Court Presided over by Mr.
Israel Agbesor, on a three count charge.

The accused persons who are suspected to be chieftains of a PDP
faction galvanized by former Governor Peter Odili, Celestine
Omehia, former Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of
Representatives, Mr. Austin Opara, among other PDP chiefs based
in Abuja, however, pleaded not guilty and were granted bail
accordingly.

But in a seeming dramatic twist, another Port Harcourt Magistrate
Court presided over by Helen Hardy, a Senior Magistrate of
Magistrate Court II, on September 8, 2010, issued a bench warrant
for the arrest of the accused PDP chiefs who were earlier granted
bail by the trying Chief Magistrate Court.

Apparently smelling a rat, the 8th accused person, Nwuke Anucha,
has dragged the Senior Magistrate, and the Commissioner of Police
in the state, Mr. Suleiman Abba, to a Port Harcourt High Court.

In suit No PMC.2304/2010 instituted on September 17, 2010, the
applicant is praying the superior court for an order of certiorari to
remove into court for the purpose of quashing the proceedings of
Magistrate Court II in Charge No. PMC/1360c/2010 – Commissioner
of Police Vs Lolo Ibieneye and 10 others on September 8, 2010
where an order of bench warrant was issued against the applicant
and the other accused persons.

He is also seeking an order of prohibition to prohibit Senior
Magistrate Helen Hardy, from hearing or continuing to hear the
charge.

Counsel to the applicant, Mr. Chuks Lester Uguru, has already
deposed to a 22- paragraph grounds on which the relief is sought.

The 8th accused person/applicant is alleging lack of fair hearing,
want of jurisdiction, abuse of the judicial process and real likelihood
of bias.

Continuing, the applicant is claiming that the criminal charge is
nothing more than political persecution since according to him, the
accused PDP chiefs did not commit any offence.

The applicant is also claiming that he and the other accused
persons – Lolo Ibieneye, Prince Ohochukwu, Sokuru Jaja, Dominic
Saatah, Agiobu Fubara, Achinike Wonodi, Francis Ebenezer, Chidi
Nwankwo Nancy, Ejor Ngowah Ejor, and Lali Green – are PDP
members who had problems with the Amaechi administration.

They were having a meeting in Port Harcourt when they were
allegedly rounded up by the police at the instigation of the Chief of
Staff of Governor Amaechi. They are accused of forming a parallel
PDP in the state.

After Chief Magistrate Israel Agbesor granted the accused persons
bail on August 10, 2010, the case was adjourned to August, 18.

But the accused PDP chiefs had to sleep in Port Harcourt prisons
because they could not immediately fulfill their bail conditions. One
of the conditions was that the Surety must be a level 15 officer in the
civil service.

On August 18, the prosecution allegedly sought to amend the
charge by substituting a charge sheet that had six counts including
counts bothering on cultism over which the trial court will have no
jurisdiction.

The case was then adjourned to September 8, 2010 to consider the
application for amendment. When the case called, one of the
accused persons was absent on ground of hospitalization following
which the prosecution applied to withdraw against the accused.

Based on the application, the court allegedly struck out the name of
the accused and accordingly informed the others present in court
and their counsel that he was not continuing with the case because
it has been transferred by the Chief Registrar to Magistrate Court II.

The accused persons then left the court having allegedly been told
by their counsel that they will inform them of the date the case will
come up in Magistrate Court II.

Apparently unknown to the accused PDP chiefs and their counsel,
the case was also listed in the cause list of Magistrate Court II the
same September 8, morning it came up in the Chief Magistrate
Court.

The applicant deposed that he was shocked when his counsel, Mr.
Chuks Uguru, informed him at about 4pm on September 8 that when
he tried to find out if a date has been fixed for the matter in
Magistrate Court II, he was allegedly informed that the case came up
before Magistrate Court II.

The accused/applicant is claming that no notice was served on him
nor any of the other accused persons by the court or the
prosecution that the case was coming up same September 8 in a
new court.

On the bench warrant that was issued by Senior Magistrate Helen
Hardy, the applicant deposed that it was a punitive order against
him, and that it was allegedly procured by the prosecution in bad
faith with an intent to see him sent to prison without trial or due
process.

Continuing, he claimed that as part of the script to incarcerate him
and the others, the PDP Legal Adviser in the state, Chief C.
Chukwu, was allegedly granted a fiat by the Attorney General of the
state to prosecute him and the other PDP accused persons.

The applicant is alleging that Senior Magistrate Helen Hurdy, has
already shown her aversion for the rule of law, due process and
procedure as evidenced by the haste with which she granted the
application of bench warrant over the accused persons who had not
been arraigned before her.

Going by the alleged conduct of the senior magistrate, the applicant
further deposed that he cannot get justice in her court, claiming that
his conviction in Magistrate Court II is a concluded matter.

The applicant insisted that there is real likelihood of bias on the part
of Senior Magistrate Helen Hardy, against him.

Meanwhile, although no date was immediately fixed for the hearing
of the application in the High Court, the matter will however, come up
before Senior Magistrate Helen Hardy, on Monday, September 27,
2010.

African Examiner

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