Opinion: Sam Jibrin Okutepa Recalls With Sorrow The Way Politicians Disregard Court Order

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Abuse of power and frequent disregard to court orders have become order of the day by Nigeria’s politicians.

These politicians chose which of the court order they should obey as obeying court order is now a matter of “choice”.

It is amidst of this abuse of power that Sam Jibrin Okutepa ( SAN ) reacts this way:

” I have always wonder if those in power ever have sense of history.

If they do, I wonder whether they do think at all that once powerful today becomes too weak tomorrow.

There are people in power who believe they can treat courts and judgments of courts with disdain and contempt.

To these people courts and its orders are just for constitutional decoration and like cloths they can pick and do to them what they like.

Judgments of courts are to be obeyed by all and sundries and not to be treated lightly.

But in our clime it seems not to be so. The legal profession which prides itself as the honourable and noble profession seems to have been strangulated or has allowed itself to be strangulated.

The way those in power treat courts and courts orders seem to suggest to me that they believe that courts are to tow their lines and make orders always in their favour.

But that is not the essence of courts as established by the constitution.

Courts are established for adjudication of disputes between governments and governments, between individuals and government and so on.

The rational thinking is that whatever the outcome of the decisions parties must respect and abide by it but, in our clime that is not so.

I have always lamented this. As my lord Hon Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court put it “I have never ceased to wonder the practice that is so very much exacerbated in current climes, where agencies of the government treat decisions of courts of law with disdain, and carry on as if these decisions were not in existence.

In my view, and I have raised this alarm anytime an opportunity presents itself, (and I do so for posterity) obedience to the rule of law of which respects for the authority and decisions of law is an integral part, is at the foundation and the heart of the stability of our society.

Everybody has a stake in ensuring that the rule of law prevails, and that the authority of courts of law is held as sacred.

The reason is because ultimately, everybody turns to the court for protection, for in the moral authority of the courts lie salvation for all.

This includes for the weak, in the immediacy, and for the strong, potentially.

Human and executive powers are all transient. Stripped by the ephemerality that attends human affairs of his raw or executive power, the strong today inevitably turns out to be the weak tomorrow.

And the question is where will the strong, now weakened, turn to for protection tomorrow, if he or she in the hours of strength of today, facilitate or participate in the destruction of the courts, to which all ultimately turn to as an alcove of salvation in the moment of vulnerability?

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This is a question that I will continue to pose, and for which all stakeholders must and should ruminate in their minds”

See the decision of the Hon. Justice Nnamdi Dimgba in the case of Rupert Irikefe vs. CBN & 2 ors – unreported decision in suit No: FHC/ASB/CS/139/2019 delivered on the 9th December 2020.

I adopt the view of his Lordship above as mine and wish to add that in Nigeria to get judgments is one thing, to get justice in the judgments is another thing and to get governments and its agencies to obey the judgments and give you justice is another battle of more fierce altogether.

In all of these Attorneys General of the various states who have duties and responsibilities to ensure obedience to court orders in most cases stand logic and justice on the head when some of them if not all of them constitute obstacles to enforcement of judgments and court orders.

They see judges as enemies of state. They talk down on judges and judicial officers. We must collectively wake up and defend the judicial institution.

Where there is the rule of law, judiciary is the lubricant.

No society develops without respect for courts and orders of courts.

That is why the constitution has set out clearly the powers and authorities of courts.

Time has come for the legal profession to protect and defend its independent.

The way and manner courts and court orders are treated with disdain and total disrespect must be stopped.

Time has come for the Body of Benchers of Nigeria to begin to apply sanctions on any Attorney General that does not show good examples in respect to and obedience to courts and court orders.

As lawyers we must wake up to our responsibilities as social engineers and let people see us doing justice.

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