No doubt, the recent warning credited to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, that disobeying Court orders would attract grave consequences stands out to be commended in the light of the numerous courts orders that were in the past not obeyed.
The sore issue of disobedience to courts orders in this country arises from our appalling disregard for the rule of law. It is unfortunate the rule of law which is fundamental in the administrative law has for decades been disregarded by the successive administrations.
Equally appalling is that all efforts to address the wrong perception accorded the rule of law and it’s prime place in the administrative law are being challenged by the arguments posed by national security.
In the last five years, cases of disobedience to court orders by the Federal Government are replicated in the trials of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), Leader of the proscribed Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) popularly known as Shiite, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat, a Yenagea based journalist, Jones Abiri, the #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore and Adewale Bakare.
Dasuki was arrested in December 2015 and arraigned before the then Justice Ademola Adeniyi for unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering. Justice Adeniyi admitted Dasuki to bail.
Three other judges of the Federal High Court Abuja – Justice Ahmed Mohammed and Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu and their colleague at High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Justice Halilu, at various times also granted Dasuki bail.
In the case of Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and wife Zeenat, who instituted a Fundamental Human Rights suit following their detention in 2015, they obtained an order from Justice Gabriel Kolawole on December 2, 2016 releasing them and a further order on the government to be paid N50m and a house as compensation.
Sowore and Bakare were also granted bails by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court Abuja but the order was not obeyed by the Department of State Security (DSS).
There are other several instances where the Federal Government flagrantly disobeyed court orders. One of such other cases that readily comes to mind is an order made by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in 2016 directing the publication of details on the spending of recovered stolen funds by successive administration since 1999.
These orders have not been obeyed till date.
This raises the foundational question in administrative law and separation of powers. But are our courts willing or judges prepared to enforce judicial orders using the Court’s contempt power? These days it appears hopeless because none is prepared to take the bull by the horn.
Government officials continue to give excuses which are clearly misleading. The claims by government officials that these ‘matters are on appeal’ when in fact, in the real sense the matters have been hanged while defendants suffer indefinite detention, are not helpful.
It is dangerous for the society and the democracy to thrive in a state of anarchy that disobedience to court encouraged.
We therefore appeal to the Federal Government, its agencies, the state governments, corporate bodies and individuals to obey court orders.