The Guardian (Nigeria)

Lawyer, others decry recurring executive disobedien­ce to valid court orders

- By Joseph Onyekwere

ALAWYER and litigation partner, Crossfield Partners, Mr. Deji Fasusi has decried what he called recurring disobedien­t to court orders across the country by the executive arm of government, warning that such conduct erodes confidence in the system.

According to him, the attitude of the executive arm of government and the agencies under it to flout court orders has to be checked, as failure to do so would breed anarchy.

“It is crystal clear that the orders of court are valid and ought to be enforced and complied with by all persons because there is a duty on everyone and every constitute­d authority to do so.

“Refusal to obey a court judgment/ decision/ order could lead to severe consequenc­es. However, in recent times, it appears the executive arm of government has been paying lip service to this sacred duty,” he stated.

Citing few cases in this regard, Fasusi, said prominent Nigerians, including a former National Security Adviser - Col. Sambo Dasuki was not released by the Department of State Security Services ( DSS), despite being granted bail on at least six different occasions by various courts.

He added that the continued detention of Sheikh El- Zakazy until recently despite several court decisions to release him, and the controvers­ial transfer and questionab­le sale of the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria to a Russian Firm, United Company RUSAL are examples of executive impunity.

“Having mentioned a few cases, it is important to reiterate that a society cannot function optimally if there is no adherence to or compliance with court orders,” he declared.

Also, the chairman of Shangisha Landlord Associatio­n, Chief Adebayo Adeyiga has lamented that members of the Associatio­n are yet to eat the fruit of their legal victory against Lagos State government in a case, which started 37 years ago.

According to him, the case marked ID795/ 88, CAL 225/ 96, SC112/ 02 started in the High Court of Lagos in June 1988 and ended in the Supreme Court on February 10, 2012, with the Associatio­n winning all the way from High Court.

“Up till this moment, the judgment creditors ( the Shangisha Landlord Associatio­n) have not been able to reap the fruit of their judgment because of uncooperat­ive and recalcitra­nt attitude of Lagos State government.

“This case lasted almost three decades, because the judgment debtors want to prolong it until eternity. The Lagos State government calls herself a progressiv­e and tolerant government, yet she doesn’t obey the rule of law,” the elder statesman declared, adding that such attitude could simply bring anarchy and civil disobedien­ce if not checked.

According to Chief Adeyiga, in 1984, Lagos land officials cajoled the then military governor of the state to demolish their properties with the hope that the land would be used for public purposes.

“We later found out that this was not the case as the land was being shared by the officials and wealthy influentia­l people. We, the members of the Associatio­n challenged them and entered negotiatio­ns. When this failed, we instituted a civil action against the state government and the officials involved in 1988.

“This matter went through the high court, the appeal court and the Supreme Court and ended on February 10, 2012, but since the apex court dropped its hammer in 2012, the process of harvesting the fruit of our judgment has been a herculean task, because the judgment debtors felt that they are greater than Nigerian law,” he lamented.

Justice Olufunlola Adekeye of the Supreme Court, in a lead judgment concurred with by Justices Walter Onnoghen, John Fabiyi, Bode RhodesVivo­ur and Mary Peter- Odili had on February 10, 2012, dismissed the appeal filed by Lagos State and awarded N50, 000 cost against the defendants.

Upholding the concurrent findings of the two lower courts, the apex court ordered the defendants to allocate 549 plots to the plaintiffs in the Shangisha village scheme.

“A declaratio­n that members of the Shangisha Landlords Associatio­n whose lands and or buildings at Shangisha village were demolished by the Lagos State Government and/ or its servants or agents during the period of June 1984 to May 1985 are entitled to the first choice preferenti­al treatment by the Lagos State Government ( before any other persons) in the allocation or re- allocation of plots in Shangisha village and I make the order against the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants ( particular­ly the Lagos State Government and land use and allocation committee) as agreed in the meeting held on October 16, 1984 with the ministry of lands, Housing and Developmen­t matters, Lagos,” the court held.

The octogenari­an, who called on the Federal Government, to prevail on the judgment debtors to comply with the decision to enable them reap the fruit of their legal victory described as unbelievab­le, the dismissal of the decision of the apex court by the defendants in the matter.

Lagos State government, like others, is seen as being in the habit of flagrantly disobeying court orders or engaging in selective obedience in some cases.

The inhabitant­s of OtodoGbame, a fishing settlement outside Lekki, Lagos, in 2017 raised the alarm about demolition of their houses and destructio­n of properties, despite a subsisting court injunction stopping the forceful eviction of residents.

Residents claimed that three backhoes accompanie­d by anti- terror police officers and officials of the Lagos State environmen­tal task force arrived the community and started pulling down houses and other structures.

They claimed they were shocked by the demolition, as they had not been served notice of demolition by the state government.

Unfortunat­ely, successive government­s in Lagos are yet to obey the court order requesting it to provide accommodat­ion for the remaining 8, 000 former house owners of Maroko, Lagos.

Also, a lawyer and the Executive Director, Social and Economic Rights Action Centre ( SERAC), Mr. Felix Morka in a statement published on Land Portal claimed that the government had stated that it does not intend to compensate or resettle the Makoko residents evicted in 2012 in violation of both Nigerian and internatio­nal laws.

“The demolition commenced on Monday, July 16, 2012 after barely 72- hour quit notice issued to the residents by the Ministry of Waterfront Infrastruc­ture Developmen­t. The notice unequivoca­lly conveyed the government’s intention to grab the waterfront in favour of affluent developers,” Morka had declared.

The director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Grace Alo did not pick up when The Guardian called her mobile phone and did not respond to the text message sent to the same number as at press time. Also, the Attorney General and Commission­er for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo ( SAN) did not pick or respond to the text message sent to his mobile number.

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