The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) has condemned the detention of Dr. Osagie Obayuwana, the Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, in the government’s controversial confrontation with a private company, dismissing it as “diabolic and pre-emptive justice.”
The government is locked in a battle with Church Gate Industries over a 1992 agreement in which, under the administration of Chief Odigie Oyegun, it gave management of Bendel Breweries over to ChurchGate Industries.
Early last week, the Federal High Court in Benin City, ordered the remand of Mr. Obayuwana into prison custody over the non-compliance of the government with an interlocutory injunction obtained by Church Gate in the suit. Justice Adamu Hobon ordered that the AG be held until the state government provided an affidavit of compliance with that order.
CDHR questioned whether the law should be used to protect a defaulter, especially in business ventures, stating that an agreement can only be binding if the parties in such a union honour their own part.
“The commando order and style of the arrest of Obayuwana with over two dozen anti-riot policemen is an abuse of power, brigandage and judicial recklessness,” it said in a statement signed by Taiwo Otitolaye, its National Vice President. “The sovereignty of the people of Edo State over their property, more so when Church Gate has failed to manage the brewery company as contained in the agreement must not be sidestepped for trivialities and display of ignoble ego.”
CDHR said it was taken aback with such hasty actions by the presiding judge, especially given that the order in question was only interlocutory, with the substantive case yet to be determined. “And the Attorney General has also continually stated that it was beyond his power to hand over the company,” the statement noted.
It further said that the State government would be an insensitive and irresponsible entity to look the other way in a situation where Church Gate is unable to remit to Edo State, for over one year, its own share (51%) of the profit.
It urged the people of Edo State to rise to the occasion of protecting Bendel Breweries, as it is their property.