Olu of Warri tussle: How armed thugs invaded court, chased out judge

By Shola O’Neil, Regional Editor, Port Harcourt and Elo Edremoda, Warri

A gale of condemnation has greeted Thursday’s invasion of the High Court of Justice, Warri by armed thugs.

The Nigerian Bar Association and human rights lawyer, Mr Oghenejabor Ikimi, denounced the protest as barbaric and contempt of court.

It will be recalled that thugs and women chanting war songs invaded the court where a suit challenging the emergence of Prince Tsola Emiko as Omoba was billed to commence.

Son of the immediate past Olu, Ogiame Ikenwoli, Prince Oyowoli Emiko, and his uncle, Prince Bernard Emiko and others, instituted the suit to challenge the emergence of the 37-year-old son of the Ogiame Atuwatse II (19th Olu) as Olu-designate.

“The court was listening to a case of ex parte motion for service when the pandemonium broke out. A date had not even been taken when the incident occurred and everybody scampered for safey,” a senior lawyer told our reporter.

Hon Justice V. Akpoje, the presiding judge, and Chief Efe Akpofure, SAN, were ferried into safety by officials of the Department of State Security (DSS) through the backdoor of the court.

It was gathered that prior to the invasion, Chief Akpofure (SAN), who is counsel to the plaintiff, had raised concerns about possible breach of peace in the premises, but was assured by a palace stakeholder, who is also a lawyer.

The Warri branch of the Nigerian Bar Association yesterday expressed shock over the invasion of the high court.

In a statement signed by the chairman of the branch, Chief Emmanuel Uti, and the Secretary, Joseph Omooseh, the NBA condemned the action by the protesters which disrupted court proceedings.

Judicial workers, litigants, lawyers, including a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) were reportedly chased out of the court premises.

Describing the act as “despicable and a desecration of the hallowed Temple of Justice,” the NBA called on the Inspector General of Police and other security agencies to commence investigation into the matter and bring the perpetrators to book.

The statement reads: “The officers and entire members of the Nigerian Bar Association Warri Branch received with shock and sadness the news of the unprovoked attack and invasion of the High Court of Justice, Warri by thugs/hoodlums, which led to the disruption of the court proceedings in the suit challenging the succession to the stool of the Olu of Warri Kingdom on 17th of June, 2021.

“From the reports available to us, the proceedings were going on peacefully until it took a new twist when a crowd of thugs/hoodlums invaded the High Court of Justice 4, Warri, armed with dangerous weapons and chased away judicial staff, litigants, lawyers, including a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who was representing one of the parties, and disrupted the proceedings.

“The Nigerian Bar Association, Warri Branch, condemns in totality this unprovoked attack and barbaric behaviour by the hoodlums/thugs and therefore call on the Inspector General of Police, the Commissioner of Police, Delta State and the Director of State Security Services to immediately set up a team of investigators to unmask the perpetrators of this reprehensible act.

“We also call on the Security agencies to immediately set in motion measures to nip in the bud this ugly trend by providing adequate security in and around the court’s premises in Delta State, to prevent a reoccurrence of this ugly trend.

“We advise the players in the ongoing succession tussle to sheath their swords and allow peace and the law to take its full course, as we cannot afford to see our peaceful and loving Warri Kingdom engulfed by the flames of crisis.”

Speaking in the same vein, Oghenejabor Ikimi Esq, a human rights lawyer, described the invasion of the High Court as contempt, noting “that is not how to win a legal case,” even as he frowned at the perceived failure of prominent Itsekiri leaders to condemn the act.

Ikimi said the perpetrators might not be entirely of Itsekiri extraction, but could also include thugs and hoodlums from within and outside the area who were hired to disrupt proceedings.

He said: “The court is a solemn place and not one that should be invaded and disrupted by touts and thugs under any guise. What happened on Thursday is the height of lawlessness and it must be condemned by everyone.”

He expressed concern at the signal sent by those behind the action, stressing that their purported threat to deal with Chief Akpofure (SAN) could have instigated another tribal war in the Oil City, as the legal luminary’s kinsmen were already spoiling for war over the attack.

Reacting to the development, a community source claimed the people never disrupted the court proceedings.

“They did not disrupt court proceedings. The people were asking what the person who came to court was seeking justice for. The process which brought his father as king is the process that was followed to bring Prince Tsola Emiko as Olu-designate. So why go to court when the same process put your father there?”

Eldest son of Ogiame Ikenwoli, Prince Oyowoli and his uncle, Prince Bernard Emiko, younger brother to the immediate past Olu, had approached the court, seeking, among other things, the nullification of Prince Tsola as the Olu-designate of Warri Kingdom.

Final funeral rites for deceased Warri monarch begin in Delta

The final burial rites of the immediate past Olu of Warri, His Majesty Ogiame Ikenwoli, commenced yesterday with a commendation and funeral service at the Aghofen, in Warri South Local Government Area, Delta State.

The ceremony is scheduled to last for 14 days with lots of fun fare in Ode-Itsekiri, the ancestral home of the Itsekiri people.

The former Olu of Warri, often described as a man of peace, had passed on last December, barely a week after his fifth coronation anniversary.

His death was announced on April 5, followed by the unveiling of his successor, Prince Utieyinoritsetsola Emiko, son of the 19th Olu of Warri.

Renowned gospel preachers such as former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Papa Ayo Oritsejafor; Bishop of Church of God Mission, Warri, Curtis Fianu; General overseer of Foursquare Gospel Church, Rev. Sam Aboyeji, were present at the ceremony. The regent of Warri Kingdom, Prince Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, and some members of the Warri Traditional Council of Chiefs were also present at the occasion.

The chiefs who were present include Chief Gabriel Awala, Chief Brown Mene, Chief Dr. C. Ikomi, Chief Roland Oritsejafor, Chief Robinson Ariyo, Chief Kofi Kartey and Chief Michael Odeli among others.

In his biography, which was read by Prince Yemi Emiko, it was noted that Ogiame Ikenwoli ensured the “massive expansion and development” of Ode-Itsekiri.

In a brief sermon, Bishop Fianu harped on the need for everyone to “make good use of their lifetime”.

The sermon was followed by prayers for the immediate and extended family of the late royal father, the Itsekiri nation and Nigeria at large.

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