Police Warned against Treating Court with Levity

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has warned the police of the consequences of treating the courts with levity.

The warning was contained in a directive issued by Justice Gabriel Kolawale through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.

 The judge who expressed displeasure over the way he claims the police treats court issues, said that police as an institution established by law must subject itself to obedience of law in the interest of the rule of law.

Kolawole’s statement was predicated on the failure of the police to appear before him in a case of enforcement of fundamental human rights instituted against the police and four others by the Incorporated Trustees of the Peace Corps of Nigeria.

When the matter was called yesterday, the Inspector General of Police and the Nigerian Police Force who are the major defendants in the suit were not in court and no reason was however given for their absence.

 The AGF, National Security Adviser, Department of State Services and its Director-General who are also defendants in the suit, were represented by Mr. Terhemba Agber.

Counsel to the peace corps and its National Commandant, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), had urged Justice Kolawale for an order restraining the police from further taking steps against the plaintiffs in the pending court action.

Agabi, a former AGF had specifically pleaded with the judge to order the police to vacate the corporate headquarters of the peace corps in Abuja, sealed off since Febraury 28 and to also order the release of the vehicles and other properties carted away by the police when the office was invaded.

But counsel to the defendants, urged the court to allow hearing of the parties in the matter before giving any order.

In his ruling, Justice Kolawale expressed displeasure over the absence of the police in court without justifiable reason.

The judge said the police who were the antagonist in the case ought to have realised that a case for the enforcement of fundamental human rights to freedom of Liberty ought to be treated with deserved urgency.

“It is an affront to the court for a party in a pending court action to take any further step in such a manner that may affect the foundation of the case.

 “To take a further step in a pending court matter outside the court is nothing but self help and the consequence of such action is a contempt of proceedings.

“In a suit like this, especially in a matter of enforcement of fundamental rights to freedom or personal liberty, conduct of parties who have already joined issues must be carefully watched so as not to render the subject matter negative.”

He said it would not be in the interest of justice for any of the parties in the matter to resort to self-help or impose a fate accompli on the court adding that parties who were already in court must not do anything to over reach the court.

 Specifically, the judge said that his ruling should be served on the police through the office of the AGF to enable the police realise the consequences of treating the court with levity.

He therefore, ordered the AGF and three other defendants to file processes within five days to regularise their already filed processes in response to the originating summons of the peace corps.

The judge adjourned hearing in the matter until May 15.