- Senate orders investigation of DSS’ invasion of court
- SANs call for judicial commission of enquiry
Deji Elumoye and Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, thursday joined campaign for respect for the rule of law in the polity, warning that disobedience to any court order is a recipe for lawlessness and chaos.
Speaking at the 2019 fourth quarter meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council with the theme: ‘Religion and Civil Authorities in Dialogue for Nation-Building’ in Abuja, the monarch harped on the need for respect for court orders.
The Sultan’s admonition came on a day the Senate concurred with the House of Representatives and directed its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to investigate an allegation that the Department of State Services (DSS) invaded a court room in Federal High Court, Lagos last Friday in pursuit of treason accused person standing trial.
Saying this was consistent with several acts of the federal government and its agencies that undermine the rule of law, many social critics and groups had condemned the act.
In an apparent reference to the accusation that the federal government flouts court orders, Abubakar stated: “Everyone must be law-abiding in the interest of national development.
“We must regularly obey and respect the laws of our land. We should never disregard the laws to avoid the consequences. If a court makes a judicial pronouncement on a particular matter, it should be obeyed to the letter.
“If you have any problem or disagree with the pronouncement, the next step is to appeal the pronouncement instead of disregarding or violating court judgments.
“If you are served a court order and you deliberately refused to obey it because you are a governor, president or any influential person, then you are setting a dangerous precedent.
“There’s no society that will prosper through lawlessness; Citizens must be law-abiding so that we can achieve the desired development.”
The NSCIA President-General called for inter-religious dialogue in the country, adding that it would foster a better understanding among the people.
He warned against extremism in the country, stressing the importance of education and the need to enrol street children in school and curb drug abuse in the country.
In his speech, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, commended the co-chairmen and members of the NIREC for being steadfast in maintaining the peace and harmony in the country.
He said: “The time has now come for governments at all levels to sit down and discuss the issue of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence with our religious and traditional rulers because the success or failure of security administration in the country depends largely on both institutions.
“You, therefore, remain in the frontline of stakeholders in the business of peace building in every community.”
Senate Orders Investigation of DSS’ Invasion of Court
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday concurred with the executive and the House of Representatives as it mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to investigate the reported invasion of the courtroom of Federal High Court, Abuja, by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
The decision followed a point of order moved by the Chairman of the committee, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele.
However, Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) under the auspices of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BoSAN), said only a Judicial Commission of Enquiry set up by President Muhammadu Buhari could reveal the real identities of those who invaded the courtroom, saying even the National Assembly was not sufficiently equipped to investigate the matter.
The DSS, last Friday, had allegedly invaded the courtroom of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, who is handling the trial of the Convener of #RevolutionNow, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, for treasonable felony in their bid to re-arrest him, less than 12 hours after his release from detention.
The invasion, which both the DSS and the presidency denied its occurrence, drew condemnations from both within and outside the country.
The DSS has continued to distance itself from the incidence, accusing Sowore and his supporters of staging the act. However, lead lawyer to Sowore, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), and others faulted the denial.
Barely 24 hours after the House of Representatives set up mechanism to investigate the invasion, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), said the federal government was probing the incident.
In his motion, Opeyemi noted that Nigerians had raised a lot of concerns in different quarters on the issue.
He said the leadership and members of the judiciary were particularly concerned about the development.
He, therefore, urged the Senate to act on it as representatives of the people.
Bamidele said: “I rise to draw the attention of this Senate to a matter that has been in public domain and especially, as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, the reported alleged invasion of the courtroom, again, by alleged officials of the Department of State Services.
“It is one issue that has raised a lot of concern in different quarters in Nigeria.
“The leadership and members of the judiciary are particularly concerned about this development.
“They believe, like the rest of us do, that the courtroom is meant to be a sanctuary; but, for us as Senate, we cannot begin to take a position or analyse the issues based on conclusion without facts that we consider incontrovertible.”
He said while the Senate could not jump into conclusions, it was also a fact that it could not pretend not to know that Nigerians were concerned about the development.
According to him, “The reason I have chosen to come under Order 43 is so that I will not generate any controversy or even make the Senate to begin to debate or engage in a debate over an issue in respect of which we still need to have incontrovertible facts and evidence.
“In view of this, I just want to say that as elected representatives of the people in whom Nigerians — including the judiciary — must find their voice that we mandate our Committee on National Security and Intelligence to interface with the relevant security agencies.
“They should look into this matter, investigate what happened and report back to the Senate on this matter.”
In response, President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, asked Bamidele’s committee to start legislative action on the issue and submit its report next week.
Lawan said: “Distinguished colleagues, you know Order 43 does not allow for any debate and since this is a matter that affects the judiciary, we rather mandate your committee to find out what happened.
“So, I would suggest that our committee on judiciary investigates, finds out what actually happened and then report back to us in one week.”
SANs Insist on Judicial Commission of Enquiry
Meanwhile, SANs under the auspices of the Body of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (BoSAN) yesterday said only a judicial commission of inquiry set up by the president could identify those who invaded the courtroom.
BoSAN warned that unless the truth was unraveled, Nigeria would lose respect and become an object of ridicule among the comity of nations.
The SANs gave the warning in a speech made at a special valedictory court session to mark the retirement of Justice Kumai Aka’ahs from the Supreme Court.
The event was held at the headquarters of the Supreme Court in Abuja.
Chief Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN), who delivered the body’s speech, said the incident with similar ones in the last three years pointed to the level of disregard to the rule of law and the judiciary.
They said: “The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has come up with a statement from the bar condemning the action. As members of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, associates itself with the condemnation of the show of shame.
“It will, however, go one step further to suggest that this matter should not be swept under the expanding carpet of deceit in Nigeria.
“The pertinent question is who was responsible for the action in the courtroom? This is a task that the government must carry out to ascertain the truth.”
While stating that the Nigerian Police being a sister organisation cannot investigate the matter thoroughly, he said even the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Customs and other paramilitary forces were also not equipped to do a thorough job.
Okpoko added that even the National Assembly was not sufficiently equipped to investigate the matter.
“The way out is an independent commission of inquiry under the law. This can be achieved. The Body of Senior Advocates hereby demands that Mr. President considers without delay, the setting up of a judicial commission of inquiry to hear publicly and determined the perpetrators of the acts, their sponsors and their objectives,” the SANs said.
According to them, “Unless, this is done, Nigerians are unlikely to be convinced by any other explanations that the act was not the work of the DSS.
“It is the result of any such judiciary inquiry that will lead to the reestablishment of discipline in the society. The DSS and its officers are not above the laws of the land and the constitution. In Nigerian law and in the Common Law, the superior orders are no defence to a criminal conduct. It has never been and this administration must not allow it to be.”
The NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), also condemned the persistent disobedience and flouting of court orders by constituted authorities in the country.
“We desecrate the temple of justice when we blatantly flout and disobey the orders of courts. A court that is made to be helpless in the face of flagrant disobedience of its orders is as useless to society as a toothless bulldog is to its owner.
“No one fears a bulldog that is known to be toothless, it has no capacity to keep away a marauding army or a band of invaders,” he said.
Usoro, therefore, tasked the government to imbibe the culture of respecting court orders and set a good example for the society.
Justice Aka’ahs bowed out of the nation’s judiciary at the apex upon attainment of 70 years.