Industrial Court orders closure of Owerri division over alleged abduction of workers

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The President of the National Industrial Court, Justice Benedict Kanyip has ordered the closure of the Imo State division of the court following an attack and abduction of three staff of the court by suspected officials of the State government

All staff of the judicial division have been directed to stay away from work until further notice.

This was contained in statement by the Chief Registrar of the National Industrial Court, Olurotimi Williams Daudu.

The statement reads: “I have been directed by the Hon. President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Hon Justice B. B. Kanyip, PhD, to inform you that the Owerri Judicial Division of the Court has been closed down till further notice.

“Consequently, all the staff of the judicial division are hereby directed to stay away from work until further notice”.

Meantime, the Chief Registrar, who confirmed the development, however, said an official statement will soon be issued by the President of the Court.

The decision to close the court was predicated by the abduction of four staff of the court who were performing their lawful duty of executing a judgment on Friday June 3, 2022, in suit no: NICN/OW/16M/2022, between Prince Eze Madumere V Governor of Imo State, Zenith Bank Plc, the Attorney General of Imo state and the Imo state government.

Names of the four staff are Nze Moses; Akoma Jeremiah; Ikedi Amadi and Chima Emeka Ndukwe.

A letter to the Inspector General of Police, dated June 3, 2022, on the incident, alleged that the affected staff were “waylaid, abducted and the court’s official vehicle snatched at gunpoints, to unkown destination, in broad daylight, by several men of the Government House reportedly led by one Chinaza Nwaneri and some other heavily armed Mopol Policemen.”

“A frantic and immediate search was initiated by the registrar who later discovered that the four men above, were whisked to the anti-kidnapping unit of the police command and detained unlawfully and without justifiable cause,” the letter reads.

Courts documents showed that the National Industrial Court had on June 1, 2022, granted the judgment creditor and former Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere, leave to enforce the garnishee order absolute, made on May 27, 2022, against the garnishee bank (Zenith Bank Plc), by sealing off all its bank premises in Owerri, Imo State.

The court also ordered the garnishee bank to pay the judgment creditor within 72 hours from the date of the pronouncement.

Armed with the order of the court, the judgment creditor made arrangement for the enforcement of the judgment by securing the assistance of the abducted officials of the court, as well as the police.

Consequently, the Owerri division of the court reportedly sealed off branches of a new generation bank within the State capital over an alleged N1.9 billion debt owed Ex-Imo Deputy governor, Prince Eze Madumere by the Imo State government.

On Friday when the officials of the Court were at the premises of the bank to carry out their legitimate duties, they were attacked and abducted.

Specifically, they were at the Bank to replace seals, padlocks and chains flagrantly destroyed by the Bank’s officials in collusion with Government agents, only to be attacked by armed men led by Governor Hope Uzodimma’s aide, Chinaza.

This was followed by another violation at the Bank’s branch along Wetheral Road, Owerri, where the seals and other instruments of execution of Court Order were destroyed, even as ribbons littered the ground.

Justice Ibrahim Galadima made the order in the SUIT NO: NICN/OW/1.9M/2021, between Prince Eze Madumere and Governor of Imo State, Attorney General of Imo State, Imo State government and the Zenith bank plc .

The order read: “It is hereby ordered as follows; the Order Nisi made on 15 October 2021 is hereby made an Absolute against the Garnishee this 27/5/2022.

“The Garnishee, (a new generation bank) is ordered to transfer the sum of 1,970,666,584.68k (One Billion, nine Hundred Seventy Million, Six Hundred & Sixty-Six Thousand, Five Hundred and, Sixty-Eight Kobo) only into the Judgment Creditor’s Counsel account (GTB Bank Plc, Account no. 0223523624, A/C name: M/s Njemanze & Njemanze) forthwith within 24 hours of this order absolute.

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“The Garnishee shall upon compliance with this Order be discharged from these garnishee proceedings.”

But reacting, the Imo State government through the State Commissioner for Information and strategy, Declan Emelumba, said: “We have appealed against the judgment.

“There is no how he could be owed N1.9 billion putting all his allowances together. Secondly, the government suspects that there is a conspiracy because the judge who gave the judgment even barred the government from appealing.

“We have never seen this kind of thing before. However, we have appealed the judgment.”

Prince Madumere, after a High Court of competent jurisdiction sitting in Owerri presided by Justice Benjamin Iheka on September 25, 2018, declared his purported impeachment null and void, in 2019, he approached the court and instituted a legal suit to recover his arrears of unpaid entitlements.

In 2021, the National Industrial Court ruled in his favour, ordering the Governor Hope Uzodimma-led administration to pay him.

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