By Magnus Effiong, Calabar
The Federal High Court sitting in Calabar has ordered the Nigerian Police to immediately vacate the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) secretariats in Abuja and the Eastern zone, including the one in Calabar.
The court described the Police’s action in occupying the said offices as illegal and an arbitrary abuse of power.
An originating summons filed by Daniel Mgbe, Esq, on behalf of the plaintiffs, including Engr, Sanusi Fari, Chidi Nnubia, Peter Okoye and seven others, had sought, among other things, a declaration that the continued siege at IPMAN national secretariat by police officers as unlawful, unconstitutional and null and void.
It said was illegal for the Police to forcefully removed Engr. Sanusi Fari and his executive from legitimate offices as. IPMAN president and Executive members on July 5, 2021claiming 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.
The originating summons further sought an order of the Court to compel the Nigerian Police to vacate the national secretariat of IPMAN in Abuja to allow Engr Sanusi Fari-led executive re-enter and continue their legitimate functions, and also an order to vacate the IPMAN offices at Port Harcourt and Enugu etc so that the body could continue their legal businesses.
Delivering judgment on Thursday, April 7, 2022 in Suit No: FH/CA/CS/69/2021 between Engr. Sanusi Abdul Fari and 9 others against Nigerian Police and 20 others, the presiding Judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, said the Nigerian Police lacks the powers to forcefully occupy IPMAN offices on the grounds that they were interpreting court judgment, saying the Police do not have the powers to carry out execution without valid court order.
Justice Ojukwu further stated that the Police occupation of IPMAN offices was not in tandem with the Supreme Court judgment in Suit No: SC/15/2018 which had already been interpreted in Suit No: FHC/CA/CS/3?2019.
“Their occupation of national headquarters or unit offices of IPMAN was not occasioned by the decision of the Supreme Court as that issue was not determined or pronounced upon by the Apex Court.
“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 Federal High Court submitted.
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.”
It ruled that the Attorney General of Federation, AGF, is 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, Esq, 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 has been found to have no basis in law.”
Commending the judiciary for its steadfastness, the National President of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Alh. Debo Ahmed, who was inaugurated on January 18, 2022, appealed to the Police to obey and respect court orders and vacate their secretaries across the country since the court has declared their action illegal.
In his remarks, the Cross River state chairman of IPMAN, Comrade Robert Obi, said he was optimistic that the ruling would restore some peace in the association, and therefire called on members to lay down arms and work towards the development of the downstream oil sector rather than engaging in an unnecessary in-fighting without making progress.
Admitting that IPMAN has been faced with leadership tussle leading to a series of litigation, Obi saud 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.
He frowned at illegal moves by some elements to either misinterpret the Supreme Court ruling or subvert the will of the people and impose their cronies on the association even when the facts of the matter were very clear, adding that it was time for all members to join hands with the new National President, Alh Debo Ahmed, who took over form Engr. Sanusi Fari.
Obi disclosed that IPMAN’s Constitution of 1997 allows automatic succession and rotation of its leadership as Chief Lawson Obasi (East), Engr. Sanusi Fari (North) and now Alh. Debo Ahmed (West) all emerged through the constitutional provisions.