By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, fixed March 3 to entertain suit by Governor Nyesom Wike, seeking to nullify the outcome of Police investigation into violence that marred the December 10, 2016, legislative re-run election in the state.
Wike, in a joint suit he filed with the Government of Rivers State, is querying the legality of the probe panel that was constituted by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Idris Ibrahim, to uncover those who masterminded violence and other electoral malpractices during the re-run poll.
The police panel earlier revealed that it recovered over N100millon bribe money from some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, who conducted the poll.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole had previously rejected Wike’s application for an interim order of injunction barring the panel from proceeding further with the probe pending hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
Aside the IGP, other defendants to the suit are the State Security Services (SSS) and a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Damian Okoro.
The plaintiffs prayed the court to issue an interim order of injunction restraining the defendants or their agents from enforcing or executing matters contained in a letter the IGP wrote to Wike on December 20, 2016, pertaining to the probe.
Wike told the court the IGP had in the said letter entitled, ‘Investigation into allegations of crimes committed during the last rerun elections in Rivers state’, stated that the, “purview of the investigation will cover allegations of bribes taken, several brazen murder incidents (including that of serving Police Officers), reports of gross human rights abuses, acts of sabotage/terrorism, kidnapping for ransom and ballot box snatching, all of which were perpetrated in connivance with several federal and state civil servants as well as highly placed politicians within and outside the state”.
The letter also requested the governor to furnish the Police investigative team with all necessary information and exhibits that may assist the team in the investigation.
Wike’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, insisted that the decision of the Police to constitute a panel to investigate crisis that trailed the rerun election was illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and null and void.
He said it would be in the interest of justice for the court to set aside the IGP’s letter to governor Wike and direct the Police boss to await the outcome of the commission of inquiry already set up by the Rivers State government.
Wike, in a supporting affidavit he attached to the motion, told the court that it was security operatives, mainly the Police and the Army that orchestrated violence following their partisan stance during the poll.
He said some untoward behaviour of security operatives deployed for the exercise were caught on tape and presented to Nigerians and the whole world by various reputable television stations.
Wike, in the affidavit deposed to by one Harrison Obi, a lawyer in Ozehkome’s chamber, averred that after the election, he constituted a commission of inquiry to look into the immediate and remote causes of the violence with a view to avoiding similar occurrence in subsequent elections and punishing the perpetrators of the act.
He said the commission of inquiry was set up under the Commission of Inquiry Law, Cap 30, Laws of Rivers State.
Wike maintained that he is legally empowered to embark on the inquiry as the Chief Security Officer of the state, adding that terms of reference of the panel of investigation set up by the Police clearly suggested that the goal of the intended probe was already pre-determined.
He told the court that Police has already reached numerous conclusions against him, indicating that its investigation would be biased.
Ozekhome said the intention of the Police was to produce a pre-determined damning report to convict Wike through the medium of the Commission of Inquiry.
He said with conclusions already drawn and reached by the Police without hearing from his client, the investigation would only amount to a “smokescreen and rubber stamp to give credence to the governor’s guilt”.
Consequently, he prayed the court to set aside the content of the letter by the IGP and order Police to await the outcome of the committee of inquiry already set up by Wike.
However, the defendants have asked the court to dismiss the matter which they said was grossly bereft of merit, even as the IGP accused Wike of attempting to use the suit to cover his tracks. Meantime, Justice Kolawole has given Wike seven days to respond to issues the defendants raised in their preliminary objections to the suit.