The Chief Judge of Ekiti State, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, has tabled before the National Judicial Council ahead of the council’s meeting scheduled for Thursday, a petition accusing the state’s Governor-elect, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, and the police of complicity in the attack on judges and court workers in the state last week.
A copy of the September 26, 2014 petition addressed to the Ekiti State Commissioner of Police of which was also attached to a covering letter sent to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar, as the Chairman of the NJC, was exclusively obtained by The PUNCH from a police source in Ado-Ekiti on Tuesday.
The covering letter sent to the Chief Judge was learnt to have been dated September 29.
Justice Daramola, in his petition to both the NJC and the Ekiti State Commissioner of Police, accused Fayose of leading a large number of thugs, who disrupted court proceedings, beat up judges and court workers and also tore court records.
He also accused the policemen and other law enforcement agents deployed within and outside the court premises of “looking on completely uninterested and unconcerned” while the attacks by the thugs on the court workers and users lasted.
The Chief Judge justified the closure of the courts in the state after the mayhem, an action which he said was to avert “looming danger within the premises of the High Court of Ekiti State” after the police officers “posted to guard and protect the integrity of the court and its personnel have failed us and left us at the mercy of political hoodlums”.
It was also learnt on Tuesday that Fayose had through, his lawyers, sent a separate petition to the NJC, alleging that the Justices of the Governorship Election Tribunal, sitting in Ado-Ekiti High Court headquarters had received bribe.
Fayose alleged that the panel members had been bribed by Governor Kayode Fayemi and the All Progressives Congress to rule against him on September 25, when the court proceedings were disrupted by thugs allegedly loyal to him.
Fayose led thugs to court
But the Chief Judge, in the petitions both entitled, ‘Ekiti State Judiciary under siege of political thugs,’ chronicled the invasion of the court premises in Ado-Ekiti, by thugs between September 22 and September 24.
The petition read in part, “Now on Thursday, the 25th day of September, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, the governor-elect, again led thousands of people and thugs into the premises of the High Court beating and maiming members of staff.
“The thugs invaded my court where I was to deliver a judgment in a land matter, tore the record books, beat court officials and vandalized the furniture in Court No. 1.
“The political thugs descended on Hon. Justice J. A Adeyeye, the presiding judge in Court No. 3 beat and dragged him on the ground. The judge’s suit was also torn into shreds. I could not gain entrance into the premises of the court and had to hurriedly turn back on being alerted that I was the prime target of the hooligans.”
Justice Daramola said the attack on the court on September 25 was preceded by a similar siege on the court premises on September 22, when thugs allegedly loyal to Fayose disrupted court proceedings apparently to avert the delivery of a ruling which they suspected could go against the governor-elect.
The plaintiffs in the suit are challenging Fayose’s eligibility to contest the governorship election.
The CJ said he was at the Supreme Court in Abuja attending the special court session marking the commencement of the new legal year and the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on some lawyers when the violence first broke out on Monday, September 22.
A copy of the petition reads in part, “On Monday 22nd day of September, while I was attending the Supreme Court Special sitting in Abuja, I was called on phone that thugs loyal to Mr. Ayodele Fayose have invaded the headquarters of the judiciary of Ekiti State where Hon. Justice I.O Ogunyemi was delivering a ruling on the matter instituted against him.
“The thugs beat workers black and blue while the presiding judge and lawyers had to run for their lives. They smashed windows and furniture. Meanwhile, the policemen deployed within and without the premises in large number were looking on completely uninterested and unconcerned while these thugs were on prowl beating and maiming workers and court users.
“The thugs went on searching for the judge who ran into hiding. It took your (the Commissioner of Police) personal intervention when you were duly informed on phone to rush to the scene of the mayhem within the court premises to rescue the said judge and took him out into safety.”
According to him, from the events which followed that of September 22, it appears that the whole episode of violence was pre-planned.
His petition further read, “The above in the main was just the beginning of what would appear to be a pre-planned long siege and onslaughts on the court and its personnel.
“The political hoodlums showed again in large numbers on Tuesday, 23rd and Wednesday 24th of September, 2014 on the spurious ground that they came to listen to the ruling which they did not allow the presiding judge in Court No. 6 to deliver on Monday, September 22, 2014. No such ruling was slated for hearing since the thugs invaded the premises of the court on Monday.”
The Chief Judge said all entreaties to the police and law enforcement agencies to intervene in the mayhem yielded no positive response.
He stated, “It is needless to reiterate here that while the mayhem and attack on judges and staff and property of the court was in progress, scores of policemen and SSS (State Security Service) operatives posted to protect lives and property within the court premises looked on and watched without taking any step to save the situation.
“All entreaties to officers and men of Ekiti State Command to protect the court as an important institution of state yielded no positive response.”