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IPMAN leadership crisis deepens as dispute returns to court

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Fresh judgment emanating from the Federal High Court, Calabar on May 27, 2019, is threatening to deepen the lingering five-year-old crisis in the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN).

Since 2014, there have been protracted legal battles on the authentic leadership of National Executive Committee of IPMAN and the Supreme Court had on December 14, 2018, delivered judgment in the case brought by Chief Obasi Lawson against Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo and 10 others, confirming Okoronkwo as the authentic leader of IPMAN’s national body and by extension, all the state executives put in place by him.

The Supreme Court, in its ruling, relied on the preliminary objection by the Okoronkwo group that the purported 1997 Constitution of the group had no life since it was not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), hence appeal by Lawson was struck out with N2m cost.

Similarly, in an effort to ensure peace and sanity, the immediate past Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in a letter to IPMAN dated January 24, 2019, advised that “litigants in disputes submitted to the jurisdiction of the court are expected to respect the outcome of the decision and ensure compliance with court orders. The Supreme Court of Nigeria is the highest court in the land and I expect all parties, their privies and law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with the decision of the Supreme Court delivered on December 14, 2018”.

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However, not satisfied with all the judgments won by Okoronkwo and his group at the lower, Appeal and Supreme Courts, Lawson in another suit instituted by Mr. Ben Dimkpa and four others for themselves, as representatives of IPMAN members, Eastern zone, against the Registered Trustees of IPMAN headed by Aminu Abdulkadir and others, headed to the Federal High Court, Calabar and secured  judgment against the Okoronkwo-backed Board of Trustees (BOT) and others, despite subsisting judgments from the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

The Federal High Court, Calabar headed by Justice, S. A. Amobeda on February 21, delivered judgment against the Okoronkwo-backed registered BoT, granting an order of a perpetual injunction” restraining the defendants (BoT) and others from using or relying on IPMAN’s 2009 amended constitution as the constitution to govern the affairs of IPMAN…than that provided for by the 1997 constitution of IPMAN.”

But the registered BoT and others in a motion on notice filed on April 25, 2019, challenged the judgment in same court headed by Amobeda seeking the court, among other things, to set aside its judgment “for want of requisite jurisdiction, abuse of court process and being a nullity” considering the fact that the Appeal and Supreme Courts had differently delivered judgment on the matter in favour of Okoronkwo, the BOT and others upholding the 2009 constitution as the authentic constitution for IPMAN.

Accordingly, Amobeda in his ruling dated May 27, 2019, said: “I ‘am’ not sitting on appeal over my decision and shall refrain from delving into issues, which may appear as though I am reviewing own decision…I ‘am’ unable to find any ground upon which I can set aside the judgment delivered in this case on February 21, 2019. On the whole, therefore, this application lacks merit and same is accordingly dismissed.”

With this ruling renewed legal tussle is imminent IPMAN, as the registered BoT and others are heading to the Appeal Court to challenge the said controversial decision of Justice Amobeda, which they claimed, is stoking the fire in IPMAN in a matter that had already been decided by superior courts.


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