By PASCHAL NJOKU, Abuja
Palpable tension enveloped the premises of the Magistrate Court Wuse Zone 2 Abuja, Wednesday, August 14, as supporters of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman of Omuma Local Government Area of Rivers State, Charles Amoefule, a loyalist of Governor Rotimi Amaechi resisted his re-arrest by the police, shortly after the court discharged him.
The embattled Chairman was charged for sedition alongside Godwin Onwukwe and Leo Anyanwu, now at large before Chief Magistrate Anthony Ogboi Enahoro and has been detained in Kuje prison since July.
Crisis erupted in the court premises when the Chief Magistrate granted an oral application of police prosecutor, Usman Jibrin, who pleaded the court to terminate the charge levelled against the accused persons.
Wednesday’s matter was for both parties to argue on the pending bail application of the PDP Chairman dated August 7, which was filed by his lawyer, Regina Okotie Eboh.
However, the case assumed another dimension as the prosecuting counsel told the court that he has a similar case in a sister court in Zone 6 and would want to join Charles Amoefule alongside.
Left with no option, the Magistrate therefore discharged the accused man.
But crisis started when the police insisted that the PDP chairman must be rearrested because according to them, further investigation has revealed that he committed some grievous offences.
In the process of refusing re-arrest, Amoefule’s supporters, who thronged the court premises were pitched against the police and other plain-clothed detectives, thereby turning the court compound into a theatre of chaos as noise and shouting spiralled into the air.
The ensuing pandemonium which engulfed the court premises got out of hand and the defence counsel, Mrs Okotie Eboh was almost lynched save for the intervention of Magistrate Ann Akobi, who was presiding over another matter in a different courtroom.
The uproar forced the Magistrate to arraign the defence counsel, the prosecution and others for public disturbance and interruption of proceedings of her sitting.
However, after listening to both parties on what led to the commotion outside, Magistrate Akobi pardoned the culprits and warned them not to fight again, threatening to send them to prison if they continued with the crisis.
Following the order of the Magistrate, Charles Amoefule refused to leave the court premises as he and his supporters knew that the police detectives were waiting to pick him up again as soon as he stepped out of the premises.
While the waiting game continued, it took the intervention of Senator Magnus Abbey who said an order from above had mandated him to bring the Omuma PDP council chairman to Force headquarters for further interrogation, before the situation was brought under control.
Speaking to newsmen on arrival at the court premises, Senator Abbey, who is from Rivers State said, “This young man is the Chairman of PDP in Omuma Local Government; he was arrested in Rivers State and brought to Abuja here since last week. He has been remanded in Kuje prison since then.”
However, he expressed dismay that the rights of citizens of this country are being trampled upon in the name of politics.
“We are all very concerned that in a country that practises democracy, where people have rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution that this kind of thing would occur. But we thank God, this morning, the court struck out the charges as sought by the police; they said they want to conduct more investigation but have agreed to grant him bail while the investigation continues. So, I will take him to Force headquarters and hopefully, the issue will be sorted out there,” Senator Abbey stated.
More so, he said “I want to plead once again to Nigerians that whatever that may be our political differences, we must respect our country’s Constitution because without the Constitution, the country is an empty shell. If the guarantee as given to us as citizens by the Constitution is not respected by those in authority, then we might as well not have a democracy.”
He said the experience that the PDP Chairman and his family have passed through was part of the sacrifices that Nigerians need to make in order to ensure that the country’s democracy is sustained, adding that “The way these things are being handled, at a stage, I became afraid of my own freedom, but we thank God.”
Reacting on the chaotic scene created at the court premises, Abbey stated, “I saw there was an attempt to re-arrest Charles; I think good sense prevailed and the presence of the press and the fact that we were able to reach some higher authority prevailed and the decision was taken that he should be brought to Force headquarters and hopefully, he will be granted bail.
“My own main concern is that this boy is innocent and has done nothing except playing politics and all Nigerians have the right to support whoever they want to support. So, I did not see why a young man from Omuma will end up in Kuje prison. I think it was a child’s play, I never knew it has got out of hand to this extent.”
Speaking on the other accused person, the Senator said, “As I am talking to you now, the second accused person is yet to be arraigned; he is still in Kuje prison and we are working with lawyers to see that his case is brought forward. In his own matter, nobody knew where he was, we did not even know that it was the police that took him away. We thought he has been kidnapped. However, his case has been adjourned to August 20, but we are now trying to bring it forward so that the police can hear his bail application.”
According to the police FIR, Charles Amoefule was charged over criminal conspiracy, false statement in declaration which by law receivable in evidence, impersonation, inciting disturbance and criminal intimidation, contrary to Section 164, 179, 114 and 394 (b) of the Penal Code Law.
His arrest followed a letter of complaint dated 15th July from one Hon Kelechi Nwogu and written to the Inspector General of Police that on July 11, 2013, that Charles Amoefule, Godwin Onwukwe and Leo Anyanwu, now at large conspired among themselves and caused announcement to be made on radio stations based in Abuja that the State Executive Council of the PDP Rivers State has been dissolved and reconstituted.
The FIR further stated that Amoefule declared himself as “now elected State Chairman of the party” knowing well that the information was false and misleading, thereby leading to inciting disturbance in Rivers State, which further led to breakdown of law in the state.
Furthermore, the FIR stated that the accused persons warned and promised to deal with anybody who fail to abide by the order and announcement.