A woman, who had been thrown into widowhood by the violence in Rivers State, Wednesday, pleaded for assistance from the Rivers State government for the upkeep of her four children.
Akoghe Caleb-Ahmed, an official of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, said her husband was fatally shot by unknown gunmen three weeks before the March 28th presidential election.
“I was pleading with the people, that I don’t want to be a young widow,” Mrs. Caleb-Ahmed told a Commission of Inquiry probing politically-motivated killings and destruction of properties in the state.
“They said my husband is an APC (All Progressives Congress) member. I said ‘please please, he will not do again.’ Before I can finish, they have shoot (sic) down in the room.”
Mrs. Caleb-Ahmed, a native of Emoh in Abua/Odual local government, said her husband left behind four children – 11, 8, 4, and 2 year olds – who are all in school.
“I’m afraid for my life because what I see (sic) that day was terrible. I don’t recognise their faces but they were not wearing masks. They were just wearing face caps.”
Her testimony came two days after another woman, Ruth Orukwowu, gave evidence about how gunmen shot and killed her husband at a polling unit on the day of the gubernatorial election in the state.
Mrs. Orukwowu, 41, said she is now left with seven children – the oldest is 18 years old while the youngest is 11 years – to cater for.
Six witnesses narrated to the Commission tales of arson, assaults, and murder before and during the general election.
Also testifying before the Commission on Wednesday, Augustine Wokocha, the state Commissioner for Power, said his house and that of his Special Assistant in ONELGA were burnt down by suspected PDP thugs.
“The attackers marched to my house chanting ‘PDP, power. No more APC,’” Mr. Wokocha said.
“When they were marching to my house, people from the community called me on the phone. I quickly called the JTF Commander who told me he was on his way to Port Harcourt. I called the DPO who also told me he was on his way to Port Harcourt.
“But after the attack, they (JTF Commander and DPO) found their way to my house to count the bullets the hoodlums expended.”
Mr. Wokocha said that violence in ONELGA (Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area) had moved from commercial to political.
He said his mother, Lucy, 67, was killed by kidnappers in 2010 due to “a commercial transaction gone wrong.”
“My community is deserted actually; Okposi community. Since last two weeks, not less than five other persons have been killed.”
The incidents are part of a wave of violent killings and arson that swept across Rivers State in the run up to and during the 2015 general elections.
Last month, Governor Rotimi Amaechi instituted a Commission of Inquiry to probe alleged politically-motivated killings and destruction of properties in Rivers State.
But the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, in the state obtained an interim order from the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, restraining the Commission from going ahead with the probe.
On Monday, Emmanuel Aguma, counsel to the PDP, sought to draw the Commission’s attention to the court order.
Chidi Odinkalu, the head of the Commission, suggested that since his panel was just seeing the court order, they would fix Wednesday to listen to counsels’ arguments and judicial authorities on the issue.
But the PDP’s lawyer refused and said he’d rather attend the proceedings on Wednesday for the argument.
On Wednesday, Mr. Aguma did not turn up at the Inquiry.
B.E.I Nwofor, counsel to the Rivers State governor and representative of the State Attorney-General, addressed the Commission on the ex-parte order produced by Mr. Aguma.
Mr. Nwofor drew the attention of the Commission to the instrument by which the Commission was set up.
“Looking at the first paragraph: In line 5 thereof that his Excellency first action was that he constituted and appointed a Commission of Inquiry,” said Mr. Nwofor, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“Secondly, I submit that this Commission of Inquiry is, in law, a separate and distinct legal entity on its own having regards to the law under which it was set up, that is the Rivers State Commission of Inquiry Law cap 30, particularly Section 2(1).
“Having said that, I will go further to still refer to the instrument constituting this Commission, in paragraph 2, ‘and for this purpose I appoint’ and seven names were listed. The names listed in that paragraph are merely chairman and members of that entity called Commission of Inquiry.
“If it were not so, I humbly submit, then there will be no point in calling them members of the Commission. The Commission is a separate entity. If the Commission is not in existence, you cannot by any stretch of the imagination, you cannot be chairman or members of a non-existent entity.
“The purported order produced from the bar by E.C Aguma, counsel to the PDP…. Looking at the first page of that order, you will see that the parties are PDP designated as applicants and Professor Chidi Odinkalu, Samuel Egbe, and other members of the Commission, the state governor, the Nigerian Police, and others.
“My submission is that the parties in the suit in which this interim order was obtained does not include the Commission of Inquiry as a separate and distinct body. Looking at the representative capacity, you will see that the PDP formulated the following words: “for themselves and as Chairman and members of the Commission.”
“I submit that this is not a suit against the Commission as a separate juristic body. An order of court is only binding on the parties in a suit, according to a Supreme Court decision.”
Mr. Nwofor cited a Supreme Court decision which read: “A court of law has no power to make an order against the interest of a person who is not before it as such an order is not binding on the party.”
He insisted that the suit at the Federal High Court did not include the name of the Commission and yet the order is seeking to stop the Commission.
“It is a fatal error on their (PDP) part to have failed to include the Commission of Inquiry.”
He further stated that the court’s interim order mentioned that it was restraining the ‘Commission of Inquiry’ who is not a party to the suit.
“The Commission is a separate body, it is existing in law before you appoint chairman or any member of it,” Mr. Nwofor said.
The Senior Advocate cited another Supreme Court authority which read: “The only reason for making a person party to an action is so the person is bound by the order of an action.”
He said Mr. Aguma wrote a letter to the Commission without copying his client.
“Page one of that letter says: ‘The instruction of our client is that we bring to the attention of the Commission to the existence of a court order…’
“This is a clear and unmistakeable admission that the Commission exists. The truth staring us in the face is that the Commission is not a party in the suit and so cannot stop sitting.”
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