There were strong indications Thursday that the Presidency has given orders to the military and the police to keep the courts in Ekiti State shut until the inauguration of the state governor-elect, Ayo Fayose on October 16.
The move, which counters the directive of the National Judicial Council, NJC, to the courts to resume on Wednesday, is aimed at ensuring the inauguration of the governor-elect without any inhibition by way of injunction or judgment in the ongoing case challenging Mr. Fayose’s eligibility for the recent governorship election in the state.
The courts in Ekiti were shut down last month following the invasion of the premises of the headquarters of the State Judiciary by thugs allegedly loyal to Mr. Fayose, who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the poll.
The thugs had beaten up two judges – J.A. Adeyeye and I.A. Ogunyemi – during the invasion between September 22 and 24, forcing the state Chief Judge, Ayodeji Daramola, to petition the NJC, accusing the governor-elect of being behind the incidents.
However, Mr. Fayose, in a separate petition to the NJC, alleged that the judges had been bribed by the outgoing governor, Kayode Fayemi and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, to give judgement against him in the case.
The Council directed that the governor-elect be made to appear to explain his role in the attack of the judges and the state judiciary while those involved in the attack be dealt with in accordance with the law.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that although Mr. Daramola was ready to re-open the courts as directed by the NJC, he was, however, frustrated by the State Police Commissioner, Taiwo Lakanu and others, believed to be acting on the orders of the Presidency.
It was learnt that the Presidency, through some of its top officials, asked Mr. Lakanu, the Commander, 32 Artillery Brigade, Akure, Aliyu Momoh, a Brigadier General; the Garrison Commander, I. Adonkie, and the Head of the State Security Service, SSS, Samuel Tamuno to ensure that the courts do not open to prevent any judgement on the matter.
It was in obedience to the presidency’s directive that Mr. Lakanu allegedly informed Mr. Daramola that a bomb had been planted in the premises to justify its continued closure, sources familiar with the matter, including officials of the presidency, told this newspaper.
The security agencies are now claiming that there are attempts to bomb the courts and that the place must be protected.
Following the alleged bomb threat, army trucks were used to block the roads and prevent access to the court.
“Based on this spurious bomb threat, they locked up the gates and used Army trucks to block the roads and prevent access,” our sources revealed,” one of our sources said.
They reportedly met subsequently to review their strategy and agreed to fully implement the order from the Presidency to shut down the courts.
The source said, “In fact now, soldiers have also been stationed outside the capital Ado Ekiti to man other court premises in what is a total clampdown on the judiciary. This gangsterism against the judiciary portends great danger and only the judiciary can put an end to it.”
Mr. Lakanu confirmed the continued closure of the court premises until October 16 to PREMIUM TIMES, but refused to say who gave the order.
“Yes, it (court) will remain shut until October 15 or 16. I’m presently there,” he told this newspaper in a telephone interview Thursday evening.
On who gave the order, Mr. Lakanu said, “That I cannot be able to speak.”
The Commissioner debunked claims that the police action was in anyway tampering with the jurisdiction of the judiciary, saying “I am not working at the court.”
Repeated efforts to speak with officials of the Ekiti State chapter of the PDP were not successful as the Chairman, Makanjuola Ogundipe and the Secretary refused to answer or return repeated calls to their mobile telephones.
However, the APC Chairman in the state, Jide Awe said the police and the military, by their action, were flouting the directive of the NJC.
“The headquarters of the courts has been sealed off even though NJC gave an order that court should resume,” Mr. Awe told PREMIUM TIMES on telephone Thursday evening.
“The courts have been sealed off and the military are now there, but we don’t know on whose orders.
“It is lamentable. If the president is our Commander-in-Chief, then your information may be true. As far as we are concerned we don’t know on whose orders.
“A president who knows the rule of law and the importance of the judiciary should know the implications of what is happening. What we are experiencing is in abeyance with the rule of law.
“It is not good for the entire country, not only Ekiti. People that are aggrieved should be allowed to go to court and be heard. They beat judges up, tore their suits, scatter their offices. Even Jesus Christ was humble in the way he treated the Pilate how much more a mortal of the 21st century.”
Olayinka Olabode, the media aide to the outgoing governor, told PREMIUM TIMES that though the government was not aware who ordered the continued closure of the courts, the action of the police had been funny.
“Although we cannot say who gave the order, we know the police are behaving funny as far as that issue of the court is concerned.”
The Special Adviser to the President on Media, Reuben Abati, did not answer or return calls made to him Friday morning.