Court Sentences Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police to Three Months in Prison for Contempt

Court Sentences Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police to Three Months in Prison for Contempt

The Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, has been sentenced to three months in prison for contempt of the court.

The ruling was handed down by Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon on Tuesday, in response to a suit filed by Patrick Okoli, a former police officer who was unlawfully and compulsorily retired from the Nigerian police force in 1992, according to the affidavits supporting the suit.

A Bauchi High Court had in February 19, 1994, quashed the compulsory letter of retirement in a judgment delivered in favor of Okoli. The high court also ordered that the applicant be reinstated with all rights and privileges.

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In accordance with the High Court’s ruling, the Police Service Commission (PSC) in a letter dated October 13, 2004, directed the then-IGP to reinstate the applicant and issue a recommendation for his promotion.

But the Nigerian Police failed to obey the order of the High Court and didn’t follow the recommendation of the PSC, prompting Okoli to file a lawsuit.

In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/637/2009 at the Abuja federal high court, Okoli prayed for an order of mandamus to compel the enforcement of the order of the Bauchi state high court and the directives of the PSC. And once again, on October 21, 2011, the Abuja High Court delivered its judgment in favor of the applicant.

Efforts by the office of the IGP to quash the case were unsuccessful. The office of the IGP’s appeal to the judgment of the Abuja High Court was dismissed yet it did not honor the judgment, prompting the applicant to take further steps by approaching the House of Representatives and as a last resort, hired a law firm to commence a committal proceeding against the respondent.

Based on these series of contempt by the office of the IGP, Justice Olajuwon ruled that the IGP should be committed to prison until he obeys the judgment of the court.

“It is unfortunate that the chief enforcer of the law is one who has deliberately refused to comply with the same law. It is important to state that obedience to orders of court is fundamental to the good order, peace and stability of a nation.

“It is a duty which every citizen, who believes in peace and stability of the Nigerian state, owes the nation and the court has a duty to commit the individual who has failed to carry out the order of the court for contempt, so as to prevent the authority and administration of law from being brought to disrespect and to protect the dignity of the court.

“The terms of the Orders of this Court are clear and unambiguous. This court is satisfied that the respondent (presently and those before him) has had proper knowledge of the Orders of this Court, there is no denial of such knowledge and the receipt of Forms 48 and 49.

“The respondent filed a counter affidavit, was duly represented in court by different counsel, who stated how they had written several legal opinions which were not attended to.

“The refusal and failure of the respondent to comply with the orders of this court has been proved in this case. The respondent, in this case, the inspector-general of police, in the person of Usman Alkali Baba, is to be committed to prison and detained in custody for a period of three months or until he has obeyed the order of this court, made on the 21st October, 2011, in all things that are to be performed, whichever period is shorter.

“If at the end of the three months, the contemnor remains recalcitrant and still refuses to purge his contempt, he shall be committed for another period and until he purges his contempt,” the judgment said.

The ruling comes the same month that the chairman of Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, was sentenced to prison for contempt of court.

But like Bawa, who appealed the judgment that committed him to prison and was pardoned on the ground that he was not the EFCC’s chairman at the time of the ruling, the IGP is expected to be acquitted following an appeal.

However, the courts’ judgments denote a shift from the Nigerian judicial system, which previously seldom committed prominent public office holders, especially in the executive, to prison.

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