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CRIWA protest invasion of IPMAN office by armed policemen

There was a mild drama on Tuesday morning as armed policemen invaded the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria Cross River State Chapter (IPMAN).

This action led to protest by the Cross River State Indigenous Depot Workers Association (CRIWA) who carry out various banners with the inscription Police stop oppressing us, Commissioner of police leave us alone, Edet Umanah stop go to Akwa Ibom.

Speaking to our Correspondent in the presence of stern-looking policemen who threaten Journalist to leave the place that they are under the directive of the Federal Government, the State Chairman of (IPMAN)
Robert Obi said the Nigerian Police are disobeying a Court order restraining them from carrying out any action against IPMAN.

Also speaking the Special Adviser to Governor Ben Ayade on Petroleum Peter Abang Okim said whatever judgment the police are enforcing the State will not accept any other person to be Chairman of IPMAN in Calabar except he is an indigen of Cross River State.

A legal practitioner to Cross River State IPMAN Daniel Mgbe told our correspondent that top police officers in Abuja are fueling the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, leadership crisis in the southeast zone.

South-East zone of IPMAN comprises Enugu, Aba, Rivers and Calabar with over 40 depots and 1, 000 petrol stations with about 2, 000 members.

Recall that the zone has been factionlised between Obasi Lawson and Chinedu Okoronkwo both from Abia state since 2015 over who is the authentic national president of IPMAN. Sanusi Fari was Lawson’s deputy national president of IPMAN.

Investigations by our correspondent have revealed that some top echelon of police have discreetly aligned themselves to an Okoronkwo-led factional IPMAN leadership who are bent on taking control of the association within the zone.

But the Supreme Court had in a judgment in Suit No SC/15/2018 delivered on December 14, 2018, and its subsequent interpretation by Federal High Court Calabar dated June 19, 2019, recognised automatic succession of the Deputy National President, Sanusi Abdu Fari, as National President of IPMAN, based on 1997 constitution of the association as against of one Chinedu Okoronkwo.

Read also: Petroleum crisis looms in South-East as IPMAN withdraws services

Following that judgements, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had in a letter dated January 4, 2019 and sent to Rivers IPMAN Chairman led by Richard Orianwo, acknowledged and congratulated Alh Sanusi Fari as the president of IPMAN following Supreme Court judgment.

He, therefore, advised, “the association and all parties to abide by the Supreme Court and the Federal High Court interpretation on the matter and condemned any acts of contempt of court and the attendant proactive disputes that are escalating tensions and violence in the hist community and thus threatening lives and property by any member or organ of IPMAN.” This letter was also copied to Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo for attention.

In the same vein, the Hon Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timire Sylva, in a letter dated January 27, 2020, congratulated Engr Sanusi Abdu Fari and promised to work with the new leadership.

The letter read in part: “The judgements of the Federal High Court, Calabar dated June 19, 2019 as to the tenure of the erstwhile National president, Obasi Lawson, and the automatic succession of the deputy national president, Alh Sanusi Abdu Fari, as the National President, is further noted.”

Even the legal department of Inspector-General of Police headed by CP Daso Oruebo had advised police to recognise the leadership of Alh Fari and withdraw from the occupation of the national secretariat in Abuja in compliance with the court orders which incidentally should be extended to other branches having emerged from the same process.

However, despite these, officers on the order DIG Egbunike have set up a team of officers loyal to him and they have continued to terrorise and invade IPMAN officers in this zone and in the process attempting to dethrone constituted leadership.

In a letter he wrote to the Commissioner of Police, Department of Finance and Administration, State Command Headquarters, Port Harcourt, and dated July 23, 2021, Egbunike had advised the command “to give effect to the Supreme Court judgment by ensuring that the parties favoured by the judgment are five areas to IPMAN office and adequate security provided to maintain peace and order.”

A closer look at the letter showed that DIG Egbunike refused to mention the beneficiary of the judgment, Alh Sanusi Abdu Fari as the new National President and other branches chairman in the same league with Fari, thereby creating room for misinterpretation and subsequent confusion.

A source close to police headquarters confided in our correspondent that DIG Egbunikebis not working alone as they are other officers who are discreetly benefiting financially from the crisis.

The source said writing such a letter without referring to the names of the beneficiaries is tantamount to undermining the Supreme Court judgment and Calabar Federal High Court interpretation.

Following the latest invasion,
Calabar Depot chairman of IPMAN, Robert Obi, said it is becoming a habit by the police to not only harass the leadership and attempt to impose a factional leadership even when the issues cornering who is the authentic chairman and national president have been settled by the Supreme Court.

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