A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has sentenced the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba to 3 months in prison for disobeying a court order.
The order, which was given by the presiding judge, Mobolaji Olajuwon, followed a suit filed by a former police officer, Patrick Okoli, who claimed he was unlawfully and compulsorily retired from the Nigeria Police Force.
The affidavits in support of the suit show that the applicant (Okoli) was forcefully retired in June 1992.
History of the case: Okoli had challenged his forceful retirement from the Nigeria Police Force and on February 19, 1994, had a judgment delivered in his favour where the court quashed the letter of compulsory retirement.
The high court also ordered that the applicant be reinstated with all rights and privileges.
The Police Service Commission (PSC), in a letter dated October 13, 2004, directed the then-IGP to reinstate the applicant and issue a recommendation for promotion in accordance with the decision of the court.
The applicant, afterward, instituted a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/637/2009 at the Abuja Federal High Court seeking an order of mandamus to compel the enforcement of the order of the Bauchi High Court and the directives of the PSC.
The Federal High Court in Abuja delivered its judgment in favour of the applicant on October 21, 2011.
The office of the IGP appealed the court judgment but the appeal was dismissed.
The applicant took further steps to enforce the order, including approaching the Federal House of Representatives, which then wrote to the office of the IGP.
After efforts failed, the applicant approached the law firm of Festus Keyamo to commence a committal proceeding against the respondent.
Refusal to comply: While delivering the judgment, Justice Olajuwon held that the IGP should be committed to prison and detained for a period of 3 months, or until he obeys the order.
“It is unfortunate that the chief enforcer of the law is one who has deliberately refused to comply with the same law. It is important to state that obedience to orders of the court is fundamental to the good order, peace and stability of a nation,” the judge held.
“It is a duty that every citizen who believes in peace and stability of the Nigerian state owes the nation, and the court has a duty to commit the individual who has failed to carry out the order of the court for contempt, so as to prevent the authority and administration of law from being brought to disrespect and to protect the dignity of the court.
“The terms of the orders of this court are clear and unambiguous. This court Is satisfied that the respondent (presently and those before him) has had proper knowledge of the orders of this court; there is no denial of such knowledge and the receipt of Forms 48 and 49.
“The respondent filed a counter affidavit and was duly represented in court by different counsel, which stated how they had written several legal opinions that were not attended to.
“The refusal and failure of the respondent to comply with the orders of this court have been proved in this case. The respondent, in this case, the inspector-general of police, in the person of Usman Alkali Baba, is to be committed to prison and detained in custody for a period of three months or until he has obeyed the order of this court, made on the 21st October, 2011, in all things that are to be performed, whichever period is shorter.
“If at the end of the three months, the contemnor remains recalcitrant and still refuses to purge his contempt, he shall be committed for another period and until he purges his contempt.”
For the record: Recall that on November 8, in a similar circumstance, Justice Chizoba Oji of a High Court in Abuja convicted the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa for contempt and ordered that he should be committed to prison at Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja.
The judge held that Bawa was in contempt of the order of the court made on November 21, 2018, directing the commission to return to an applicant, his Range Rover and the sum of N40 million.
However, Justice Oji in a subsequent ruling set aside the conviction of Bawa and nullified the earlier order jailing him after hearing an application brought by the EFCC chairman.