Two major political parties in Rivers State last week Friday took their political battle to Rivers State High Court where thugs loyal to different political leaders vandalised and destroyed court properties.
Trouble started when Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt gave an order of Interlocutory Injunction restraining the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the state from holding its local government chairmanship congress for Saturday.
Some disenfranchised members of APC had gone to court to obtain an injunction restraining the party from conducting the congress.
While the court was yet to commence sitting a faction of APC led by notable members of the party barricaded the gate of the High Court thereby making it difficult for Judges, Lawyers and judicial workers to gain access to the court premises.
Provoked by the standoff, another group of PDP supporter mainly comprising of youths invaded the court and engaged other groups of APC supporters in a free for all.
This was even as sporadic shooting rocked the entire court premises.
In the ensuing melee properties belonging to the court such as the library, documentation offices were vandalised while windows, doors as well as cars parked within the court premises were destroyed.
Rivers State Attorney General, and Commissioner for Justice, Emma Aguma, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), expressed worries over the incident at the state high court stressing that there was an attempt to shut down the state judiciary.
He expressed happiness that no casualty was recorded in the incident.
Our reporter learnt that the hoodlums had stormed the State Judiciary complex quite early in the morning, and paralysed legal activities for several hours.
It was further gathered that the protesters had stormed the court, over alleged plans by a faction of the APC to obtain a court order to stop the party from holding the congress after a controversial ward congress a week ago.
A motion on notice was reportedly served APC on Thursday before the party’s ward congress but, the leader of the party in the state and the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, declined knowledge of such notice.
Similarly, on Thursday, the court sat to hear the motion on notice as presented by the counsel for a faction of the APC, who sought to stop the planned Congress on Saturday.
However, when shooting had subsided, Justice Chiwendu Nwogu, who delivered judgement on the motion on notice, barred the APC from going on with the congress and adjourned the case till June 26, for hearing.
One of the counsels for the applicants, Henry Bello who spoke to reporters shortly after the adjournment said, “I am counsel for the members of the APC, who were unconstitutionally excluded from participating in the purportedly congress even after they had satisfied the conditions precedence to their participation in the congress according to APC guidelines.
“They paid money for nomination forms. They paid but on getting to APC secretariat, it was locked only to hear winners have emerged in the congress and it is against the constitution of the party.”
The counsel to APC, Cuturu Eddeh, who was deployed from the national secretariat of APC to take over the matter, accused the state legal adviser of the party, Mr. Chiwikpe Chieme of professional misconduct, adding that he (Chiwikpe) does not have the mandate to represent APC on the matter.
He said: “This matter was brought to Port Harcourt from Bori on Monday. Him (Chiwikpe) coming to say he represented the APC is wrong. He went there and made damaging comments and representation of APC. The chairman of the party did not instruct him to stand in for the matter. I have a letter from the national party to represent the party. He knows the implication of that.
“Chiwikpe does not have the right to represent the APC and make any submission on its behalf. He has been suspended by the party since last year.”
Wild condemnation has continued to trail the Friday vandalism of the high court premises.
The Attorney General of the state, Emma Aguma accused APC supporters of shutting down the court premises.
He said: “The APC supporters came here and closed the court, but youths of Rivers State came and opened it. The police behaved well except for the men of Special Anti-Robbery Squad, who were shooting at Rivers youths.
“I am surprised that there were no casualties. My gratitude is to the youths of the state who came out en masse to chase the APC away.
“The court was totally destroyed. The judge that came to work this morning, His Lordship Andrew Jaja was manhandled and his car totally vandalised.
“What is happening is not related to court it is APC verses APC and they came to close the court. Tomorrow, they will come to say that the state is unsafe. They are not politicians.
“We are prepared to lay down our lives. Never again will courts in this state be closed again. They did it in 2014, they will not do it again.”
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike on his part said the court premises should not be used as a ground to settle political differences.
He said the state government will not tolerate any act aimed at shutting down the court premises.
He said the people of the state will resist any move to shut down the judiciary in the state.
The Managing Director of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside accused PDP of mobilising thugs that vandalised the court premises.
He exonerated APC from the Friday incident.
Meantime the eight branches of the Nigerian Bar Association, MBA comprising Port Harcourt, Isokpo, Ahoada, Elele, Okrika and three others had condemned the Friday vandalism of Port Harcourt High Court.
One of the chairmen of the branches, Barrister Briggs said that the NBA will resist any attempt to shut down the judiciary.