Human Rights Lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Wednesday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of the member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to obey Court orders.
He said it is important the leaders “comply with judgments and orders of municipal courts and regional tribunals in the interest of public accountability and political stability.”
Falana made the call in a speech he delivered on Wednesday at the ongoing “ECOWAS Consultative Meeting on Access to Justice and Respect for the Rule of Law” in Accra, Ghana.
The human rights lawyer blamed the lack of respect for court orders on “prolonged years of military rule and the belief of African leaders that they are as powerful as the emperors and kings who ruled many communities in Africa before colonialism.”
He said that the intervention of President Buhari who overruled the National Chairman of the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole’s decision barring contestants who challenged the conduct and results of primaries in court, “is a welcome development in view of the growing culture of impunity in Nigeria.”
However, Falana said it is not sufficient for the President to recognise the court as a civilized forum for the amicable resolution of disputes in a democratic society, his actions should be indication that he meant it.
“The aggrieved litigants require a firm assurance that the party leadership will not follow the bad example of the Federal Government by treating the judgments and orders of the court with contempt,” he stated.
He added that “having now embraced the rule of law, President Buhari ought to direct the State Security Service to release Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife from custody in line with the orders of Federal High Court of December 2, 2016.
“In the same vein, to comply with the orders of the Nigerian courts and the ECOWAS Court of Justice for the release of Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) on bail pending trial without any further delay.”
According to Falana, “other high-profile judgments that President Buhari must obey without further delay include at least four judgments obtained by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
“The first is the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering the government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts recovered.
“The second judgment, by Justice Mohammed Idris, that ordered the government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, while the third judgment, also by Justice Idris,
that ordered President Buhari to act on reports of investigations into allegations of padding and stealing of some N481 billion from the 2016 budget by some principal officers of the National Assembly, and to ensure prosecution of indicted lawmakers.”
“The fourth judgement by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja also obtained by SERAP ordered the Nigerian authorities to provide free and quality education to all Nigerian children without discrimination.”
He said that “Nigeria has a duty to show leadership by example in the region since President Muhammadu Buhari is the current Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Governments of the ECOWAS.
He said good leadership has just been demonstrated by the Nigerian leader who has been reported to have distanced himself from the decision of the ruling party in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC),
to expel its aggrieved members who sued the party in court over their grievances against the outcome of the recently concluded primaries of the party.
“President Buhari should equally show leadership in the region by ensuring that all judgments of the ECOWAS Court against Nigeria are fully and unconditionally obeyed.
“The hostile disposition of African states to courts is essentially the same. African governments including Nigeria are yet to move away from the era of military and apartheid regimes when martial law was the order of the day”, he said.
Falana observed that in an era where “the rule of law is substituted for the rule of rulers not only are orders of courts disregarded, judges who rule against governments are also harassed by security forces. The same attitude has been extended to regional and international Courts.”