Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday ordered the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to produce before it on Wednesday a Bayelsa State governorship candidate, Vijah Opuama, who has been detained by the Police since August 15, 2020.
Opuama, the Liberation Movement’s governorship candidate in the Bayelsa State’s November 16, 2019 election, was said to have been arrested by the Police on the premises of the state’s Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja on August 15, 2020 while waiting for judgment to be delivered on his petition challenging the outcome of the disputed poll.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo made the order directing the IGP to produce Opuama in court on Wednesday and also directed the Police boss to show cause why the detainee should not be released unconditionally.
He gave the orders shortly after Opuama’s ex parte application was moved by his lawyer, Mr. Michael Odey, on Monday.
The judge said although the veracity of the claims contained in Opuama’s application could not be verified until the Police respond to them, it was of concern that the Police could detain the suspect beyond the constitutionally-permitted 24-hour period without granting him an administrative bail or charging him with any offence before any court of competent jurisdiction which he said were many in Abuja.
He therefore ordered that the respondents (the IGP as the 1st respondent, and the Assistant Commissioner of Police heading the IGP’s Monitoring Unit, as the 2nd defendant) “shall show cause why the applicant should not be released unconditionally”.
The judge also ordered that “the applicant shall be produced in court on Wednesday, September 2, 2020.”
Opuama’s wife, Ebikoboere Amaebi, stated in the affidavit filed in support of her husband’s application that she was with the governorship candidate at Wuse Zone 6, Magistrate Court, Abuja, venue of the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, waiting for the tribunal’s judgment to be delivered in his case, when “some unidentified men” allegedly violently arrested him on August 15, 2020.
She said her inquiry about who they were and why they were molesting him also drew the fury of the men whom she said hit her “hard” and caused her “severe pain, anguish and suffering”.
She added, “I have been losing blood since then and I am apprehensive that I may lose my pregnancy over that kick by the Police officers that came to arrest my husband, the applicant.
“The applicant was arrested that day and whisked away by the Police officers who we later understood were from the office of the 2nd respondent and directly instructed by the 1st and 2nd respondents to effect the arrest.”
She noted that with the arrest, her husband “who is entitled to be in the tribunal to participate and listen to the judgment in his case, could not be allowed to participate in the proceedings of that August 15, 2020 before the Election Petition Tribunal.”
Amaebi said her husband was only later told that he was arrested over “a petition written against him for recording a phone call” received by him “sometime back from a caller who identified himself in the phone as Benson Agadaga, Chief of Staff”.
Denying the allegation, Amaebi maintained that “there is no offence known to law as recording a phone call received from a caller”.
She said her husband had, since his arrest, not been charged with any offence and that his lawyer had applied to the IGP for his bail “but was not even dignified with a reply”.
She said her husband “is being persecuted for filing election petition before the Bayelsa State Governorship Election tribunal sitting in Abuja”, adding that his “arrest and detention” were “a calculated attempt to prevent him from campaigning and participating in the fresh Governorship election of Bayelsa State as ordered by the Election Petition Tribunal.”
It will be recalled that although Opuama’s petition was dismissed by the tribunal in the August 15, 2020 judgment, the election of Governor Duoye Diri, who is of the Peoples Democratic Party, was nullified with a fresh poll ordered to be held within 90 days by a subsequent judgment of the tribunal delivered on the petition by Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party on August 17, 2020.
Governor Diri had appealed against the tribunal’s judgment, but the Court of Appeal in Abuja has yet to fix a date for hearing.º