Ekiti State is in a cliffhanger as the political crisis in the state deepens with the assault on judicial members who were to adjudicate on the case that will determine if Ayo Fayose, governor-elect will be sworn in as governor elect soon
| By Olu Ojewale | Oct. 13, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE end is not yet in sight of the crisis which engulfed Ekiti State and led to the imposition of dusk to dawn curfew for three days in the penultimate week. Although economic and commercial activities have returned to Ado Ekiti, state capital and other towns and villages, the political undercurrent may not give way soon going by accusations and counter accusations among the parties involved in the crisis. They include the state judiciary, All Progressives Congress, APC, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the Police on who caused the mayhem in the state.
Justice Ayodeji Daramola, chief Judge of Ekiti State, threw the llight on who to hold responsible for the crisis when on Tuesday, September 30, he tabled before the National Judicial Council ahead of the council’s meeting scheduled for Thursday, October 2, a petition alleging that Ayodele Fayose, governor-elect and the police were culpable in the attack on judges and court workers in the state on Thursday, September 25.
In the petition dated September 26, and addressed to the Ekiti State commissioner of police, Daramola also attached a covering letter sent to Justice Aloma Muktar, chief justice of Nigeria as the chairman of the NJC alleging that Fayose should be held responsible for the brouhaha in the court premises.
Daramola, in his petition entitled: “Ekiti State Judiciary Under Siege of Political Thugs”, chronicled the invasion of the court premises in Ado-Ekiti, by thugs between September 22 and September 25, and categorically fingered Fayose as the major culprit. The chief justice petition stated: “Now on Thursday, the 25th day of September, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, the governor-elect, again led thousands of people and thugs into the premises of the High Court beating and maiming members of staff. The thugs invaded my court where I was to deliver a judgment in a land matter, tore the record books, beat court officials and vandalised the furniture in Court No. 1.
“The political thugs descended on Hon. Justice J. A Adeyeye, the presiding judge in Court No. 3 beat and dragged him on the ground. The judge’s suit was also torn into shreds. I could not gain entrance into the premises of the court and had to hurriedly turn back on being alerted that I was the prime target of the hooligans.”
Daramola alleged that the attack on the court on September 25 was preceded by a similar siege on its premises on September 22, when thugs allegedly loyal to Fayose disrupted court proceedings apparently to avert the delivery of a ruling which they suspected could go against the governor-elect. The plaintiffs in the suit were challenging Fayose’s eligibility to contest the governorship election.
The CJ said he was at the Supreme Court in Abuja, attending the special court session marking the commencement of the new legal year and the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on some lawyers when the violence first broke out on Monday, September 22.
Daramola said he was shocked that the policemen and other law enforcement agents deployed within and outside the court premises were “looking on completely uninterested and unconcerned” while the attacks by the thugs on the court workers and users lasted. The CJ said he ordered the closure of the courts in the state after the mayhem in order to avert “looming danger within the premises of the High Court of Ekiti State” after the police officers “posted to guard and protect the integrity of the court and its personnel failed us and left us at the mercy of political hoodlums.”
Besides, he said that same Monday, he was told on phone that thugs loyal to Fayose invaded the headquarters of the judiciary of Ekiti State where Justice I.O Ogunyemi was delivering a ruling on the matter instituted against him (Fayose). “The thugs beat workers black and blue while the presiding judge and lawyers had to run for their lives. They smashed windows and furniture. Meanwhile, the policemen deployed within and without the premises in large number were looking on completely uninterested and unconcerned while these thugs were on prowl beating and maiming workers and court users. The thugs went on searching for the judge who ran into hiding. It took your (the Commissioner of Police) personal intervention when you were duly informed on phone to rush to the scene of the mayhem within the court premises to rescue the said judge and took him out into safety.”
The CJ said events that followed clearly showed that the September 22, was pre-meditated and followed with long siege and onslaughts on the court and its personnel. He alleged that the thugs showed up again in large numbers on Tuesday and Wednesday on the spurious excuse that they came to listen to the ruling which they did not allow the presiding judge deliver on Monday, September 22. But Daramola said no such ruling was slated for hearing since the thugs invaded the premises of the court on Monday.
As if that was not bad enough, the CJ said all entreaties to the police and law enforcement agencies to intervene in the mayhem yielded no positive response. He stressed: “It is needless to reiterate here that while the mayhem and attack on judges and staff and property of the court was in progress, scores of policemen and SSS (State Security Service) operatives posted to protect lives and property within the court premises looked on and watched without taking any step to save the situation. All entreaties to officers and men of Ekiti State Command to protect the court as an important institution of state yielded no positive response.”
