By Alex Enumah in Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja has declared as illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional the clampdown on the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN) effected in 2013 by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps NSCDC and prohibited the organisation from further clampdown.
The court restrained the NSCDC from molesting, harassing, intimidating and threatening officers and men of the Peace Corps in all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
The court also barred civil defense from interfering in the lawful activities of the Peace Corps in the 36 states of the federation and Abuja and as well stopped the NSCDC from attempting to seize uniforms of officers and men of the Peace Corps.
Delivering judgment in a court action instituted against the civil defense, its Commandant General, and one Aminu Abdullahi Kesoro, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed prohibited civil defense, its agents, privies under any guise from taken any action that will infringe on the fundamental rights of the officers and men of the Peace Corps in the country.
Justice Mohammed held that Peace Corps as a lawfully registered organisation has the rights to carry out its programs in the country within the ambit of the law.
The judge while declaring as unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional the clampdown on Peace Corps in the States of the federation by officers of the civil defense held that the clampdown constituted abuse of power and breach of the fundamental rights of the Peace Corps officers and men as enshrined under section 34 of the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Mohammed who in the judgment frowned at the hostile attitude of the civil defense against the Peace Corps, also prohibited the NSCDC, its Commandant General, officers, their agents and privies from obstructing the Peace Corps officers and men lawfully posted to schools across the country for the purpose of providing security for the schools.
The Incorporated Trustees of the Peace Corps of Nigeria had dragged the three respondents namely, the NSCDC, its Commandant General and Aminu Abdullahi Kesoro before the court to challenge the legality of the clampdown on the Peace Corps offices in the 36 States and Abuja and the seizure of their uniforms and other properties.
The plaintiff had prayed the court to declare as illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional the interference of the civil defense with activities of Peace Corps officers and men posted to secondary schools and colleges who have partnership with the PCN.
Justice Mohammed in the judgment that lasted almost two hours condemned the action of the civil defense as barbaric, uncivilised and that the civil defense acted ultra vires.
He therefore granted an order of perpetual injunction against the civil defense from threatening, harassing, molesting, intimidating and disrupting the activities of the Peace Corps officers and men in their lawful official duties.
Reacting to the judgment, the National Commandant of Peace Corps, Ambassador Dickson Akoh, thanked the judiciary for ensuring that the rule of law prevails in the dispute.
â€œI thank the judiciary for standing tall in the face of intimidation; it is a thing of joy that the judiciary has remained resolute, focused and unshaken in the dispensation of justice. We hold judiciary in high esteem and we pray for Godâ€™s guidance to the judge.
Akoh who was not happy with refusal of police to vacate the corporate headquarters of his organisation in spite of several court orders remarked that the siege laid on the edifice in Abuja for over a year now, is not only on Peace Corps alone but on the judiciary too.
â€œThe rule of law as the bastion of democracy must not be ridiculed by anybody or organisation with impunity as doing so portends great danger for the nationâ€, he said.
He urged the police to have a rethink on their disobedience to court order adding that the police leadership should learn to respect the law since police itself is a creation of law.