Hoodlums believed to be loyal to the Ekiti State Governor-elect, Ayodele Fayose, on Monday stormed the state High court, beat up litigants and chased away the trial judge in the case challenging the eligibility of the Governor-elect in the June 21 election.
The case was brought by E-11, a group opposed to the emergence of Mr. Fayose as governor.
Pandemonium started when the trial judge, Justice Olusegun Ogunyemi, ruled earlier in the day that the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter and subsequently ordered the two parties to prepare for hearing in the case by 1pm.
When the court resumed by 1p.m, the hoodlums descended on the court, unleashing terror on the judge, lawyers and workers of the court.
The hoodlums swooped on the complex in their numbers and beat everybody in sight.
Witnesses said police officers at the scene of the incident failed to check the invaders and restore order.
In the process some lawyers, litigants and workers in the complex received serious beating which led to serious injuries.
The hoodlums, witnesses said, laid siege on the court premises and dared any judge to hear the case.
Journalists covering the case were also attacked and chased away.
Some of the injured litigants and members of the anti-Fayose group, the E-eleven, were rushed to a nearby hospital where they are receiving treatment.
Reacting to the incident, the Interim Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Jide Awe, told THE PUNCH, “We are back to the Idi Amin era in Ekiti where judges and lawyers are attacked in court. This is terrible.
“But the APC has no case in the court and we were not there to witness the attack.”
In his own reaction, the PDP Publicity Secretary, Kola Oluwawole, accused Justice Ogunyemi of bias and asked him disqualify himself from the case.
“The judge openly demonstrated in his ruling that he has jurisdiction on the matter and simultaneously commenced hearing of the matter without giving the respondent the opportunity to signify an appeal,” Mr. Oluwawole told THE PUNCH.
“The PDP also condemns the barbaric action of the APC thugs who attacked voters that voluntarily voted for Ayo Fayose in the last governorship election.
On Tuesday, the litigant, E-Eleven, issued a statement describing the incident as representing another low for Ekiti State.
“This ugly episode represents another low in the image of Ekiti in the eyes of the world. Gradually Ekiti is once again becoming a laughing stock while our claim to honour, integrity and intellectual sophistication is being thrown to the dogs,” the group said through its chairman, Femi Ajiniran.
“To us, this is a big shame! Our long cherished values were once debased and nearly destroyed. It has taken some effort thus far to redeem those values. Another era of value wreckage is again at hand.”
Read the full statement by E-11 below.
The Assault on Judiciary in Ekiti
( A Statement by E11)
After a prolonged delay occasioned perhaps by the annual vacation of the judiciary, the presiding Judge in Ekiti eventually ruled on the preliminary objection raised by Mr. Fayose on the eligibility case in respect of his candidacy in the Ekiti Governorship election placed by members of E-11 before the judiciary for determination. For us, we believe this was the civilized and cultured step to take in a matter of this constitutional significance.
Regrettably and as if to confirm our fears of an impending anarchist era worse than was once witnessed in Ekiti, a group of hoodlums was sponsored to unleash mayhem on the court and all those who have come before the court for refuge. Our members were severely brutalized and are now lying in critical condition in the hospital. Members of the public who came innocently to witness the historic proceedings were not spared this gang assault and brutality by this group of anarchists. But even more disturbing and horrendous is the attack on the officers of the court who were merely performing their constitutional duty. As we write, that presiding Judge has fled the State for fear of his life!
This ugly episode represents another low in the image of Ekiti in the eyes of the world. Gradually Ekiti is once again becoming a laughing stock while our claim to honour, integrity and intellectual sophistication is being thrown to the dogs. To us, this is a big shame! Our long cherished values were once debased and nearly destroyed. It has taken some effort thus far to redeem those values. Another era of value wreckage is again at hand.
Any true democrat not giving freely to brigandage as a way of life would and should know that opportunity exists up to the Supreme Court to challenge the appropriateness of any judicial pronouncement at any lower level in the judicial hierarchy. To result to violent attack on opposing litigants and officers of the court, worse still within the court premise, should be seen as not only contemptuous of the entire judiciary, but a repudiation of the very basic tripod principle that defines our government system. The Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary are the three equal legs on which our practice of democracy stands. A challenge to one is a challenge to all.
We call on the Chief Justice of the Federation to move to assure us all that protection is guaranteed for anyone seeking refuge under the judiciary. The Honourable Chief Justice would need to assure us also that Judicial and Legal officers can perform their duty free of any harassment and intimidation and they are adequately protected against the terrorism of miscreants who really have no commitment whatsoever to modern-day democratic norms, practice and culture.
We warned a while back of a grand design at the very top of our nation’s governance to unleash terror on the Southwest and turn the zone over to the stranglehold of a criminally-inclined, violence-disposed, mafia-like, Gestapo-oriented gang. We shudder to think that what has happened in Ekiti is the opening glee of this grand design. It happened before and Ekiti people rose to the occasion to reject the reign of terror. It shall be resisted and fought vigorously again if it becomes necessary. All true democrats must rise to the occasion and reject the enthronement of terror. This is the challenge we face.