By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday ordered security agencies in the country to provide maximum security to the gubernatorial candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mr. Murtala Ajaka.
Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo issued the order while delivering ruling in an ex-parte application made before him by the governorship flagbearer.
The affected security agencies, which include the Chief of Defence Staff, Army, Navy, Department of State Services (DSS), and Police, are by the order to guarantee the safety of the SDP candidate, pending the hearing of a suit filed before the court.
The order was sequel to the ex-parte application dated and filed on July 11 which sought a restraining order against the security agencies from arresting, inviting, detaining or threatening the applicant’s life and property pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
Defendants in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/952/2023, are the the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, the Inspector General (IG) of Police, Commissioner of Police (Kogi State), DSS, Director General of DSS, Director DSS (Kogi State) Commandant General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Naval Staff as 1st to 11th respondents respectively.
Justice Ekwo after reading the affidavit deposed to by Ajaka in support of the motion, as well as the submissions of his lawyer, Mr. Sunday Aruwa, SAN, held that the request of the applicant was meritorious and accordingly granted it as prayed.
“An Order is hereby made restraining the respondents, their agents, servants and anybody acting through or under them from arresting, inviting, detaining or threatening the applicant’s life and property pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
“An Order is hereby made compelling the 2nd – 11th respondents to immediately provide maximum security to the applicant in Abuja FCT, Kogi State and elsewhere in Nigeria pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit”, the judge ruled.
Before adjourning to July 21 for hearing, the court ordered the applicant to serve the respondents with all the processes in this suit together with the Order of Court.
Before the court’s order on Thursday, Ajaka had earlier petitioned Governor Yahaya Bello to the IG, Mr Olukayode Egbetokun over alleged threat to his life as well as members of his family.
In the petition dated July 12 and written on his behalf by his lawyer, Chief Femi Falana, SAN, the SDP candidate accused Bello of “using his executive powers” to “lunch series of violent attacks” on him and his political party and his teeming supporters.
According to Falana, “Our client’s brief is that since he was nominated by his party as its candidate for the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi State, the State Governor, ALHAJI YAHAYA BELLO has taken it upon himself to ensure that our client, his political party and supporters would not enjoy peace in Kogi State or be allowed to exercise their fundamental rights of peaceful assembly and association”.
While describing Bello’s action as illegal and unlawful, Falana stated that his client has become a victim of unwarranted harassment, intimidation and cheap blackmail.
“For instance, while on a thank you tour of the state on June 3, 2023, our client was attacked along with his team of supporters at about 12.30 pm after visiting the palace of His Royal Highness, the Ohimege of Koton-Karfi.
The dastardly attack took place while our client and his supporters were returning to Lokoja around the Banda Nataco Axis. Our Client’s convoy was attacked by armed gun men who were dressed in police uniform in official vehicles of the Kogi State Government.
“Life bullets were sporadically fired directly at our client with the sole intent to assassinate him. While our client was lucky, some of his supporters were seriously injured and were rushed to the hospital where they were treated for different degrees of bullet wounds.
“It is worthy to note that shortly after this incident the Governor of Kogi State addressed his supporters on this incident wherein he referred to himself as a Lion returning to his jungle and our client as an antelope that crossed the part of the lion and threatened to deal with our client the next time he crosses his part.
Falana told the IG that Ajaka subsequently petitioned the Commissioner of Police in Kogi State and requested that the matter be investigated but rather than carry out an investigation of the said incident, Ajaka is now being hunted around Abuja by the State Governor, adding that Bello has dispatched a team of police officers to arrest him and forcefully take him to Lokoja on trumped up charges of terrorism and treasonable felony.
To this extent, Falana said that the police should intervene and accord the Ajaka the constitutional protection of his right to vote and be voted for.
“In view of the foregoing, we urge you to cause an investigation into the allegations of threat to the life of our client, attacks on him and his clients, trumped up charges of terrorism and treasonable felony.
“We further demand that you direct the immediate demobilization of all armed thugs and killer squads set up by the State Government to intimidate the perceived political opponents of Governor Bello.
“Meanwhile, you may wish to direct the Commissioner of Police Kogi State to caution his men and officers from allowing themselves to be used as tools for political oppression of opposition political parties in the state and in particular our client and his supporters”, Falana added.