Was Governor Okorocha’s meeting with the reinstated LG Chairmen deadlocked?

This is what Compass Newspaper is reporting:

A meeting reconvened yesterday by Governor Rochas Okorocha with the Appeal Court-reinstated chairmen of the 27 local governments to seek means of resolving the raging political impasse ended in a stalemate.

The position paper presented to the governor by the 27 council chiefs and read by the Secretary of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Imo State chapter, Enyinnaya Onuegbu, a lawyer, in very clear terms expressed doubt over the genuine intention of government.

The council chairmen noted that since the Appeal Court judgement that reinstated them, the illegal Transition Committee (TC) chairmen are still functioning as council chairmen and are still in possession of official vehicles, documents and properties of the councils.

The statement further highlighted that all the Directors of Administration and General Services (DAGS), Treasurers, Heads of Departments and other cadres of staff of the councils have been absent from duties at the councils, yet the principal officers regularly sighted in company of the deposed TC chairmen, conducting official business on behalf of the councils on the directives of the state government.

The council chairmen, who also reminded  Okorocha of his broadcast last Friday in which he spoke of plans to conduct council elections next month (August), said the actions of the government implies that“Your Excellency is still determined to further abort our tenure prematurely once again. The goodwill of your invitation to this meeting, therefore, is again doubtful.”

“Our position is that we must be allowed to serve out our tenure as established by law and serve the period you unlawfully kept us out of office since we were not removed by any judicial authority.”

In his opening remark, Okorocha had sued for peace and collaboration to effectively administer the state and fight poverty and underdevelopment through responsive governance at all levels.

The state ALGON chairman, Mrs. Ruby Emele who wore a gloomy face after the closed-door parley, however, declined to comment on the meeting saying that nothing was agreed and meeting had been adjourned to today.

Meanwhile, in his response to the crisis between the governor and the 27 chairmen, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola, said: “Granted that the judgement of court of competent jurisdiction must be obeyed, you don’t, as a rule, dig a hole to fill another hole. The pit remains. 

You don’t cure one injustice with an infraction of the law with another infraction. The question we should  asked  was whether what the police did was justifiable in the eyes of the law. Whose duty is it to enforce court judgement? It is the duty of the Deputy Sheriff. 

In other word, if a judgement is given in my favour against my landlord, it is not the duty of the police to enforce that judgement for me. It is the duty of the Deputy Sheriff. What I will do as a judgement creditor, that is the winner of the case, is to go back to the same court and inform it that the judgement given in my favour has not been obeyed. 

“There are three options open to me in the circumstance. One, to apply for contempt of court against the loser. Two. If it is a property, you go to the Sheriff under the Sheriff and Civil Process Act. Ask the Deputy Sheriff to enforce the judgement. The Deputy Sheriff will now apply for police protection to enable him enforce the judgement on my behalf. 

In this case, a judgement has been given. It has not been obeyed for whatever reason. I, as the winner of the case, have not gone to the Deputy Sheriff for the enforcement of the judgement in my favour. I have not applied for contempt against the judgement debtor, that is the loser. 

Then certainly, the police, who was not a party to the case and who has not been mandated by the Deputy Sheriff or any order of court of competent jurisdiction, suddenly stepped in and invaded the local governments in Imo State, in this case, and took over the premises.

On whose behalf was the police acting? Whose mandate has the police to invade the Imo State local governments? Which court order or application of Deputy Sheriff was in possession of the police to invade the Imo State local governments? Which court order or application of Deputy Sheriff was in possession of the police that enabled the police to do what they did? 

“These are pertinent questions begging for answer, which any objective analyst or opinion writer should have addressed on the issue. Nobody is talking about the infraction of the law by the police. A letter was written by my chambers to the Inspector-General of Police and the Commissioner of Police with regard to the infractions of the law by the police vis a vis the invasion of the premises of the local governments in Imo State without authority of the Deputy Sheriff or the court of competent jurisdiction.

“The response of the police was that they moved in in order to secure life and property. But another question that followed from me to the police was: Who complained of threat to life and property in the local governments? Is it the local government chairmen, who were there; the people of the state or the Chief Security of the state, who is the governor? The governor has not complained or give any directive to the Commissioner of Police to invade or take over the local government premises. He has not.

“The bottom line was that the police took side in the matter and was carrying out the directive of the Peoples Democratic Party which was the party in power at the centre. The advice given by the Attorney-General and Justice Minister was to all and sundry in the country that the judgement of the court must be obeyed, and that was a very noble advice coming from the Chief Law Officer of the federation and which must be commended by all lovers of democracy and rule of law.

“So, the AGF has done his own duty as expected of him, but that is without prejudice to the constitutional rights of the parties to the case to take the next step available to them under the extant laws. The state government, through its Attorney-General, had filed an appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgement of the Court of Appeal and it has also filed a motion for stay of execution of the judgement.

“Granted that an appeal against a judgement does not operate as a stay, but the mere fact that final decision has not been given on the matter by the Apex Court is enough to put the police on notice that the action is still pending in court. Not only that, the subject matter itself, which is the tenure of the local government chairmen lapses in August. By virtue of the instrument of the law passed by the House of Assembly and signed by the former governor, who was a PDP governor, that law is still very extant, valid and subsisting. 

“In other words, the judgement of the Court of Appeal is valid and subsisting until it is otherwise resolved by the Supreme Court. And the local government laws signed into law by House of Assembly and the former governor are meant to be obeyed by all and sundry until events overtake them.

“There was no crisis of any sort until the police decided to heat up the polity unnecessarily and create confusion in the state. The role of the police in this case was that of a creditor interloper. That was why the state government decided to go to court against the police and obtained an order to serve the Inspector-General outside jurisdiction and abridged the time within which to appear in court for the purpose of determining whether it is within the power of the police to stop the functions of the Deputy Sheriff of the court or to usurp the power of the court of competent jurisdiction without authority or mandate to do so.

“It will be recalled that the same police was in existence when an action was filed against the PDP government in Imo State for conducting the local government election in 2010 against the pendency of an action in court and against an order of court of competent jurisdiction restraining it from conducting such an election. The election went ahead, inspite of the court actions and order, yet the police did not invade the local government councils.

“So, it is quite clear that the police on its own is opening itself to accusation of bias and taking sides in a matter that concerns it not. The police should have taken a queue from the noble position of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and maintain neutrality in the matter, pending the time each of the parties would take advantage of the options opened to them”.

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