Thugs invade Appeal Court chase Staffs, cart away valuable documents
Late Friday, chaos erupted at the Court of Appeal in Benin City, as suspected thugs, allegedly aided by persons in security uniform stormed the courtroom, chased out court staff, and carted away various documents.
According to reports, several lawyers sought the appellate court to submit an appeal stemming from a state High Court verdict on issues connected to the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) crisis in Edo State.
The factions loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki and faction loyal to the party’s Vice Chairman for the South-South, Chief Dan Orbih, are at odds over whether delegates are legitimate to participate in the PDP primary.
When the event occurred, a lawyer who requested anonymity for security reasons said he was shuttled between an Akpakpava business center and the Appeal Court, which is temporarily operating from a section of the Edo State High Court facilities along Sapele Road.
He said, “There was an injunction against the PDP faction led by Dan Orih and Ogbeide-Ihama, recognising the delegates from Obaseki’s faction as the authentic delegates for the purpose of the PDP primaries.
“They retained our services and we quickly swung into action and we were at the court to file necessary documents because the state high court had refused to join us as interested parties and then went ahead to give the ruling.
“We went to the Court of Appeal, which granted our application to be joined. The court directed that we should compile and transmit our records; file all the papers we needed to file so that they can hear the case on Monday in the main appeal. That was what we were doing when suspected thugs and uniformed men came into the courtroom and chased away the staff.
“The suspected thugs wanted to take away in their bus one of my staff members because she refused to surrender the documents with her to the suspected thugs. She had to release the documents to save her life”
Confirming the incident, the court’s Head of Department, Litigation, Dennis Ayama, said he was already at home when he received a call at about 5 p.m. to receive an application from some lawyers, only to arrive and see a group of about 20 strange-looking people who claimed to be from the Government House and that they had heard something illegal was going on at the court.
He said, “They demanded my ID card, which I showed them; then they forcefully collected documents and files from the lawyers who came to file.”
On why he was receiving court documents at the time, he said they could come at anytime to collect court processes even at 12 midnight.
Reacting to the incident, the Chairman, Benin branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Pius Oiwoh, said, “I heard about it too. We condemn the invasion in its entirety. We see it as an affront to the sanctity of the judiciary and we are not pleased at all.
“We are disturbed by it. We call on the security agencies to unmask those behind it. The judiciary is sacred and should not be invaded the way it has been so done.”