It was pandemonium that took place at the Court of Appeal in Benin City late Friday as suspected thugs allegedly supported by persons in security outfit uniforms, invaded a courtroom, chased away court workers and carted away several documents.
It was gathered that some lawyers had approached the appellate court to file an appeal arising from a judgment of the state High Court on issues relating to the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State.
The Governor Godwin Obaseki faction and the faction loyal to the Vice Chairman, South-South of the party, Chief Dan Orbih, are in dispute over whole delegates are authentic to participate at the PDP primaries.
A lawyer, who pleaded anonymity for security reasons, said he was shuttling between a business centre in Akpakpava and the Appeal Court, which is temporarily operating from a section of the Edo State High Court premises along Sapele Road, when the incident happened.
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 Head of Department, Litigation of the court, Dennis Ayama, said he was already at home when he got a call to receive application from some lawyers at about 5pm only for him to get there and see some strange-looking persons, numbering about 20, who said they were from the Government House and that they heard that something illegal was taking place 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, “We can 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.”
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, SP Bello Kontogns, said, “I am not aware of the incident; no such report has come to my table.”