New Telegraph

Imperative Of Obeying Court Orders By All

The recurring incident of the outright disregard and disobedience to court orders, especially by some key figures in the Federal Government agencies in recent years, as recently raised by the Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) should be reined in.

The aim of course, is to exert the respect for the rule of law, and to deepen the democratic process. According to the renowned Human Rights lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, he has compiled at least 32 court orders disobeyed by the Federal Government in recent years.

Furthermore, he is insisting that it does not lie in the mouth of an attorney general, or president to choose and pick which court orders to obey, or not. Such contempt of court orders is a blatant threat to the rule of law and takes place only in a banana republic, which Nigeria should not be allowed to descend into.

Indeed, if anyone feels that a particular court order is unacceptable to him, he should apply to court to get a stay of order, or set it aside. Contempt of court orders is therefore an obstruction to the process of legal jurisdiction. Yet, under the former President Muhammadu Buhari-led government several of such illegalities were allowed to unfold.

One of such brazen disregard of court orders took place in February 2023 when Buhari in a morning broadcast, flagrantly disobeyed a Supreme Court order on the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); to keep hold of the old N200, N500 bank notes till February 2023.

It is on record that before Buhari’s broadcast the apex court had issued a second interim injunction, restraining the Federal Government and the CBN from implementing the February 10 deadline for rejecting the old bank notes. Yet, Buhari set a bad precedent to violate the court order.

Also, it would be recalled that states such as Kogi, Kaduna and Zamfara had approached the Supreme Court seeking extension of the deadline on the old naira notes.

Worthy of note was that on six separate occasions, between February 2015 and 2018 the same Buhari had blatantly refused to release Sambo Dasuki, an ex National Security Adviser, and Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, the Shi’ites leader, despite court orders in that regard. It was a similar scenario for Omoyele Sowere, a political activist detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) for months, even after court orders asked for his release.

The absurdity in all of these obvious legal infractions is that Buhari, even months after losing his status of immunity as the former president of Nigeria, is still walking our streets as a free man! Such an open display of impunity, from individuals personalising political power and going

Similarly, it should be noted that the decree on the security operatives arresting people on the road for wandering has been abolished since 1989

scot-free is demeaning to the significance of the rule of law in Nigeria. That perhaps explains why the conviction of three security chiefs for contempt of court orders in November 2022 should serve as a warning to others, that no one should ever place himself above the law.

Amongst those so convicted were the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Chief of Army Staff. While the first of the three was ordered to return to an applicant his Range Rover and the sum of N40 million, the IGP was sentenced to three months in jail for disobeying court order, to reinstate a police officer who was wrongfully retired before the applicable time.

On his part, the Chief of Army Staff was similarly punished for the failure to obey a court order on October 12, 2022 in a suit between a citizen and the governor of Niger State. This was the first time such high ranking government officials at that level were held accountable for their disobedience to court orders.

And it should serve as a clarion call to all others to submit themselves to the rule of law of the land. Based on this experience, all government officials serving under the Bola Tinubu-led administration have been rightly advised to place the respect for court orders above all other sentiments.

That brings to the public sphere the way and manner the erstwhile CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, was manhandled by some security operatives, soon after Tinubu came into office. It would be recalled, that after his apprehension, there was a back and forth struggle between officials of the DSS and the prison officials over who should hold him in custody.

Such was the embarrassment meted out to him that on July 10, 2023 Justice Hamza Mu’azu of the FCT high court had to order for his release, or prosecution. That reminds us again of the need for top government officials to walk the talk on the enthronement of the rule of law.

This situation calls for the importance of public enlightenment on the tenets of the law on court orders and the obedience to them, thereof. For instance, with the new human rights regime in the country no Nigerian shall be arrested and detained by the police without being taken to court and charged for his offences within 12 hours to 24 hours.

Similarly, it should be noted that the decree on the security operatives arresting people on the road for wandering has been abolished since 1989. On the critical issue of disrespect or disobedience to court orders, therefore, no citizen, no matter how highly placed he might be, should be allowed to flout the extant laws to satisfy his ego, vaulting ambitions, whims and caprices at the expense of the rule of law.

Read Previous

FCT-IRS Shuts Down School, Hotel, Others Over Tax Evasion

Read Next

Ondo Guber: Women Write Candidates, Demand Deputy Gov Slot