Peace Corps Asks Court to Stop Trial over Police Disobedience to Court Order

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By Alex Enumah in Abuja

Citing flagrant disobedience to orders of court, the National Commandant of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN), Ambassador Dickson Akoh, on Tuesday asked the Federal High Court, Abuja to adjourn indefinitely his trial in the alleged money laundering charges brought against him by the police.

The police had refused to unseal the headquarters of the Peace Corps of Nigeria in Abuja since February 28, 2017, despite two court orders to unseal the office.

In a motion on notice argued by his counsel Tuesday, Mr. John Ochogwu, the Peace Corps boss claimed that the police under the law have lost the right to be heard by the court, having fallen into the contempt of court by the refusal to obey the order of the court.

In the motion supported with a 16-paragraph affidavit, the defendant drew the attention of the court to its decision of January 16, 2018 where the police was ordered to immediately vacate the premises of the PCN and allow the defendant unfettered access to the office.

He said that since the order was made and served on the police, the police have continued to treat it with levity by deliberately refusing to comply with it.

The defendant further claimed that the action of the complainant was capable of truncating democracy and the rule of law, as well as cause anarchy and urged the court to compel the police to respect the order before the trial can continue.

Besides, the defendant claimed that he has been disadvantaged in preparing for his defence in the 13-count charge against him because all documents and facilities needed for his defence have been seized by the police and the office is closed.

He drew the attention of the court to Section 36(6) of the 1999 Constitution, which empowers the court to bar a party from being heard by a court when such a party is in contempt of the court, adding that, “He who goes to equity, must go with clean hands.”

Ochogwu therefore urged Justice John Tsoho to compel the police to purge themselves of contempt by stopping the trial of the defendant for now, until the order of the court made since January was obeyed in the interest of the rule of law.

However, the counsel to the complainant, Mr. Andrew Don-Oboh, urged the court to refuse the prayer of the defendant as contained in his mouth on notice.

He claimed that Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 did not permit stay of proceedings in a criminal matter and pleaded with the judge not to entertain the motion.

After listening to arguments from both parties, Justice Tsoho fixed June 11, 2018 for ruling on the application.