…..calls for investigation, prosecution of invaders
The National Executive Committee (NECOM) of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), headed by High Chief Tony Iju Nwabunike has petitioned the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, seeking the arrest and prosecution of some expelled members accused of continuously fomenting trouble against the association and unlawful break-ins of its national secretariat.
The association in a letter addressed to the IGP through its lawyer, D. A Awosika and signed by Romeo Ese Michael, ESQ, implored the police chief to immediately conduct investigation into the invasion and illegal take-over of its secretariat on Wednesday, August 24, 2022, by the said expelled members with some hoodlums and police officers who were shooting into the air in a video.
ANLCA requested that the following persons: Taiwo Mustapha, Taiye Oyeniyi, John Offordike, Elder Samuel Obe, Gideon Nwagbaraocha, Amope Oluokun, Yetunde Ilori, Mike Okolichi, Charlie Jefas, be brought to book to serve as deterrence to others, as well as the police officers involved in the unlawful exercise.
The concerned parties have a pending case in court with suit No: FHC/L/CS/921/2020 between Obokun Freight Forwarders Limited & 3 Ors v. Registered Trustees of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) & 29 Ors. The originating case however dates back to 2018, with suit No: FHC/L/CS/1274/2018.
The letter to the IGP titled “RE: STATUS OF COURT CASES AND THE INVASION AND SEALING OF THE NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN LICENSED CUSTOMS AGENTS and dated August 26, 2022 requested that he intervenes and direct the suspects to immediately vacate the secretariat to enable legitimate occupants have access to it, as there was no court order which empowered them to take over the secretariat and chasing away the constituted National Executives Committee (NECOM).
The letter read in part: “We are Solicitors and Legal Consultants to the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA) herein-after referred to as “our Client” and we have strict instruction to write this letter.
“Our client is an Association duly registered under “Part C” of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) with the Corporate Affairs Commission. She was formed solely for the protection and welfare of her members. Our client has various organs stemming from its Trustees, up to Grand patron/matron. It is a fact that our client being an Association which was composed of various units for its smooth daily running towards achieving its objectives and set goals.
“Towards its achieving and furthering the association’s aims and objectives, our client’s association currently has Board of Trustees as well as the National Executive Council which on daily basis pilots the affairs of the Association in line with its constitutional mandates as well as in conformity with CAMA. There has been series of cases, some members of our clients have instituted actions/suits in courts owing to one reason or the other. Some persons have been fomenting trouble and causing disunity in the association.
“The persons are: (a) Taiwo Mustapha of Pyramid Associates Limited; (b) Prince Taiye Oyeniyi of Mackmarry Nig Ltd; (c) Dennis Okafor of Denca services Limited; (d) Dayo Azeez of Mambilla shipping ltd; (e) Earnest Elochukwu of Nestelo Global Ltd; (f) Chief Peter Obi, Skysail Nig. Itd; (g)John Offorbike of Salim Nig. Itd and (h) Gideon Nwagbaraocha of Gidugo Nig. Itd.
“Sometimes on 13th February, 2014, the persons mentioned above (A-F) were elected and subsequently appointed as Board of Trustees members of ANLCA by virtue of Section 13 (6) of ANLCA’S constitution as amended for a tenure of 6 years to elapse of 12th February 2020, to appoint and elect new (9) Nine members of the Board of Trustees of ANLCA.
“An action was commenced with Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1274/2018-between Sky Sail Nigeria Limited & Anor. V. Registered Trustees of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents &Ors. Before Hon. Justice R. M. Aikawa. Their election and appointment as Board of Trustees of ANLCA of A,C,D,E was challenged. On 11th of October, 2019, the court declared their election and appointment of 4 persons out of 9 as illegal, null and void. This suit was in favour of our client. Another case that was filed was Suit No: FHC/L/CS/921/2020 between Olumide Fakanlu of Obokun Freight Forwarders Limited & 3 Ors. V. Registered Trustees of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents & 29 Ors.
“Our clients (The National Officers saddle with day to day running of the association) were sued as 2nd – 24th Defendants which was formerly before Honourable Justice Aikawa but now pending before Honourable Justice D. E. Osiagor of the Federal High Court Lagos.
