By Davidson Iriekpen
The National Industrial Court (NIC) in Abuja has granted leave to one of the 38 senior officers compulsorily retired by the Nigerian Army in 2016, Lt. Col. Abdulfatai Mohammed, to commence contempt proceedings against the Minister of Defence, Major-General Bashir Magashi (rtd) and the Permanent Secretary, Minister of Defence, Mrs. Nuraitu Batagarawa.
The court presided over by Justice HB Haastrup, held that since Magashi and Batagarawa are the Chairman and Secretary of the Army Council respectively, they should be held liable for their refusal to obey the judgment of the court in suit NICN/ABJ/284/2016.
The court had in January declared that the premature retirement of Mohammed from the Army was null and void and ordered the Nigerian Army to reinstate the officer with immediate effect.
The judge ordered that the colonel should be paid all his entitlements from when he was retired and all his rights and privileges accordingly.
But the orders were not been complied with.
Six months after the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai refused to obey the order or appeal the case, Mohammed approached the court for the enforcement of the order.
Consequent upon this, he filed a suit at the court to compel the Army Council to enforce the judgment.
But the Army Council headed by the Minister of Defence and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence in their capacities as the Chairman and Secretary of the Army Council, filed an objection, arguing that they were not parties in the original suit and did not need to be compelled to enforce the judgment they were not parties to.
But the Justice Rakiya Haastrup, in her judgment, disagreed.
She held that even though the Minister of Defence and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence were not parties to the original suit NICN/ABJ/284/2016, since they are the Chairman and Secretary of the Army Council by virtue of section 9(2a) of the Armed Forces Act 2004, they are proper parties to commence a contempt proceeding against.
“It is my view that the Chairman who by virtue of section 9(2a) of the Armed Forces Act 2004 is the Minister of Defence and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence even though not parties to suit NICN/ABJ/284/2016 are proper parties in this instant and I so hold
“For all that have been said above, this court determines this application as follows: Leave is hereby granted to applicant to commence a contempt proceeding against the Chairman and Secretary of the Nigerian Army Council.”