The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Wednesday has ordered the Labour Party and its supporters not to converge on the Lekki toll gate plaza for its #Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally billed to hold on the 1st of October, 2022.
But, Justice Daniel Osiagor, who made the order, did not stop the supporters from holding the rally in four other venues in Lagos State.
Rather, the judge directed that the rally procession cannot stop or converge at the Lekki toll gate.
The court also directed the Inspector General of Police and the Police Commissioner of Lagos State to ensure compliance with the order.
Justice Osiagor made these orders on Wednesday, while ruling on a motion for injunction brought by 10 plaintiffs, who are asking the court to, among others, restrain the LP, its presidential candidate Peter 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.
The court also held that while the rally cannot stop at the Lekki toll gate, it can pass through the venue to access Falomo Bridge and other venues at which the rally plans to meet.
A preliminary objection filed by the defendants seeking to stop the court from hearing the motion on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction could also not be entertained as all parties to the suit had not been served.
The plaintiffs are Adedotun Ajulo, Salamatu Suleiman Lewi, Hakeem Ijaduola, Ogunbona Akinpelu, Owolabi Oluwasegun, Mogbojuri Kayode, Wuyep Mantim Nadom, Dimimu Mabel, Kolawole Salami, and Wale Abe Lawrence.
The 1st to 10th defendants are Mr Obi, the Labour Party, Mr Baba-Ahmed, Julius Abure, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), the Commissioner of Police (Lagos State Command), the Director-General (Department of State Services), Lekki Concession Company (LCC) Limited, the Attorney-General of Lagos State and The Governor of Lagos State.
In the substantive suit, the plaintiffs are arguing among other things 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 post-traumatic stress disorder for them and the public.
When the matter first came up on September 15, Justice Osiagor directed the plaintiffs to put all the defendants on notice and adjourned the hearing of the substantive motion till September 23, 2022.
On September 23, he further adjourned till Wednesday, September 28 to hear the motion for an interim injunction
At the resumption of proceedings on Wednesday, Justice Osiagor declined to hear a motion for preliminary objection filed on Tuesday, September 27, by Messrs Obi and Baba-Ahmed.
Mr Obi’s counsel, Alex Ejezenare, SAN, had prayed the court to adjourn the case to enable him move his motion challenging the court’s jurisdiction.
But the plaintiff’s counsel, Mr. Michael opposed him and urged the court not to toe that line of argument, adding that the business of the day was to hear the motion for interlocutory injunction which was ripe.
“The court can not be waiting for a (defendants’) motion which is yet to be served on many parties and can not stall the business of today. Therefore I plead passionately for the court to hear our motion for injunction which is the business of today,” Michael said.
In a bench ruling, the judge upheld his argument.
“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,” Justice Osiagor ruled.
Moving the application, Mr Michael argued that Lagos State could not afford a repeat of what happened in 2020 at the 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 the respondents clarified that the rally was not to be held at the Lekki toll gate.
The senior advocate 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 and by consent of the parties, 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 gate. They can pass through Falomo but not to assemble there,” the judge held.
He adjourned the suit till November 4, 2022 for hearing.