Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday ordered operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, who have been laying siege at the residence of Ogun-East Senator-elect, Prince Buruji Kashamu, since Saturday, to vacate the premises with immediate effect.
The order was sequel to an oral application by one of Kashamu’s lawyers, Alex Iziyon (SAN).
Responding to a call for an adjournment of the matter by a lawyer from the office of Attorney-General of the Federation, A. C. Akwiwu, Iziyon urged the court to direct the NDLEA officers to vacate his client’s house.
He argued that the action of the NDLEA was against the order of Justice Okon Abang also of the court in Lagos, in a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Kashamu against his extradition.
Respondents in the suit before Justice Abang are NDLEA Chairman, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Director-General, Department of State Security, DSS, the Interpol National Central Bureau, NCB, and Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF.
Others are the Clerk of the National Assembly, the National Security Adviser to the President, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp, NSCDC,
In the suit, Justice Abang had directed parties to maintain the status quo pending the final determination of the suit.
Ruling on the suit has been fixed for Mat 27, (today)
But yesterday, Iziyon sought for an order of the court that any warrant or application by anyone should be brought to it and that it should direct other law enforcement agencies to ensure that any order made by the court are obeyed since the NDLEA officers laying siege to Kashamu’s residence are armed.
However, Akwiwu (counsel from AGF’s office) sought for an adjournment of the matter on the ground that the case is quasi-criminal in nature.
She told the court that all the orders being sought by the applicant should await the response of the AGF to the processes filed.
“We are here out of the respect for the court. We seek to regularise our appearance before the court. We shall be seeking for a further date to enable us react to the processes filed by the applicant, “she said.
After listening to the arguments of both parties, Justice Buba described the case as a unique one because the applicant had been in and out of the court.
The judge, who referred to the sister case before Justice Abang, disclosed that parties in the matter were bound by the order of the court which directed that status quo should be maintained pending the determination of the suit.
According to Justice Buba, “the order of Justice Abang, whether rightly or wrongly must be binding on parties and must be obeyed. The position clearly is that the person against whose an order is made is bound to obey it or go on appeal.”
Justice Buba added that even though it will be in the interest of justice to grant the AGF’s application for adjournment, “justice will be done on the case if the oral application made by Kashamu’s lawyer is granted.
“The men of the NDLEA are hereby ordered to vacate the residence of the applicant in line with the order of Justice Abang,” he ruled.
Justice Buba also directed that the Nigerian Police must be notified of the pending contempt proceedings before court and that the order must be published by the applicant in a national daily.
He thereafter adjourned the matter till June 4, 2015 for the hearing of the contempt proceedings against the AGF and the NDLEA chairman on its merits.
Meanwhile, the NDLEA has described as diversionary and inconsequential reports of the court order directing its men to vacate the residence of Kashamu and requesting both the AGF, Mr. Bello Adoke and NDLEA boss, Ahmadu Giade, to appear in court.
In a statement signed by NDLEA Head, Public Affairs, Ofoyeju Mitchell, he said the agency does not believe that any court will issue an order preventing a government outfit from performing its statutory responsibilities in a lawful manner.
According to Mitchell, the agency has therefore refused to be distracted and will continue to maintain presence at the residence, adding that it is advisable that Kashamu respects the law by submitting himself to the due process of the law.
“The NDLEA wishes to reiterate that his rights like that of other citizens shall be respected and the due process of law followed in this case. The agency is prepared to further increase her public rating and goodwill in the areas of suspect handling, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
“We are prepared to explore all legal means in handling this case to a logical conclusion. The Nigerian government has received a formal request from the United States government for the extradition of Prince Buruji Kashamu. It also has a provisional warrant of arrest on him contrary to claims by his attorneys,” he said.
Official record shows that Kashamu has been a target of both the US Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE of the Department of Homeland Security, DHS, for over 20 years and was further indicted by the Grand Jury in the Northern District of Illinois, United States on heroin trafficking charges.