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News Nigeria: Many Times Nigeria Government Disobeyed Court Orders

  FEBRUARY 20 , 2023 | EASTERN PILOT Report By: Alao Abiodun | The flagrant disregard and disobedience of the Supreme Court order on the nai...



Report By: Alao Abiodun |

The flagrant disregard and disobedience of the Supreme Court order on the naira swap policy deadline by President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and the Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN) has brought to mind several other instances where the government ignored court orders. When Buhari assumed office, he reiterated his commitment to compliance with the rule of law by all agencies of government under his administration. Despite Buhari’s verbal statements, a report by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) in 2022, highlighted that since its inauguration in 2015, Buhari’s administration has disobeyed many court judgments.

Also, rising cases of Contempt of Court against key appointees of the President Buhari administration have been a source of concern. Giving an insight into the implications of the continued disobedience to court judgments, legal luminaries have at different fora warned that the country stands at a dangerous point if such action is allowed to continue. Below are some of the instances where the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has erred:

1. Naira Scarcity — Buhari’s administration has come under attack for flouting the interim injunction of the apex court suspending the implementation of the February 10 deadline on the use of the old banknotes. In the past few days, Nigerians have been groaning under the pain caused by the deadline as they are unable to get the new notes, while the old notes are being sold to them by Point of Sales vendors. The Supreme Court, however, granted an interim injunction on February 8 restraining the CBN and the Federal Government from implementing the February 10 deadline.

2. In the case of Ibraheem El-Zakzaky On December 2, 2016, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the federal high court in Abuja ordered the release of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat from the custody of the Department of State Services. As of the time of that ruling, El-Zakzaky and his wife had been in DSS’ custody since December 2015 following an altercation between members of the Nigerian Army and the IMN in Zaria, Kaduna State. Aside the order of the court to release them, the court also ordered that the DSS should pay the couple the sum of N50m as compensation. This court order was disobeyed.

3. The federal government, in another instance, disobeyed the orders of the Federal High Court in Abuja on the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu’s bail and access by his legal team and family members. Justice Binta Nyako had to question the Department of State Security, DSS on such disregard at a time, yet the situation remained the same. The Federal High Court in Abuja also granted Kanu, the permission to apply for an order of mandamus to compel the Department of State Service to allow him to have unfettered access to medical care, but on several occasions, access to health care have been refused.

4. Again The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Thursday, October 13, 2022 quashed the terrorism charge the Federal Government preferred against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu. It discharged and acquitted him of the seven-count charge pending against him before the Federal High Court in Abuja. The appellate court, in a decision by a three-man panel led by Justice Jummai Hanatu, said it was satisfied that FG flagrantly violated the law, when it forcefully rendered Kanu from Kenya to the country for the continuation of his trial. It held that such extra-ordinary rendition, without adherence to due process of the law, was a gross violation of all international conventions, protocols and guidelines that Nigeria is signatory to, as well as a breach of the Appellant’s fundamental human rights.

The appellate court noted that FG failed to refute the allegation that the IPOB leader was in Kenya and that he was abducted and brought back to the country without any extradition proceeding. It held that FG was “ominously silent on the issue” which it described as very pivotal in determining whether the trial court would still have the jurisdiction to continue with the criminal proceeding before it. “In law, that is a costly failure and such failure is an admittance by the Respondent. “Where a party fails to controvert a deposition by an opponent, the issue not contested is deemed conceded”, the court held, adding that the onus was on FG to prove the legality of the Appellant’s arrest and return from Kenya.

More so, the court noted that Nigeria is a signatory to OAU Convention which it ratified on April 28, 2022, as well as the Charter of Human and Peoples Rights, which it said prescribed how a wanted person could be transferred from one country to the other. It held that any extradition request must be in writing, with a statement indicating offences for which a person is wanted. The appellate court held that FG’s action tainted the entire proceeding it initiated against Kanu and amounted to “an abuse of criminal prosecution in general”. “The court will never shy away from calling the Executive to order when it tilts towards Executive recklessness”, the Appellate court held, even as it accused FG of engaging in “serious abuse of power”.

