Judgement emanating from the Federal High Court, Calabar is deepening the lingering five year old crisis in the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN).
Since 2014 there have been protracted legal battles on the authentic leadership of National Executive Committee of IPMAN between Chief Obasi Lawson and his group against Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo and his group, backed by the Registered Board of Trustees of IPMAN.
Okoronkwo, right from the Federal High Court to the Supreme Court Abuja on the issue of leadership and at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt on the issue of tenure, had won all the cases.
The Supreme Court had on December 14, 2018 delivered judgement in the case brought by Chief Obasi Lawson against Okoronkwo and 10 others confirming Nwankwo as the authentic leader of the national body of IPMAN and by extension all the state executives put in place by him.
Armed with the Supreme Court and other judgements, the Okoronkwo executive went ahead to inaugurate the IPMAN executive in Calabar led by Edet Umana but this was challenged by the erstwhile Chairman of IPMAN, Mr. Lawrence Agim and 12 others at the High Court in Calabar and Justice Edem Kooffreh dismissed the matter saying, “the application lacks merit, is over bearing, incompetent and an abuse of the process of this court”.
Similarly, in an effort to ensure peace and sanity, the immediate past Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in a letter to IPMAN dated January 24, 2019, advised that “litigants in disputes that is submitted to the jurisdiction of the court, are expected to respect the outcome of the decision and ensure compliance with the court orders. The supreme Court of Nigeria is the highest court in the land and I expect all parties, their privies and law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with the decision of the Supreme Court delivered on 14th December, 2018”.
However, not satisfied with all the judgements won by Okoronkwo and his group at the lower, Appeal and Supreme Courts, the Lawson/Agim group, in another suit instituted by Mr. Ben Dimkpa and four others for themselves as representatives of IPMAN members, Eastern zone against the Registered Trustees of IPMAN and others, headed to the Federal High Court, Calabar and secured judgement against the Board of Trustees, Okoronkwo and others despite a subsisting judgement from the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
The Federal High Court, Calabar headed by Justice S. A. Amobeda on February 21, delivered a judgement against the Okoronkwo backed registered BOT, granting an order of a “perpetual injunction restraining the defendants (BOT and others from however or in any manner whatsoever reinstating, using or relying on the 2009 amended constitution of IPMAN as the constitution to govern the affairs of IPMAN”.
Justice Amobeda also issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant and others “from however or in any manner whatsoever using, declaring or applying or applying any other mode of succession to the position of National President of IPMAN than that provided for by the 1997 constitution of IPMAN”.
But the registered BOT of IPMAN and others in a motion on notice filed on April 25, 2019, challenged the judgement in same court headed by Amobeda seeking the court among other things to set aside its judgement “for want of requisite jurisdiction, abuse of court process and being a nullity” considering the fact that the Appeal and Supreme courts had differently delivered judgement on the matter in favour of Okoronkwo, the BOT and others.
On its ground of application, the registered BOT said “the plaintiffs (Dimkpa and others) deliberately and mischievously refused to attach as exhibit before this court the judgement of the Court of Appeal, Abuja in Appeal No. CA/A/397/2014 delivered on the 7th December, 2017 which is binding on this court and which gave the rise to the judgement of the Supreme Court in SC/15/2018 thereby misleading this court to give this judgement without jurisdiction”.
But Dimkpa in their counter affidavit declared that the deposition and insinuations made by the applicants are false and the court should dismiss the case.
Accordingly, Amobeda in his ruling dated May 27, 2019 said, “I am not sitting on appeal over my decision and shall refrain from delving into issues which may appear as though I am reviewing own decision…I (am) unable to find any ground upon which I can set aside the judgement I delivered in this case on 21stFebruary 2019. On the whole therefore, this application lacks merit and same is accordingly dismissed”.
With this development fresh crisis and legal tussle, despite previous judgement, has set in. IPMAN as the registered BOT of IPMAN and others are heading to the Appeal Court challenging the said controversial decision of Justice Amobeda which they claimed is stoking the fire in IPMAN in a matter that has already been decided by superior courts.
It will be recalled that it was the same Justice Amobeda who gave judgement in the case that declared the Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Usani, as the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) against Senator John Owan-Enoh in last governorship election even though the Appeal court had upturned the matter and declared Owan-Enoh and others as the authentic candidates for APC.