The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has faulted former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami’s recent claim that he disobeyed certain court orders in the interest of the public. At his screening before the Senate last week, Malami had been asked to explain why the government refused to obey orders of courts.
He had replied, “But looking at Section 174 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I want to state that the office of the AGF is meant to protect public interest and where the individual interest conflicts with the public interest, the interest of 180 million Nigerians that are interested in having this country integrated must naturally prevail.
“That provision has been very well captured by the apex court in the case of Asari Dokubo versus the federal government, that where an individual interest conflicts the public interest, the public interest naturally prevails.”
However, in a telephone interview with THISDAY, NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN, said if the former minister was not satisfied with the orders of the lower courts, the proper procedure to adopt was to file an appeal at a higher court and not to resort to self-help.
Usoro said, “I did not watch the screening where he spoke but if he said so, he is in essence saying the courts that gave the orders disobeyed did not act in public interest. That is not a nice thing to say about our judiciary, because our courts always act in the public interest. If he is not satisfied with orders of courts, the proper thing to do is to go on appeal and not to resort to self-help.”
Many have attributed the continuous violent clashes between supporters of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and the police to government’s refusal to release him despite many court orders.
El-Zakzaky’s followers have continued to organise protests, demanding his release.
Some courts of competent jurisdiction had also granted bail to a former National Security Adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Sambo Dasuki, but the federal government refused to allow him enjoy his freedom, citing national security.
Malami admitted that the AGF had the responsibility to protect the rights of individuals but said the office of the AGF had to prioritise public interest. He is one of the 43 ministers appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari. It is not clear yet whether the justice ministry will be reassigned to him, although indications point in that direction.