Since the inception of democracy, the importance of the judiciary has never been doubted. It can be argued further that the success of a democratic government is closely knitted to a fair, just and respected Judiciary – The last hope of the masses indeed.
Every working democracy in the world has never toyed with the judiciary as denigrating its powers could easily lead a state of anarchy. In as much as the governed needs the judiciary, the government needs it more. The sanctions and other degrees of punishment that comes with committing crimes serve as deterrent to the people. Hence, make lots of people avoid such crimes.
Having said this, it is however pathetic that the present-day Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, has decided to clad itself in an infamous, draconic, authoritarian and neo-fascist attire won by ‘Master Sergeant Samuel Doe’ of Liberia
This is no way an exaggeration of Buhari’s actions. The list of court orders disobeyed by the Buhari led executive council will attest:
Convener of the #RevolutionNow and publisher of SaharaReporters, an online news platform was on August 3, 2019 arrested by the DSS in Lagos and transferred to Abuja.
The Department of States Security Service obtained an ex parte order to keep Sowore for 45 days. Barely 24 hours to the expiration of the 45 days detention order, the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office filed charges of treasonable felony, cybercrime offences and money laundering against him before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana applied for his bail pending his arraignment. Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the federal high court, Abuja granted the prayer.
Sowore has since filed a case of contempt against the DSS boss, Yusuf Bichi, for failing to comply with the court order granting him bail.
To further showcase the administration’s contempt for court orders, Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, informed the media that the federal government plans to transfer Sowore to prison from the DSS custody.
Protests have been held by different civil organisation societies but all to no avail. The international community has also waded in to challenege Buhari’s refusal to obey the court order granting Sowore bail. Two United states lawmakers petitioned the Federal government on what it termed as clampdown on the media and activists.
The Shiites leader should have been freed since December 2, 2016, when Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the federal high court in Abuja ordered the release of Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat from the custody of the Department of State Services.
When the court gave the ruling, El-Zakzaky and his wife had been in DSS’ custody since December 2015 following an altercation between members of the Nigerian Army and the IMN in Zaria, Kaduna State.
Aside the order of the court to release them, the court also ordered that the DSS should pay the couple the sum of N50m as compensation.
This court order was disobeyed.
On August 5, Justice Darius Khobo of Kaduna State High Court, granted El-Zakzaky, leave to seek medical attention in New Delhi, India.
The couple left for India and within a week was back in the country without receiving medical attention.
The IMN leader is standing trial in another court over allegations of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of the public peace among other charges.
Former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, is also one of the persons, who is still in custody, despite several courts ordering his release.
On Monday, July 2, 2018, the Federal High Court in Abuja granted bail to Dasuki from the custody of the DSS where he had been detained for two and a half years as of that time.
Delivering judgment in the suit filed by the ex-NSA in March 2019, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu ruled that his detention since December 29, 2015, amounted to a violation of his right to liberty.
Ojukwu ruled that the Federal Government’s contention that Dasuki was being kept in custody on the grounds of his alleged threat to national security and his alleged ongoing investigation for money laundering did not warrant “abrogating his right”.
The judge also said that should the DSS have any further reason to interrogate him, the security agency could only invite and interview him between the hours of 9am and 6pm on working days.
Dasuki was picked up by operatives of the State Security Service in December 2015. He was accused of illegal possession of firearms and diversion of $2.1 billion from the arms deal contract.
The Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice on October 4, 2016, ordered his release from the illegal custody; a judgement which the DSS had not obeyed.
Court Order On Debt Limit
Asides the DSS being the tool used by the federal government in disobeying court orders by remanding suspects granted bail in their custody, Buhari disobeyed another court order made by the Federal High Court in Abuja directing the Federal Government to set the overall limits for the “amounts of consolidated debts” of the nation’s federal, state and local governments.
Justice Kolawole gave the judgment on February 20, 2018, in a suit filed by the Centre for Social Justice.
Justice Kolawole said it was mandatory for the government to set the debt limits as provided by section 42(1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
He specifically ordered the Federal Government to set the debt limits, which should be approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives within 90 days of the judgment.
This judgment, like many others, is still hanging in the air.
In March 2016, Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Abuja ordered the federal government to publish details on the spending of recovered stolen funds by successive governments since 1999. This order has not been obeyed till date.
These and many others are court orders the Buhari led executive council has failed to obey. In summing up Buhari’s refusal to obey court orders, the Nigerian Bar Association stated that Buhari’s disregard for court orders is legendary. The National Publicity Secretary of the Association, Mr. Kunle Edun, echoing the claims of Nigerians said “The disobedience of court orders by the present administration of the Federal government is legendary”. This does not augur well for our ’emerging’ democracy. The bedrock of any democracy is the rule of law and a threat to that is definitely a threat to Democracy!