...Grants Extension Of Time To Defendants' Counsel
A Port-Harcourt High Court sitting under Justice Adolphus Enebeli has adjourned to June 21 to hear a fundamental rights suit brought by the widow of Dr. Ferry Gberegbe.
Dr. Gberegbe, who was a collation agent for Peoples Democratic Party, was allegedly shot by officers of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) at INEC Collation Centre in Bori in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State on 10th March, 2019 in this year's Governorship and House of Assembly Elections in Rivers State.
Justice Enebeli made the adjournment after he granted an application for extension of time by counsel to defendants in the case, Edet Essiene.
Counsel to the complainant, Barrister Lezina Amegua, had said that his client, Ronke, had filed a fundamental rights suit against the Nigeria Police and then Commander of SARS in Rivers State, Akin Fakorede, for the violation of the right to life of her late husband, Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, and asked that the defendants pay the sum of N800m in damages for the violation of the right to life of her late husband.
At the court's sitting on Friday, June 14, the defendants' counsel, who is a legal officer in the Nigeria Police, made his maiden appearance for the defendants in the case.
The first defendant in the suit is the Nigeria Police while the second defendant is the then Commander of SARS in Rivers State, Akin Fakorede.
Essiene told newsmen after the adjournment that he filed his response by a motion for extension of time which he said “the court… graciously granted”.
On his part, Barrister Amegua, said that they would “adopt their processes and respond accordingly” at the next adjourned date.
At an earlier sitting, the court ordered that hearing notice be served on the defendants who were absent in court, and were also not represented by their counsel.
The complainant's counsel said in an earlier interview that his client filed the fundamental rights suit through a fundamental rights procedure, which is a special procedure to file a lawsuit which concerns fundamental human rights.
He said that the complainant filed the fundamental rights suit and is asking for damages because of the violation of right to life of her late husband by the defendants. Amegua had further said that justice would be done in the case.
It will be recalled that some witnesses who testified before the judicial commission of inquiry set up by Governor Nyesom Wike to investigate the immediate and remote causes of violence and killings and other related acts and matters which allegedly occurred in the state in the 2019 general elections, had alleged that the then Commander of SARS in Rivers State, Akin Fakorede, gave order for SARS operatives to open fire at the INEC Collation Centre in Bori on 10th of March, 2019 in this year's Governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state.
Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, according to the witnesses, was hit by a bullet from the gunshots by SARS officers.
One witness, Hon. Thomas Bariere, told the commission that he and Dr. Ferry Gberegbe were running away from the gunshots by SARS operatives when he saw that Dr. Gberegbe was falling to the ground.
He said: “What happened was, while we were outside, myself and my late colleague, Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, by the fence, he (Dr. Ferry Gberegbe) called my attention and said, 'Boy, see Gregory, see Eric, see Emma, from that vehicle they are entering INEC office'. As all agents of PDP, we now decided to also enter into the premises and on entering the premises, I and Ferry Gberegbe rushed to the window of the collation hall and saw the DPO of Bori Police Division, one Dr. Leelee and these APC stakeholders.
“At that point, we started shouting at them that they cannot subvert the will of the people and we started singing that God has given us victory. While we were singing, one of the SARS officers was having a conversation with his principal, the Commander, Akin Fakorede, who was seated at the front of a vehicle. As soon as he (SARS officer) left the vehicle, he (SARS officer) just gave a signal and turned and two other SARS officers who were by the gate walked in. As soon as they walked in, they started giving sign for us to move back. What followed was teargas and the place became smoky and while we were trying to retreat, they started shooting. The sporadic shooting was so severe that we all had to take to our heels.
“While we were running, I saw my brother and friend, Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, going down. As soon as I got there and saw him, I shouted, 'They have shot Ferry… They have shot Ferry… That SARS has shot Ferry'. Other sympathizers who were around rushed and then they carried him and I had to run towards where his vehicle was parked and I said that they should bring his vehicle”.
But Fakorede while addressing members of a joint committee from the House of Representatives on Army, Police, Human Rights and Justice on the matter said that SARS operatives did not kill Dr. Ferry Gberegbe. He had said that Dr. Gberegbe died of food poisoning.