At about 7:00 AM today Tuesday, the 9th day of January 2024, policemen invaded and laid siege on the private residence of Mrs. Chioma Edoka Okoli located at Sangotedo in Lagos State.
Chioma Okoli was previously arrested and detained in September 2023 over her review of a tomato product manufactured by Erisco Foods Limited.
A team of policemen from Abuja who claim to be acting on the orders of the Inspector General of Police to re-arrest my client refused to serve us with a court order authorizing them to do so. The team from Abuja is being supported by policemen from the Ajiwe Police Station in Ajah.
The initial team that arrived at her residence called for a reinforcement after we demanded to see the court order authorizing them to rearrest her. They are currently trying to break into her house where she lives with her baby.
This latest attack on Chioma is in connection with the ongoing case between my client and the police on the instigation of Erisco Foods Limited and its founder, Chief Eric Umeofia.
The police had secretly filed a “charge” against Chioma at the Federal High Court in Abuja instead of Lagos where the case arose. The charge is pending before Hon. Justice A. R Mohammed. I later got wind of their plot after a tip-off.
When the case filed by the police in Abuja came up on 7th December 2023, the police counsel informed the court that they were unable to serve my client with the charge (this is not accurate as no attempt was made in this regard).
The police counsel then applied for an adjournment for them to file a motion to enable them serve my client with the charge through substituted means. Justice Mohammed granted the application and adjourned the case to Wednesday, 10th January, 2024 for hearing of the motion.
We are astonished that the police would turn around today to invade the residence of my client and harass her and her baby without recourse to the court where the charge is currently pending.
My client has not been served with any charge, summons or arraignment notice as required by law. The case before the court and is coming up tomorrow, 10th January, 2024 for the hearing of the motion the police said they would file to secure a court order to serve my client with their “charge” and accompanying documents.
The team leader told me over the phone that he a DSP and that he has four ASPs with him and other police officers. He also told me that the PSO to the IGP spoke with him directly and that he cannot disobey the order of the IGP despite the court order barring the police from re-arresting my client.
How can the IGP issue a directive to overrule the subsisting order of a court of competent jurisdiction? Is this how we want to develop our country?
Attached is a subsisting order of the Federal High Court in Lagos made on the 8th day of November, 2023 by Hon. Justice Bogoro in the fundamental rights suit we filed restraining the IGP and the Nigeria Police Force from arresting, rearresting or detaining my client; except on the express order of a court of competent jurisdiction if she is served with a summons or arraignment notice and she fails to appear in it.
We emphasize again that no charge, summons or arraignment notice has been served on Chioma.
The police has not appealed against the restraining order and the order has not been vacated.
It is a sad commentary that the Nigeria Police is beginning the year on a note of lawlessness. I condemn this reckless act of impunity. I call on the IGP to abide by the rule of law and direct his officers to allow the court to handle the case in line with due process.
My client is presumed innocent of any charge filed against her by virtue of Section 36 (5) of the 1999 Constitution.
This is an action that can only be tolerated in a banana republic.
INIBEHE EFFIONG, ESQ.
(Lead Counsel to Chioma).