Justice Daniel Osiagor of a Federal High Court in Lagos, on Wednesday, forbids the Labour Party (LP), its presidential candidate and supporters not to converge at the Lekki Toll Gate for its #Obi-Datti23 ‘Forward Ever’ Rally billed to hold on October 1, 2022.
Justice Osiagor also ordered the Inspector General of Police and the Lagos State Police Commissioner to ensure that the order of the court is obeyed by the defendants.
The court, however, held that while the rally cannot stop or converge at the Lekki toll gate, it can pass through the venue to access Falomo Bridge and other venues at which the rally plans to reach.
The judge made the orders while delivering a ruling on a motion for injunction brought by 10 plaintiffs, including nine lawyers, seeking to restrain the LP, its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, his running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, LP national chairman, Julius Abure, and their loyalists from holding the rally at the Lekki toll plaza.
An attempt by some of the defendants in the matter to stop the court ruling failed because their preliminary objection could not be entertained by the court, because all the parties to the suit had not been served.
Obi’s counsel, Alex Ejezenare (SAN), had urged the court to adjourn the case to enable him move his motion challenging the court’s jurisdiction.
But the plaintiffs’ counsel, Romeo Ese Michael, opposed him. He prayed the court not to toe the line of Ejezenare’s argument, adding that the business of the day was to hear the motion for interlocutory injunction which was ripe.
“The court cannot be waiting for a (defendants) motion which is yet to be served on all parties and cannot stall the business of today. Therefore I plead passionately for the court to hear our motion for injunction which is the business of today,” he submitted.
In a short ruling, the judge held that, “this motion was just filed yesterday (Tuesday) and it is not ripe, therefore it cannot truncate the business of today. It will be taken when it is ripe.”
Moving the application, Michael argued that Lagos State could not afford a repeat of what happened in 2020 at the Lekki toll gate.
“My lord, I wept when I was passing through Igbosere yesterday because of the destruction of Igbosere High court,” he added.
But counsel to respondents clarified that the rally was not to be held at the Lekki toll gate.
Ejezenare said the rally was scheduled to hold in Lagos on October 1 in four locations within Lagos, none of which include the Lekki toll gate.
In his ruling, Justice Osiagor held that the Labour Party had a right to hold its rally in four places with the exception of the Lekki toll gate.
“The 1st to 4th Respondents should not converge at the toll gate. They can pass through Falomo but not to assemble there,” the judge held.
Justice Osiagor, however, fixed November 4 to hear the substantive suit.
In the suit, the lawyers were arguing in their ex-parte motion that a repeat or celebration of the “infamous” EndSARS protest of 2020 under the political guise of “#Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally” will cause a breakdown of peace and will result in a post-traumatic stress disorder for them and the public.
The plaintiffs were, therefore, asking the court to, among others, restrain the LP, its presidential candidate Peter Obi, his vice Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, one Julius Abure, and their loyalists from holding the rally, until the hearing and determination of their Motion-On-Notice of September 12, 2022.
The plaintiffs are Adedotun Ajulo Esq., Salamatu Suleiman Lewi Esq., Hakeem Ijaduola, Esq., Ogunbona Akinpelu Esq., Owolabi K. Oluwasegun, Esq., Mogbojuri Kayode Esq., Wuyep Mantim Nadom Esq., Dimimu Mabel, Esq., Kolawole Salami, Esq. and Mr. Wale Abe Lawrence.
The first to tenth defendants in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1729/2022 are Obi, LP, Baba-Ahmed, Abure, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Commissioner of Police (Lagos State Command), Director-General (Department of State Services), Lekki Concession Company (LCC) Limited, Attorney-General of Lagos State and The Governor of Lagos State.
The plaintiffs are praying the court barred the LP, Obi, his running mate Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, one Julius Abure, and their loyalists from holding the rally, until the hearing and determination of their Motion-On-Notice of September 12, 2022.
They are also asking the court for an order of interim injunction restraining the first, second, third, and fourth defendants; their associates, and loyalists from conducting the scheduled END SARS Rally tagged as the “#Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally on the 1st of October, 2020 or any other subsequent date, at the Lekki Toll Gate until the hearing and determination of the Motion-On-Notice dated the 12 Day of September, 2022.
“An order of interim injunction restraining the first, second, third, and fourth defendants and their loyalists from further planning and promoting the Scheduled END SARS Rally tagged as the “#Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally”.
“An order of interim injunction restraining the fifth, sixth, and seventh Defendants from allowing or granting permissions to the first, second, third, and fourth Defendants, their agents, and the organizers of “#Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally” at the behest of the first, second, third and fourth Defendants from carrying out the said anniversary on the 1st of October, 2022 and any other subsequent date.
“An order of interim injunction restraining the eighth Defendant (LCC) from granting permission to the first, second, third, and fourth Defendants; their agents, privies, allies, and loyalists, to make use of the Lekki Toll Gate or any space under and within the control of the eighth Defendant for carrying out the said anniversary on the 1st of October, 2022 and any other subsequent date.
The Plaintiffs, by their Originating Summons filed on September 9, 2022, listed 12 grounds upon which the judge should grant their reliefs.
They include “that the actions of the supporters, agents, privies and loyalists of the first, second, third and fourth Defendants to conduct the scheduled rally tagged “#Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally” to hold on the 1 of October 2022 is contrary to Section 45(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as the actions of the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth Defendants by allowing the first, second, third and fourth Defendants amounts to an overreach in executive powers and a breach of statutory duties bestowed on them.
“That the first, second, third, and fourth Defendants, their agents, privies, allies, and loyalists have gone beyond the reach of their fundamental right to assembly as the scheduled rally tagged as “#Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally” is in contravention with the purports of Section 45(1) of the Constitution.
“That the fifth, sixth and seventh, Defendants are security agencies enacted by relevant statutes and have the sole duty and responsibility to maintain public safety, law, and order in the society at large.
“That the fifth, sixth, and seventh Defendants have failed to do their duties as required of them by the law by granting permission to the first, second, third, and fourth Defendants; their agents, privies, allies, and loyalists to conduct the scheduled rally tagged as “#Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally” on the 1st of October, 2022 at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“That the eighth Defendant is in gross breach of the purports of Section 38(2) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 to not donate its property to any political party or political association or for any political cause to which the 8 Defendant has failed forthwith.
“That the 9th and 10th Defendants, being constitutionally enacted offices, have statutorily bestowed duties and obligations to the general public to preserve and maintain law, public order, safety and also ensure compliance with the law to which they have failed forthwith.
“That the scheduled rally tagged as “#Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally” is to hold on the 1st of October, 2022 and failure to restrain the Defendants from the conduction of the said rally would amount to another display of great destruction to lives and properties as it ensued during the END SARS Protest of 2020.
“That a repeat or celebration of the said infamous END SARS protest of 2020 in this year 2022 under the political guise of “#Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally” will result in a total breakdown of peace and will result in a post-traumatic stress disorder for me and the other Plaintiffs, as well as some affected member of the public as same has generated major controversy on the social media with loyalist and members of other political camps, are equally threatening a rival rally at the same date and venue for convergence.”