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Court orders police to vacate IPMAN offices in Abuja, eastern zone

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A Federal High Court sitting in Calabar has ordered the Nigeria Police to vacate the secretariats of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) in Abuja and the Eastern zone, describing their action as illegal and an abuse of power.

In an originating summons filed by Daniel Mgbe, on behalf of the plaintiffs, including Sanusi Fari, Chidi Nnubia, Peter Okoye and seven others, had sought for among others, a declaration that the continued siege on IPMAN national secretariat by police operatives claiming to be acting on the instructions of the attorney-general of the federation, inspector general of police and deputy inspector general of police, Force, CID Abuja, and forcible removal of Sanusi Fari and his executive from legitimate offices as president on July 5, 2021, as unlawful, unconstitutional and null and void.

The association further sought an order of the court to compel the Nigeria Police to vacate the national secretariat of IPMAN in Abuja to allow the Sanusi Fari-led executive possession and re-entering to continue their legitimate functions. The plaintiffs also sought an order compelling the police to vacate the IPMAN offices in Port Harcourt and Enugu.

Delivering judgment on Thursday, April 7, 2022, in Suit No: FH/CA/CS/69/2020 between Sanusi Abdul Fari, nine others and the Nigeria Police and 20 others, the presiding judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, pronounced that the Nigeria Police lacked the powers to forcefully occupy IPMAN offices on the grounds that they are interpreting court judgment, neither do they have the powers to carry out the execution without a valid court order.

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Justice Ojukwu further stated that the police’s occupation of IPMAN offices was not in tandem with the Supreme Court judgment in Suit No: which had already been interpreted in Suit No: FHC/CA/CS/3-2019, saying “their occupation of national headquarters or unit offices of IPMAN was not occasioned by the decision of the Supreme Court as that issue was not determined or pronounced upon by the apex court.”

The court held that “it does not lie with the police to arbitrarily enforce court order without an order of the court giving them such impetus as section 15 of the Sheriffs and Civil Processes Act does not donate such powers,” but rather states “that it shall be the duty of the police to assist in the execution of processes of the court, usually in giving protective cover to the bailiffs of the court.’

Reacting, the counsel to IPMAN, Daniel E. Mgbe, said with this judgment, “the legal tussle between factions of the IPMAN has been put to rest as the unlawful eviction of the IPMAN executives by the police in Enugu, Port Harcourt, Aba, Bayelsa, Makurdi and Calabar has been found to have no basis in law.”