Police in Tamale have confirmed renewed tension in the Tamale Metropolis of the Northern Region following a ruling by the High Court against a Sunni Islamist group in the matter of the Republic vs. Anbariya Islamic Institute and six others, ex parte Technical University College, Tamale.
The High Court, presided over by Justice Richard Kugyapwah, on Tuesday, November 28, 2023, struck out a motion of stay of execution filed by the Anbariya Islamic Institute seeking to stop the execution of the same court ruling in which its members were found guilty of contempt and illegal occupation in a case filed by Tamale University College on July 16, 2023.
The earlier judgment passed in favour of the University College on January 30, 2023, asked that the Anbariya Islamic Institute, with immediate effect, vacate their illegal occupation of the premises of the University College.
The Court had also found four members of the Islamic Institute guilty of contempt for organizing and leading a mob in April 2022 to attack the staff and students before forcefully occupying the school properties.
“I find 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th respondents liable in contempt. I fine them GHS3, 000.00 each and, in default, 2 months’ imprisonment each.”. The judge continued, “I further order the Technical University College Tamale premises occupied by the Anbariya Senior High School to be vacated and all the destroyed property restored for the Technical University College Tamale students to resume habitation pending the determination of the suit.”
Alleged Delay Tactics, Police Inaction, and Court affirmation of decision
After the ruling, the police failed or faced strong opposition in the execution of the court orders, even after the court, at the instance of the University College, ordered the Northern Regional Police Command to assist in the enforcement of the procured lawful order.
According to JoyNews sources, the police’s excuse for not executing the court order was that they were responding to an outbreak of communal violence in Daboya and so did not have enough men to carry out the judicial orders.
Ultimately, the police did not enforce the order, which led to the motion of stay of execution filed by lawyers of the Anbariya Islamic Institute on April 3, 2023, three months after the court had passed the judgment.
After filing the motion, the Court, on July 25, 2023, directed parties to file their written statements by August 25, 2023.
Records of the proceedings show that the lawyer of the University College obediently and dutifully delivered his address on time. However, it was only at the close of the day on Friday, the 6th of October, at about 3:35 p.m. that the lawyers of the Anbariya recently delivered their address.
The conduct of the Anbariya lawyers had caused the lawyer for the University College to complain to the judge in one of the proceedings.
“Although the plaintiff has been engaged in activities deliberately designed to frustrate and obstruct defendants in the provision of Higher Technical Education, since the early part of 2007, defendant or respondent will refrain as much as possible from revisiting these events, although it is these unchecked events that have emboldened Plaintiff and belie the disrespectful conduct the authorityity.”
But, after several months of legal battle, the judge on Tuesday, November 28th, reaffirmed his verdict against the Anbariya Islamic Institute.
His Lordship Justice Richard Mac Kogyapwah ruled, “On the totality of the averments in the application filed for the stay of execution and that supplemental to the affidavit in support, and then the affidavit in opposition as well as all the annexures thereto, and also going by submissions filed by counsel in this application, I decline the invitation by applicants to the Court to stay execution of the orders of this Court in its judgment of the 30th, January 2023.”
His Lordship further ruled, “Consequently, the motion is hereby dismissed with cost of GHS2, 000.00 to the respondent and against applicants.”
Tension escalates after the verdict
Following the affirmation of the court verdict, tension has reemerged in Tamale between supporters of the Anbariya Islamic Institute and the Technical University College.
The verdict, which was passed on the 30th, is yet to be enforced by the police despite an official communication to the Police Commander in Tamale, JoyNews sources have confirmed.
On Friday, August 8, 2023, some sympathizers of the feuding parties clashed, leading to an intense exchange of gunfire at the scene of disputed land in Viting, a suburb of Tamale along the Tamale-Salaga road.
One person, said to be a chief and in possession of an M16 rifle and a pistol, was arrested by the police during the clash.
Speaking to the principal of the university college, Dr. Osman Alhassan, he said the law must work.
“The rule of law is supreme in any democracy, so give me the rule of law or give me death! I will never be frustrated by this matter. I will carry it to the end; I don’t care about my life or anything; the law must work, and none is above.”
On the 11th of March, 2019, the Anbariya Islamic Institute caused a Writ of Summons to be issued out of the Registry of the High Court in Tamale against the Technical University College, Tamale, seeking the following reliefs: a declaration that Anbariya owns and has the sole right to manage and control the Technical University College, Tamale, as well as an order restraining the founder of the University College from using the name of the college and enrolling students under that name.
As the case was on its normal course with pleadings closed, issues agreed upon, and parties directed to file witness statements, the lawyer of the University College sought an amendment of the Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim when he found new facts after interviewing the witnesses. The application for amendment was opposed by lawyers for the Anbariya Institute but was granted by the Court.
Then lawyers of Anbariya, dissatisfied with the ruling, appealed to the Court of Appeal in Kumasi.
While the appeal was pending, lawyers of the University College proposed to continue with the case as no stay of proceedings was filed, but the trial judge advised the parties to wait for the outcome of the appeal filed by the Anbariya Islamic Institute.
While waiting, the Principal of the University College, Dr. Osman, found the Anbariya Islamic Institute and its agents engaged in the construction of structures on the disputed land and drew their attention to the fact that the matter was subjudice.
As a response, the principal was subjected to brutal conduct by the followers of the Anbariya Institute. He was physically assaulted, missiles thrown at him, his car extensively damaged, his reading glasses broken, and generally subjected to inhuman treatment.
Then, in May 2022, the Anbariya Institute and its agents went on a local radio station, inviting all old and new followers of Anbariya to rise and take up arms to take over their university because, according to them, the courts were wasting time with the case.
Members of the Sunni Islamist group dutifully obeyed the call to take up arms against the University College and stormed the university, breaking doors, windows, and student beds.
They beat up students, and everyone in sight demolished other property, such as computers and beds, and forcibly occupied the structures of the University College.
On July 16, 2021, the University College cited the Anbariya Institute and its cohorts for contempt of court. The application, however, could not be heard and slipped into the vacation with the Anbariya Institute still occupying the premises of the university.
Since this meant a long wait until October in the new legal year, a motion for interlocutory injunction was filed on August 3, 2021. However, the Court could not grant the application and urged the parties to wait as there was already a motion for contempt filed on July 16, 2023.
The University College had no alternative but to go through the pains of waiting for the hearing of the motion in October 2022. Finally, after twists and turns based on the evidence before it, a ruling was given on January 30, 2023.
The Court found Anbariya guilty of contempt and imposed a fine of GHS3,000.00.
The Anbariya Islamic Group was not available to comment.