The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris has said the suit by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike challenging the probe into the violence the rerun election is intended to cover his tracks.
The IGP said the decision by Wike to investigate the violence, for which he is being investigated, was a desperate move to pre-empt outcome of the probe by the Special Investigating Panel (SIP), constituted by the IGP.
The police boss spoke through the notice of preliminary objection against the suit filed by Wike at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
In the objection filed for him by Femi Falana (SAN), the IGP argued that the Judicial Commission of Enquiry set up by Wike had no power to investigate the crimes committed during the rerun election in Rivers and prosecute the culprits.
He argued that pursuant to Section 150 of the Electoral Act, the crimes committed during the rerun were federal offences, which could not be investigated and prosecuted by the plaintiffs.
The suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/13/2017, filed by Mike Ozekhome (SAN) for the plaintiffs, has Wike and the attorney general as plaintiffs.
Named as defendants are the IGP, Department of State Services (DSS) and Damian Okoro (a deputy Commissioner of Police).
The IGP, who gave reasons for his panel, painted a picture of the violence during the rerun of December 10.
“Even thought a combined team of the Army, police and other security personnel were on ground during the election, criminal elements committed many crimes and unleashed violence on unarmed voters and electoral officers.
“Two policemen were beheaded by a criminal gang. Based on complaints received from several members of the public, coupled with the crimes committed in the presence of security personnel, the 1st defendant (IGP) decided to set up a special investigation panel of the police headed by the 3rd defendant to investigate the killings and other electoral offences which occurred during the rerun election.
“The 1st and 3rd defendants have made progress in the investigation being conducted into the crimes. Among the several arrests of the criminal suspects made, is that of the fellow, who stole the telephone handset of the beheaded Deputy Superintendent of Police.
“The bodies of the beheaded policemen have also been recovered while the tape of the telephone conversation between Governors Wike and Ayodele Fayose on the rerun election is being analysed.
“The policemen, who accompanied the 2nd plaintiff (Wike) when he stormed polling units and the collation centre, have been identified, investigated and dismissed by the Police Service Commission (PSC), while the 1st defendant has ordered that they be tried for contravening the provisions of the Electoral Act when they illegally accompanied the 2nd plaintiff to polling units and collation centre.
“In a desperate move to cover up the grave crimes perpetrated during the rerun election and shield him from investigation, the 2nd plaintiff is praying this honourable court to stop the 1st and 3rd defendants from carrying out their statutory duty of investigating the crimes on the ground that he had set up a judicial commission of enquiry.
“Based on the questions for determination and the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs, the defendants have challenged the jurisdiction of this court to hear and determine this case,“ the 1st and 3rd defendants said.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja before who the case is pending, had on two occasions declined Wike’s request for an interim order stopping the investigation by the police.
The latest of such refusals was on January 30.
Justice Kolawole, in a ruling on January 30 said: “As I observed in my ruling of 16th of January 2017, the plaintiff is, by his office, the chief security officer of Rivers State.
“The 1st defendant, by virtue of the provision of Section 215(1)(a) of the Constitution, is the chief law enforcement officer of the federation, who equally has the statutory duties to prevent, to detect and investigate any crime within the Nigerian borders.
“Both the 1st, 2nd plaintiffs and the 1st defendants appear to be exercising powers conferred on them by laws.
“The proceedings for today was for the defendants to show cause and for the plaintiffs’ motion on notice to be argued in the context of the defendants’ responses to the plaintiffs’ motion on notice.
“The question, which tasked my thought is whether the filing of a notice of preliminary objection, strictly speaking, is a process by which the defendant, against whom an order of interim injunction. Is sought, ought to file? I really do not think so,“ the judge said.
Justice Kolawole said the facts in the case did not present themselves as the case of Lagos State and Ojukwu, decided by the Supreme Court in 1986, which Ozekhome relied on to apply for an order maintain the status quo.
In distinguishing this case from that of Lagos and Ojukwu, the judge noted that there were constitutional issues bordering on the exercise of statutory and constitutional powers, which both the plaintiffs and the 1st defendant have.
He said: “The only issue is whether, as between both parties, the said powers were being exercised in good faith and for public interest.
“These are the issue on which I can hardly express any judicial opinion until I am able to listen to detailed forensic legal arguments on the provisions of the Constitution and the duties which it imposes on all persons and authorities, to apply and execute its provisions in good faith and for the public good.
“I really do not see any irreparable lost or damage, which the plaintiffs would suffer if no order is made even at this stage.
“Even though the ideal situation, especially when the Nigeria Police Force, established primarily to enforce law and order, is a party to the suit, is for them to stay action pending when issues in doubt are as to the extent of its statutory powers vis a vis that of the 1st plaintiff, is judicially enquire into and resolved.
“But, it seems that most of the time in our democratic polity, we are yet to reach the pristine level where all forces and authorities will see themselves and subject themselves to the supervisory jurisdiction of the court, established by the Constitution, as the proverbial guidance of the Constitution.
“The question, which I seem to have found an answer to is that even the 1st and 3rd defendants,perhaps, as an act of defiance to the court’s pending processes, precede with the investigation.
“This court, as one of the superior courts of record, created by the Constitution, still retains the inherent jurisdiction, pursuant to the provision of Section 6(6)(a) of the Constitution and in the exercise of its disciplinary jurisdiction, to set aside or nullify 1st and 3rd defendant’s report of investigation and or order that it shall not be acceptable as a report to conduct any prosecution in any court of law.
“It is a power this court can exercise where, at the end of the day, it comes to the conclusion that the investigation ought not to be conducted whilst the proceeding was pending.
“Let me also state that it is a constitutional fallacy for anyone to assert that the court cannot or has no jurisdiction to restrain a party from exercising it’s statutory or constitutional duties.
“To hold this as a principle is to canvass legal proposition that an occasion may arise in the exercise of its judicial powers, that courts, created by the Constitution, will be hamstrung in being able to intervene in a matter by such order, even when it may be shown or proved that genuine constitutional powers, duly conferred, are being abused or misused.
“In the light of these postulations, I will still refrain from acceding to the plaintiffs’ council’s request and leave the defendants’ council with a clear choice to make either to suspend the action or to continue with it when they realise that the final say, as to the validity of their investigation report will be a matter of judicial determination sooner or later,“ Justice Kolawole said.
The judge adjourned further hearing to February 10