The Rivers State Police Command has freed three lawyers of the All Progressives Congress after arresting them in a hotel room on Friday night, where they were said to be working on the election petitions of the APC governorship candidate, Tonye Cole, to be filed at the tribunal.
Late Saturday, however, the Rivers State chapter of the APC through its spokesperson, Darlington Nwauju, said the lawyers alongside five other support staff had been released. However, it was gathered that the election documents and laptops, which the lawyers used for their jobs, were withheld by the police.
Nwaju said, “The lawyers were granted bail on self-recognition while the support staff were granted conditional bail.”
The Rivers APC governorship candidate for the 2023 elections, Cole, who also confirmed the release of the lawyers, vowed to remain at the State CID till the documents are recovered from the police.
As of 10pm on Saturday night, he posted a video on Twitter of himself in the police station saying he would pass the night there and will remain there until the documents, which he said were critical for the tribunal, are released.
He said, “It’s past 10pm on Saturday 1st of April, I have been at the state CID all day since they arrested our lawyers this morning at 7pm, we’ve been pursuing this case.
“They’ve released the lawyers but they are holding on to all the documents, they are forms EC8 a and b, critical documents that we need for the tribunal. We have refused to leave unless we collect these documents and we will not leave tonight.
“I’m going to sleep here, I’ve told the CP, I’ve told everybody that I’m not leaving here without those documents. I don’t know what they want to do with the documents but they cannot be compromised we need it for the petition.”
It was gathered that the lawyers, Jerry Aondo, Dr Sobere Nelson, and Odum Eyiba, who are from the chambers of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Tuduru Ede, were arrested on Friday night at a hotel they lodged in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
The arrest came 48 hours after Cole led the party executives to the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission to protest against refusal to release Certified True Copies of documents used for the election as ordered by the court.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association had strongly condemned the arrest of the lawyers who were carrying out their legal professional duties by the police, saying such actions could lead to anarchy and chaos in the country.
The NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), in a statement on Saturday vowed to take legal action against the police officers who arrested the lawyers.
The statement partly read, “The Nigerian Bar Association strongly condemns such unwarranted harassment of lawyers in the lawful performance of their professional duties to their clients.“Situations where the instrumentality of the police is apparently being used to harass and intimidate lawyers, is a direct affront to the rule of law and a threat to our democracy; it is an invitation to anarchy and chaos, as people would rather resort to self-help than approach the civil and constitutional means provided for the resolution of disputes.
“We shall also take up the matter to ensure that any person(s) including police officers, who may be found complicit in the events leading to the arrest of our colleagues, is sanctioned for any possible abuse of office.”