Nevertheless, the appellate court said it would be pre-judicial for it to make an order on the proscription of IPOB since the issue is still on appeal. Till date this court pronouncement was flagrantly ignored with impunity while Nnamdi Kanu continued to be illegally and unconstitutionally detained in a solitary confinement in the Nigeria secret service dungeon in Abuja.

5. There is also A Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia, the Abia State capital rulling, which ordered the Federal Government to pay the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, N500m as damages following his illegal abduction and human rights abuse. The court also ordered the Federal Government to return him to Kenya, from where he was extraodinary rendition to Nigeria on June 19, 2021. The court presided over by Justice E.N. Anyadike, insisted that the extradition of Kanu from Kenya without recourse to the legal process was a flagrant abuse of his fundamental human rights.

Kanu, through his counsel, Aloy Ejimakor, had approached the court challenging his extraodinary rendition from Kenya on June 19, 2022. Ejimakor told the court that the suit was sui generis (of a special class) and was primarily aimed at redressing the unlawful expulsion or extraordinary rendition of Kanu, which is a clear violation of his fundamental rights under Article 12(4) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as Chapter IV of the Nigerian Constitution. Speaking to journalists shortly after the verdict, Ejimakor said the judgment showed that the court is still the common man’s last hope.

Meanwhile, Kanu is demanding the payment of N100bn in reparation for the violation of his rights. In a suit filed at the Federal High Court Abuja through his legal team, led by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and Ifeanyi Ejiofor, the IPOB leader wants a declaration that the Federal Government’s refusal to release him from detention despite the order of the Court of Appeal is illegal, unlawful, oppressive, unconscionable, and unconstitutional. The Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney-General of the Federation, the State Security Service and its Director General are cited as 1st to 4th respondents in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1945/2022.

Kanu says the suit is predicated on the refusal of the Federal Government to obey the appellate court’s judgment delivered on October 13, which discharged him of the terrorism charge brought against him and thus a violation of his fundamental rights. Kanu is also seeking N100bn in compensatory and exemplary damages from the respondents for the gross violation of his human rights to dignity, personal liberty, and freedom of movement. In addition, Kanu is praying the court for an order directing the respondents to tender an unreserved public apology in two national dailies.  

Disobedience to court orders is an impeachable offense - Amnesty

Dr Kolawole Olaniyan, legal adviser to Amnesty International, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari has shown “stunning disregard for the rule of law and human rights, ignoring Nigerian judges on at least 40 occasions” The London-based lawyer, who accused the President of treating judges with disdain, also questioned the sincerity of Buhari’s anti-corruption fight. Olaniyan made the claims in a piece titled, ‘Buhari is ignoring Nigerian judges – We must not let him get away with it’, according to a report by PUNCH.

He said, “It’s hard to overstate the significance of this disregard of court orders not just for the operation of the rule of law but also effective respect for constitutional and international human rights, such as freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association and access to information. Yet, Buhari is carrying on, irrespective of human rights and the rule of law. “Anytime the courts have told Buhari’s government to do something it doesn’t like, it has refused to obey it.

“Even Buhari’s Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami (SAN), once said the rule of law is what the authorities determine it to be. “The government always has explanations on why it should not obey lawful court orders, seemingly replacing binding legal decisions with the vagaries of politics, and obeying the decisions whenever they suit it “This disdainful arrogance for the courts and our constitutional jurisprudence wasn’t even normalised during periods of military dictatorship in Nigeria.

“The public perception seems to be that the government will only obey court orders if it gets what it wants. “Yet, it should never be right for the government to obey the court as a matter of grace. Buhari has to obey the courts as a matter of necessity. “If Nigeria is ever going to comply with its international human rights obligations and commitments, the government has to begin to show respect for Nigerian judges.”

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