The Nigeria Police Force said it had taken steps toward complying with the reinstatement of a senior police officer, Patrick Okoli, as ordered by the court in 2011.
It said the then Inspector General of Police had in a letter addressed to the Police Service Commission in 2015 conveyed his approval for Okoli’s reinstatement into the Force.
This was contained in a motion filed on Thursday by the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, at the Federal High Court in the Federal Capital Territory urged it to set aside the contempt proceeding and committal order issued against him, according to a statement by the Force spokesperson, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, obtained by Saturday
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had on Tuesday sentenced the IGP to three months in prison for flouting a 2011 court order. The IGP’s committal followed a suit that was filed by a police officer, Patrick Okoli, who was unlawfully and compulsorily retired from the Nigerian Police Force.
Justice M. O. Olajuwon, who delivered the ruling, had also ordered the payment of N10m to the applicant, being special and general damages for the unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional denial of his rights and privileges as a senior officer of the Nigeria Police Force from 1993 till date.
But Adejobi, in the statement, said the IGP in the extensively highlighted grounds why the orders should be set aside, including “noting that he (the IGP) had not been appointed into office as Inspector-General of Police when the case was instituted and the reinstatement order in question granted”.
Baba also affirmed that the contempt proceedings were served by substituted means in November 2018 and January 2019 respectively, on the then IGP, and not on him as the incumbent.
In his disposition, he further noted that even before he assumed office, official steps had been taken by his predecessors toward complying with the reinstatement of Patrick Okoli, the plaintiff, as ordered by the court.
Adejobi, in the statement, added, “As noted by him (Baba), this was evidenced by an official letter addressed to the Police Service Commission on the approval of the then IGP, as far back as 2015, and before the court order of November 29, 2022, requesting the Commission to issue a reinstatement letter to the plaintiff and also effect his promotion in line with the order of the court and in the exercise of their statutory authority in that regard. Hence, the grounds for the contempt proceedings ought not to have existed, ab initio.d commitment and steadfastness in defending the rule of law and respecting judicial authorities and hence, will not wittingly or unwittingly disobey any order validly granted by courts of competent jurisdiction.”
However, the Police Service Commission said on Friday that it would investigate claims by the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, that a former IGP, in 2015, directed it to reinstate the Okoli.
The spokesperson for the PSC, Ikechukwu Ani, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said, “We will investigate this. We’ll check our archives and talk to the promotions department at the PSC to confirm whether a letter of reinstatement was written to the PSC by the former IG. I can’t confirm it now, because it’s a long time ago, and we’ve had several PSC chairmen and staff members since then, hence, we need to confirm from our records.”
Meanwhile, senior lawyers have commended the judiciary over their recent ruling against law-enforcement agencies in Nigeria.
The High Court sitting in Minna, Niger State, had issued a warrant of arrest for the Chief of Army Staff, General Faruk Yahaya, for contempt. Also, a warrant of arrest was issued against the Commandant of the Training and Doctrine Command, Minna, Major General Olugbenga Olabanji, over the same offence.
But a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ifedapo Adedipe, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, said it was shameful that law enforcers had become lawbreakers. Adedipe noted that the brazen disregard for court orders by law enforcers was an indication of the degree of lawlessness in society.
He said, “Law enforcement agencies and their officers don’t have the right to disobey court orders. When they disagree, then they should appeal the judgement. We need to move away from the era of impunity by law enforcement agencies to obedience to the law.”
Also reacting, a lawyer, Kunle Adegoke (SAN), condemned the serial disregard for court orders.
“There is no one that is above the law by virtue of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is the duty of the judiciary to interpret the law to apply it. So when the judiciary has determined a case, every institution is obliged, even the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to carry out such a decision of the court.
“If an order is not carried out, it becomes a question on the integrity of the President himself because the President is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. And if an officer under the President is misbehaving or conducting himself recklessly as regards the laws of the land, it means that the government of President Muhammad Buhari is lawless,” he added.