Also, the APC has accused the PDP of impunity, saying it should allow the judiciary to operate unfettered. John Odigie-Oyegun, national chairman of the APC, asked the PDP to leave the court to determine whether or not Fayose was qualified to contest election into the office. He said the APC was not out to stop Fayose from being inaugurated and warned the PDP against rushing to judgment.
Odigie-Oyegun said recently: “We don’t want to stop the inauguration of Fayose. It is absolute rubbish because everybody knows the sequence of events in Ekiti State. “We profit nothing by disturbing the court process. We know who stands to benefit by obstructing the course of justice. It is a terrible trend to desecrate the temple of justice. What happened in Ekiti amounted to abomination. It is just unfortunate that thugs were mobilised to beat up judges. Nigerians should ask: Who is afraid of the court? Who is afraid of justice? We are waiting for what the Judiciary will do to defend their own honour.”
Contrary to the position of the chief justice and the APC, the PDP, on Tuesday, September 30, repudiated their allegations and also alleged that the APC planned to influence the Judiciary, subvert the will of the people and stop the inauguration of Fayose on October 16. A statement issued by Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the PDP, called for a full investigation into the activities of some officers of the Ekiti State judiciary involved in the crisis. Metuh alleged that there was an “underground plot” to stop Fayose’s inauguration, saying it would amount to a “slap in the face of the people of the state, assault on democracy and an attempt to rape the judiciary”.
The statement said in part: “In the past two weeks, we have witnessed series of lies, propaganda, threats and blackmail by the APC in their desperate bid to truncate the wish of the people. This desperate party has gone notches up in this awkward quest for power by inciting violence and outlandishly calling for the arrest of the state governor-elect. After losing roundly in an election widely acclaimed as one of the most credible in our recent history as a nation, the APC in its desperation for power has shamelessly designed a heinous plot to compromise certain judicial officers in order to stop the inauguration of Mr. Ayo Fayose as the democratically elected governor of Ekiti State.”
On his part, Fayose, on Monday, September 29, called on the National Judicial Council, NJC, to probe the entire issue, stating that only a full probe into the matter would expose the truth. He also urged the NJC and Nigerians as a whole to consider dispassionately all issues at stake to expose the truth, and be not swayed by “the propaganda launched by the APC on the crisis.”
The governor-elect said further: “A lot of things are happening there and there are signs that some judicial officers are conniving with outgoing Governor Kayode Fayemi, and the APC. The current crisis is an agenda of the APC and their sole aim is to try and get through the back door what the people of the state did not give them on June 21, when they voted overwhelmingly for me and the PDP. I did not and cannot slap a judge. I cannot slap a houseboy let alone a High Court judge, and I have utmost respect for judicial officers. The media propaganda that I beat up a judge is an APC agenda to portray me in bad light, having failed to take my mandate through the back door”.
He also denied entering Adeyeye’s court. “I did not enter Justice John Adeyeye’s court because I had no business to transact there. The tribunal venue, where I went to, is quite a distance from Adeyeye’s court. The pertinent question is, at what point did I meet him? Is it that the judge left his courtroom in his robe to face the so-called protesters? Investigation will reveal all this,” he said.
On Tuesday, September 30, Fayose had through, his lawyers, sent a separate petition to the NJC, alleging that the Justices of the Governorship Election Tribunal, sitting in Ado-Ekiti High Court headquarters had received bribe. Fayose also alleged that the panel members had been bribed by Governor Kayode Fayemi and the All Progressives Congress to rule against him on Thursday, September 25, when the court proceedings were disrupted by thugs.
The state had been in crisis since about two weeks ago following the invasion of courts by hoodlums and the assassination of Omolafe Aderiye, former chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW. The PDP chieftain and close ally of Fayose was killed by unknown gunmen at Ijigbo Area of Ado Ekiti on Thursday, September 25, following which some youth trooped to the streets and destroyed property worth millions of naira.
Feeling that the killing was politically motivated, the hoodlums razed the headquarters of the Kayode Fayemi Campaign Organisation in the Ado Ekiti metropolis, among other property belonging to traders and individuals.
However, despite the seeming restoration of normalcy, heavily armed policemen were still stationed in buffer zones, especially some flash points in the capital city. Only time will tell which side of the allegations is true.