The Islamic Movement in Nigeria has again carpeted President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to release its leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky, three years after Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court directed the Federal Government to free the Shi’ite leader and his wife, Zennah, from custody.
Ruling in the suit filed on their behalf by Mr Femi Falana (SAN) on December 3,2016, Kolawole had held that the continued detention of the couple violated their rights under Section 35 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution and the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
Consequently, he ordered the release of the ailing Sheikh and his wife within 45 days of the judgment and ordered the Federal Government to pay to them N50 million in damages.
“Failure to obey that judgment by President Muhammadu Buhari three years on and counting, makes it one of the worst violations of the rule of law and a monumental abuse of the rights of the couple,” IMN spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, said in a statement on Monday.
It said Buhari’s disregard for court orders was legendary, pointing out that his administration had disobeyed over 40 court orders.
The group stated, “This stunning disregard for the rule of law and human rights does not come to the Islamic Movement as a great surprise because Buhari’s utter disregard for court judgments is legendary, and statistics have it that he has disregarded courts on at least 40 occasions since the inception of his government.
“In the case of Sheikh Zakzaky, the government has at various times proffered different contradictory reasons for its flagrant contempt of court.”
Stressing that it would not stop demanding the release of its leader and his wife, the sect said Justice Kolawole had warned the government against the danger of keeping El-Zakzaky in custody for long.
The statement read in part, “The judge had warned the government in that judgment that holding the Sheikh for so long amounted to great danger, insisting that ‘If the applicant dies in custody, which I do not pray for, it could result in many needless deaths.’
“However, Buhari has stubbornly kept deaf ears to that and contemptuously continued to detain them.”
When contacted on the telephone, a human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), said he had a list of about 50 cases whereby orders were given by courts but disobeyed by government agencies.
Falana told The PUNCH that disobedience to court orders was not good for the image of the country even in the area of business because foreign companies were usually wary of investing in jurisdictions where court orders were flouted.
The senior advocate further stated that damages were never paid to those who won in court.
He added, “I have compiled up to 50 of such cases of disobedience to court orders. Another area that people don’t look at is that in cases where damages are awarded for illegal detention and arrests or killings, those damages are never paid. They are at best psychological victories.
“There is an archaic law in Section 84 of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act that requires judgment creditors to apply for the leave of the attorney-general before enforcement of judgment or Garnishee.
“Such leave is never granted. A recent Supreme Court decision however says if the AGF is a party to the case, such leave is not needed. But as things are right now, if the police, DSS and EFCC are sued and damages are awarded, monies are never paid. Such debt judgments run into billions of naira.
“This is apart from the general disobedience to court orders which has been institutionalised.”
Also, the Nigerian Bar Association described Buhari administration’s penchant for disobeying court orders as legendary.
It said the development painted a dangerous picture of Nigeria to foreign investors and the international community in general as a country not to be taken seriously.
Responding to The PUNCH’s request for the NBA’s reaction to the ugly trend, the association, through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, said the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), who is the chief law officer of the country, ought to be disturbed by it.
The association cited some instances of the government’s demonstratioon of attitude of disobedience to court orders with impunity.
According to the NBA, they included the the cases of the continued detention of the likes of SaharaReporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore; his co-detainee, Adebayo Bakare; the immediate past National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki; and El-Zakzaky, with his wife, despite series of court orders issued for their release.
Edun said, “The disobedience of court orders by the present administration of the Federal government is legendary.
“This is not good for our polity. The judiciary remains the only arm of government that can guarantee the rule of law in this country. Court orders are now disobeyed by the Fedral Government with impunity. Col. Dasuki, El Zakzaky, Omoyele Sowore and many others that have been granted bail are still in the custody of security agencies that report to the Presidency.
“This sends a very dangerous signal to foreign investors and the international community, that Nigeria is not a country to be taken seriously; that investors cannot be guaranteed of their investment should dispute arise.
“It is rather shameful that it had to take a foreign court to compel the Federal government to comply with a judgment entered in relation to the P & ID case.
“The Federal Government does not respect Nigerian courts and the Attorney General of the Federation who is the chief law officer and legal adviser to the Federal Government ought to be very concerned.”