Court Berates Police over Persistent Disobedience of Its Orders

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* Adjourns trial of Peace Corps boss, Akoh indefinitely

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Justice John Tsoho of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday berated the police over their persistent disobedience of court orders and consequently adjourned trial of the National Commandant of the Peace Corps of Nigeria, Ambassador Dickson Akoh.

Akoh is standing trial for an amended 13-count alleged criminal charge brought against him by the Nigeria police.

Justice Tsoho had adjourned to June 11 to deliver ruling on Akoh’s application seeking stoppage of the trial pending police responding to an order of court to open the Peace Corps office sealed off since February 28, 2017 during its official commissioning in Abuja.

Delivering ruling Tuesday, the court held that the police as an institution established by law must not be seen to be breaking laws and disregarding court orders and judgments with inpunity.

Justice Tsoho agreed with the counsel to the Peace Corp boss, John Ochogwu, that Akoh as a defendant in the 13-count alleged criminal charge had been disadvantaged in preparing for his defence in the charges against him as required by law.

The court held that the police have breached section 36 of the 1999 constituition as amended by refusing to give the defendant adequate time and opportunity to prove his innocence in the charges against him by sealing off the office where the material for defence were said to have been kept.

The judge said that the police, which relied heavily on the speedy trial of the defendant, must be seen adhering strictly to the rule of law and natural justice by ensuring that the defendant was not disadvantagely placed.

“This court is swayed by the argument of counsel to the applicant/defendant in his reply on point of law that the police had flouted a valid order made by the court.

“If the police truly deserves adherenace to or compliance with the law, it should first show good example by respecting the law.

“It cannot be reasonably encouraged to promote the hyprocrisy of requiring others to be subject of the law while the police wear the toga of an outlaw with impunity.

“There is a democratic norm that no person or institution is above the law, this trial cannot go on until there is evidence that police has complied with the order of the court,” he held.

The police had last year slammed a 90-count charge on the Peace Corps boss, but the charges were later reduced to 13 by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole had in a judgment on the enforcement of fundamental human rights ordered the police to unseal the corporate head office of the corps on the grounds that the action was unlawful, illegal and breach of the fundamental right of Peace Corps members to own property.

Kolawole had awarded N12.5 million against the police and in favour of Akoh and 49 others over their unlawful arrest and detention by the police.

Justice Tsoho, in another judgment, had ordered the police to vacate the office of the organisation on the grounds that the presence of policemen in the office was against the law.

Akoh, had in a motion on notice argued by his counsel, John Ochogwu, 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 and as well occasion anarchy and urged the court to compel the police to respect the order before the trial can be continued.