Nigeria at 59 - CJN, NBA, Others Condemn Growing Impunity, Lawlessness

(file photo)
1 October 2019

Lagos — The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) some senior lawyers and civil society groups have spoken up against what they describe as growing impunity and lawlessness in Nigeria.

The federal government and some law enforcement agencies have been accused of violating fundamental human rights of the citizens and disobedience to judicial pronouncements.

Acts of disobedience to or disregard of a court order or any misconduct in the presence of a court are regarded as contempt of court and punishable with fine or imprisonment or both.

The CJN, Justice Muhammad at the special session to mark the beginning of the 2019 to 2020 Legal Year last week, declared that the judiciary under his watch will not tolerate disobedience to binding court orders.

This is coming on the heels of serious accusations over government's attitude of 'pick and choose' of orders of courts it will obey which is against the spirit of the constitution.

The CJN said the rule of law, which is the bastion of every democracy across the world, will be strictly observed.

"The rule of law must be observed in all our dealings and we must impress it on the governments at all levels to actively toe the path," he said.

"The right of every citizen against any form of oppression and impunity must be jealously guarded and protected with the legal tools at our disposal.

"All binding court orders must be obeyed. Nobody, irrespective of his or her position, will be allowed to toy with court judgments.

"As we all know, flagrant disobedience of court orders or non-compliance with judicial orders is a direct invitation to anarchy in the society," he added.

Also, NBA President Paul Usoro (SAN) flayed what he called dangerous practices by the Executive arm of government to "destroy the independence of the Judiciary and by extension the rule of law and indeed the fabric of our society."

He also pledged the determination of the NBA to stand against executive intrusions saying "in releases after releases, the NBA has been consistent in deploring executive incursions into the Judiciary and we will not stop harping on these issues for as long as these invasive and deleterious conducts persist."

Criticisms have also continued to greet the federal government's disobedience to court orders for the bail of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, over allegation of money laundering of $2.1bn; leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim Zakzaky on charges of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide, and Bayelsa-based journalist, Jones Abiri.

Also, Barr. Abdul Mahmud on his Facebook account listed Agba Jalingo, Stephen Kefas, Olawale Adebayo, Idris Dadiyyata, Omoyele Sowore, and Chido Onuma as some of the citizens arrested and detained by state agents in violation of the rule of law.

"The dragnet is widening; the clutches are reaching out to expected quarters! Shouldn't Nigerians be alarmed by these orchestrated assaults on the liberties of citizens, of conscientious citizens?" he asked.

Human rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) had challenged the government over the detention of his clients especially, Zakzaky and Sowore, despite pending court orders for their bail.

Also Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)'s Tokunboh Mumuni has sent an open letter to all member and observer states of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, urging them to "urgently convene a special session on Nigeria over arbitrary arrests and repression by officers of the Nigeria Police Force and other security forces.

Mumuni told Daily Trust over the weekend that it is the duty of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to advise the government on the necessity of obeying court orders.

For his part, human rights lawyer Hamid Ajibola Jimoh Esq said it is the duty of all citizens to ensure that "the courts must be saved at all costs from being rendered ineffective and irrelevant to perform their functions by all means. In other words, independence of the judiciary remains the duty of all the citizens of Nigeria for whom the Judiciary is at service."

However, a Warri-based public affairs commentator, Ishmael Rufus, has cautioned the Judiciary not to sacrifice national interest and security on the altar of freedom of expression over the detention of Sowore.

"The judiciary should not play to the gallery of media hype and other populist posturing in considering cases involving national security issues," he said.

"Any government that delays action against the mismanagement of public space in an attempt to allow freedom of expression does so at its own peril.

"That is why it is provided in Section 39(3) and 45(1) of the Nigerian Constitution that the provisions of Section 39 would not invalidated any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.

"Sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of the constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom or other persons," he noted.

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