The present administration has become infamous for its penchant for disobeying court orders. This has become a stock in trade and an ignoble label for the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. Sadly, the government remains brazen in its resolve to continue to disrespect the rule of law, no matter whose ox is gored.
For any democratic system of government anchored on the rule of law, and for Nigeria in particular which should set exemplary pace for other nascent democracies in Africa, it is an unfortunate detestable precedence that will stick with the history of the Buhari government.
In any credible democracy, it is dangerous for any government to continue to disregard the judiciary, which is an indispensable independent third arm of government. The wrong message to established democracies and other members of the international community is crystal clear: Nigerian government is lawless and it does not respect the rule of law or its own judiciary. This is absurd and condemnable.
Times without number, the federal government, especially some of its security agencies, have been culpable in this unwholesome act. Most obvious in this democracy – threatening misnomer is the Department of State Services, DSS, the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.
Ordinarily, it is the AGF’s office and the security agencies that ought to know better about the provisions of the laws of the land, its operations and limitations. It is the responsibility of the office of the AGF to advise government agencies on their statutory roles, the legal implications of their actions and inactions. In this wise, informed views opined that administration of justice of this government is grave faulty.
For example, the case of the detained former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, who is standing trial on criminal charges on corruption, is handy. Two courts of competent jurisdiction have granted him favourable ruling for his bail but he is still being held in custody of the DSS. The former NSA, despite being granted bail by a Federal High Court after he met bail applications, is neither free nor has access to his lawyers. Similarly, the regional Court of ECOWAS gave him a favourable ruling pertaining to the violation and enforcement of his fundamental human rights.
The court ordered that that ex-NSA must be allowed to access and brief his lawyers at a neutral place instead of the premises of the DSS headquarters in Abuja, so as to enable him prepare adequately for his defence. Justice Husain Buba Yusuf issued the order in Abuja directing that henceforth, the detained former NSA should be allowed by the operatives to have access to his lawyers within the premises of the FCT Judiciary headquarters in Maitama, Abuja. The judge’s stand followed complaints by Dasuki’s lawyers that his legal team had not had access to him to prepare for the substantive trial almost two months after a court order of April directed thus.
Other examples are Nnamdi Kanu of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr Ikenga Ugochinere, President of the National Youths Council of Nigeria, and others unheard. Though Mr. Ugochinere recently regained his freedom, the issue has become reference points as well as everyday topic on national conversation platforms that border on the federal government’s impunity and lack of respect for the rule of law and courts of the land.
Unfortunately, it is the same explanation on the case of Kanu. The case was equally protracted and complicated that a Federal High Court judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, exempted himself from hearing his case. Justice Mohammed announced the decision after Mr. Kanu objected to the case, saying it was needless as the federal government had repeatedly disobeyed previous court rulings concerning his matter. According to Kanu, he preferred being held in detention than subjecting himself to a trial, which outcome would not be respected by security agencies.
As a country that practices democracy, the operators must obey the rule of law. No matter the offence one may have committed against the state, government’s interest cannot override court’s decision. No government can assume the prosecutor and judge in its case.
Let it be underscored that except the federal government begins to respect court rulings in line with laid-down democratic practices, it is unwittingly calling for anarchy. It is only under military regimes that court orders can be trampled upon but in a democracy, there is a limit to which people can endure impunity.
It should be pointed out that the present economic hardship and widespread anger in the country can make enemies of the government and Nigeria take advantage of the situation, mobilise civil unrest to put Nigeria’s democracy in jeopardy. This should not be allowed to happen through government’s careless and stiff attitude to public outcry.
It is therefore imperative for the federal government to respect every court decision on any matter, unless such court order has been vacated by another court of competent jurisdiction. The courts are the arbiter and their pronouncements should be sacred and respected.