“The dissident groups who are causing trouble in our client’s association approached the court falsely misrepresented facts before the court relying on the judgment in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1274/2018 upon which judgment was given in favour of our client urging the court to restrain our clients from signing letters or acting as officials of ANLCA. An interim Order which lasted for Fourteen (14) days was obtained by them albeit by misrepresentation of facts to the court.
“Upon our Clients being served with the Originating Process and the Interim Order of Injunction made on the 26th of August, 2020, we filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Court. The application dated 22nd of July, 2021 which is still pending for the determination of the Court is praying the Court to strike out/dismiss the suit for being incompetent ab initio as the Court lacks the vires to entertain the suit in its entirety”.
“We are also praying the Court for an Order to set aside or discharge the said interim order same having been improperly obtained. The Application is also seeking an Order to restrain the enforcement of the said interim order pending the hearing and determination of our Notice of Preliminary Objection”.
According to the association, the basis for its objection before the Court is the fact that the Plaintiffs in the aforementioned case surreptitiously approached the Federal High Court for reliefs but failed to disclose in their Originating Summons that they were not parties to the Judgment delivered in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1274/2018-between Sky Sail Nigeria Limited & Anor. V. Registered Trustees of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents & Ors. which they are seeking to enforce and take benefit of in the extant suit before Justice Aikawa.
ANLCA disclosed that it also stated before the Court that the said interim order breached the association’s right to fair hearing as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and no urgency necessitated the filing of same.
The letter continued: “It should be noted that the outcome of our Notice of Preliminary Objection is still pending before the Court and the law is trite with regards to the role of parties to respect the sanctity of the Court where an application is pending before the Court for determination and not to take any act that will prejudice or preempt the outcome of the application submitted to the Court. We commend you to the decision in the case of Ojukwu v Military Governor of Lagos (1986) LPELR-3186.
“From our knowledge and participation in the above stated suit, the Court per Honourable Justice Aikawa over a year ago on the 26th of August, 2020 granted an interim injunction premised on an Ex Parte Application against our Clients and other Defendants pending the hearing and determination of the motion for interlocutory application.
“The law and Rules of Court are clear on the short duration of an interim injunction which is Fourteen (14) days and the fact that an interim injunction cannot exist indefinitely. Thus, it is our position assuming without conceding that the said interim injunction was correctly made, same has become spent. We commend you to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Titilayo Plastic Industries Ltd &Ors. V Fagbola (2019) LPELR-47606. It should be noted that our case law is replete with authorities that an interim injunction can be varied or discharged by the Court who made it.
“Additionally, the above suit came up on the 14th day of July, 2022 and parties informed the court of their settlement and the suit was adjourned to 29th of September, 2022 for Report of settlement/Hearing. In the same vein, the dissident group mentioned earlier went to court in suit No: FHC/L/CS/599/2020 between Taiwo Mustapha of PYRAMID ASSOCIATES LIMITED & 5 ORS. V. ANLCA, CORPORATES AFFAIRS & 4 ORS. The suit was assigned to Hon. Justice 0.0 Oguntoyinbo. The suit was an upshot of the Judgment in Sky Sail Nigeria Limited & Anor. V. Registered Trustees of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents & Ors.
“The Plaintiffs in that suit purportedly obtained an Interim Order of court on the 29th of June, 2020 which lasted for a period of 14 days. Upon service on our client, we filed an Application for stay of proceedings to enable parties’ resort to Arbitration which the Plaintiffs ought to have done. On the 2nd day of February 2022, the new judge handling the matter, Hon. Justice P.O. Lifu granted our client’s Application challenging the jurisdiction of the court by directing parties to go for an Arbitration before having access to the court.
“The persons causing trouble in our client’s association have failed to disclose this to the public and they persist in continuing to cause chaos by falsely misrepresenting facts to the Nigeria Police through your good self and other Law enforcement Agencies.
