Filing of Appeal Does Not Justify Contempt of Court, Falana Tells Femi Adesina

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Femi Falana
  • Gives Kogi gov seven-day ultimatum to pay deputy’s statutory allocations

Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja

Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has told the Presidential Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, that merely filing of appeal does not justify contempt of the court.

Also, Falana has issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, to pay the outstanding allocations due to the Office of the Deputy Governor, Simon Achuba, amounting to N819, 709, 987.00 for 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Adesina was reported to have said that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration refused to obey the orders of the Federal High Court for the release of Sheik Ibraheem El-zakzaky from the ‘illegal’ custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) because it filed an appeal against the judgment of the Federal High Court delivered on December 2, 2016.

But in a statement issued yesterday, Falana noted that before now, the federal government had invoked “national security” to justify its ‘contemptuous conduct’.

He argued that because the federal government was embarrassed by the allegation of disobedience of court orders being leveled against it, it has now turned round to give the misleading impression that the filing of an appeal is a justification for not releasing the El-Zakzaky from detention.

According to him, “With respect, it is trite law that the mere filing of an appeal does not operate as a stay of action in respect of the judgment of a court. In the instant case, the filing of the appeal referred to by Adesina has not varied or suspended the orders of the federal high court for the release of the El-Zakzakys from unlawful detention.

“It may interest Adesina to also know that the order of a court for the release of a citizen from custody cannot be stayed pending the determination of an appeal. Hence, the federal government did not deem it fit to file any motion for stay of execution of the orders of the federal high court. Even during the defunct military junta in Nigeria, the Court of Appeal dismissed the motion for stay of execution in the case of Nigerian Army vs Mowarin (1992) 4 N.W.L.R. (pt 235) 345. According to Kalgo J.C.A. (as he then was): ‘The refusal of the application will not cause any injury to the applicant, but if the application is granted, the respondent will continue to suffer personally in detention after the court has declared her detention unlawful ab initio.

Meanwhile, Falana has issued a seven-day ultimatum to Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, to pay the outstanding allocations due to the Office of the Deputy Governor, Simon Achuba, amounting to N819, 709, 987.00 for 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Falana in a letter dated July 17, 2019, which a copy was made available to THISDAY in Lokoja yesterday, stated that the accumulated statutory allocations the state government has withheld which include travel allowances, hotel bills, pledges and outstanding monthly impress and salaries due to the state deputy governor amounted to N819, 709, 980, 00.

He said in the letter that: “If our client’s request is not granted within seven days of the receipt of this letter, we have our client’s instructions to seek redress in the National Industrial Court. It is hoped that the governor will not allow our client to resort to litigation in respect of this matter as that may embarrass the state government.

“Our client has informed us that your administration has consistently refused to give approval for the release of funds for the smooth running of the office of the deputy governor even after memos to that effect have been approved by your office. In particular, the statutory allocations approved for the office of the deputy governor have been withheld by the state government since 2017.

“These said statutory allocations are duly captured in the Kogi State Appropriation Laws of statutory allocations of 2017, 2018 and 2019, and supported by various memos sent to your office since 2017 which were duly approved without cash backing till date.

“Notwithstanding the fact that the statutory allocations have been illegally withheld, our client has continued to carry out his functions as the deputy governor of Kogi State. In as much as our client is prepared to continue to discharge the enormous responsibilities of his office, he is currently hampered by lack of funds which has wide ranging implications for the state even as it prepares for the forthcoming gubernatorial election.

“In view of the foregoing, we have our client’s instructions to request that use your good offices to ensure the immediate payment of the withheld statutory allocations legitimately appropriated for the office of the deputy governor of Kogi State since 2017.”

Kogi State Deputy Governor, Achuba, has threatened to drag Bello to court if after seven days, his entitlements amounting to N819,709,980.00 since 2017 are not paid.