“Surprisingly, all our client’s constituted Executives and Organs running the affairs of the Association had a meeting in Abuja on the 16th of February, 2022; whilst in the meeting they were informed that Taiwo Mustapha, Taiye Oyeniyi, John Offorbike, Elder Samuel Obe, Gideon Nwagbaraocha, Amope Oluokun, Yetunde Ilori, Charlie Jefas and Mike Okolichi acting in concert with hoodlums led by a street urchins named Rilwan Amuni a.k.a June 12, Azubuike Harrison a.k.a Big Fish, invaded our client’s secretariat in Lagos purporting to be executing the said expired interim Order of court that was granted on the 26th day of August, 2020 for an Injunction which does not confer any benefit to them whatsoever.
“Our clients hurriedly returned to Lagos and when those persons were confronted, they were informed that your office (Office of the Inspector General of Police) granted them an order to take over the secretariat. During the taking over of the secretariat by these hoodlums, they beat up our client’s staff inclusive of four (4) National Youth Service Corp members posted to our client’s office, carted away important and confidential documents and sealed the place. It is our position that if it is true these persons sought your office’s permission to invade our client’s secretariat, they had misrepresented facts before you to enable them obtain an illegal order from your office.
“Based on this illicit act, we reported this matter to the Assistant Inspector General of Police’s Office, Zone 2, Onikan, Lagos. In treating our complaint, your officers attached to AIG Office, Zone 2, Onikan, Lagos carried out their investigation and upon conclusion and realization of the truth, they in their wisdom ordered them to immediately vacate the secretariat and sternly warned the suspects to desist from taken laws into their own hands and advised to wait for the outcome of matters in court.
“Rather than yielding to your officers’ advice and the outcome of all the actions pending before the court, the persons mentioned above staged another invasion of our Client’s secretariat for the umpteenth time on the 24th August, 2022 and forcefully chased our Client out of the secretariat in a bid to unseat the leadership of the association by force and self-help based on the directives and approval granted by the Commissioner of Police Lagos to request made by the same dissidents group for police backed for a meeting within our client premises.
“It will interest to note that the suspects were again led by Taiwo Mustapha who gained entrance into the secretariat at around 11:15am and claimed to be ready to be set to inaugurate care – taker committee to run the association in breach of peace as their action has incited chaos and pandemonium amidst members.
“It is pertinent to place it on record that the purported order they may be relying on has since expired as same was valid for a period of 14 days. Again, there is nothing in the said Order empowering them to take over the secretariat of our clients, as the Order cannot be executed in law.
“Assuming without conceding that the order is still subsisting and there is disobedience to the Order, the only means in law at which to enforce the order is not by taking over the secretariat of the office but by applying to the court for issuance of Forms 48 & 49 under the Sheriffs and Civil Processes Act to commence committal proceedings by sending the disobedient persons to prison.
“We want to state that the invasion of our client’s secretariat on the 24th August, 2022 was illegal, unlawful and contemptuous of the judicial powers of the court. It would interest you to also know that the court has not entered judgment as the suit is still subsisting and these persons have hoodwinked your office illegally to enforce a dead order of court”.
The association pointed out that Police should not be used as an instrument of divide in the circumstances of the case and to enforce illegality, while asking that the rule of law be upheld in the interest of justice.
The petitioner further implored the police IG not to kowtow to the illegal requests or plea of the dissident groups and their members and to always accord it priority as the legitimate Executive organs of the ANLCA.
It added that any member of the association who feels aggrieved should be implored to wait for the outcome of the many cases pending before the Courts.
The letter also copied the Attorney General of Justice of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
When JournalNG contacted the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for the Lagos State Police Command, SP Benjamin Hundeyin on the alleged involvement of officers in the reported invasion, he denied knowing anything about it.
“I don’t have any report of such and we are not in the habit of attaching policemen to thugs”, he said.
“The only time we attach police to people is when there is a Court order; then police would join court bailiffs in the execution of that order. Apart from that, we don’t attach police to thugs or civilians, or people with questionable character.
“Specifically speaking, this particular case, I know nothing about it. It has not been brought to my attention, and I want to hope that the people involved have actually complained to the police so that it can be looked into,” Hundeyin said.