The National Industrial Court in Abuja has threatened to jail the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Alkali Baba Usman over his persistent disobedience to orders of the court.
The court on Thursday held that the action of the IGP to the rule of law is unbecoming of a top-ranking federal official and an affront to the 1999 Constitution.
In an enrolled order issued by the court and endorsed by Justice Oyebiola Oyewumi, the court gave the IGP May 2 to appear before it and purge himself of contempt of court or be committed to prison in line with the provisions of the law.
Justice Oyewumi in the enrolled order said the IGP, no matter his rank, is not above the law and would be made to respect the law when he acts as someone above the law.
The reaction of the court followed a suit instituted by four senior-ranking police officers from courses 33, 34 and 35 who were compulsorily and unlawfully retired from the force.
They are Chief Superintendents of Police (CSPs) Egong Egwu Egong, and Omeh Felix Okechukwu. Paul Obot Umoh and Superintendent of Police (SP) Galadima Bello.
The officers sued the IGP on behalf of themselves and affected members of Course 33, 34 and 35 who were compulsorily shovelled out of service prematurely.
In a judgment in the suit marked NICN/ABJ/21/M/2023, the court had nullified the premature retirement of the senior police officers numbering about 20 and ordered the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission to immediately reinstate them.
However, the Police Chief and the Force Secretary who are the key defendants in the legal action argued by Edwin Okoro on behalf of the retired police officers were said to have bluntly refused to comply with the reinstatement order of the court.
The legal advice of the legal department of the Force Headquarters advising the IGP to comply with the order of the court was also said to have been rebuffed.
This prompted Edwin Okoro, counsel to the aggrieved plaintiffs, to report the violation of the court order by IGP to the Industrial Court for remedy.
Justice Oyewumi in the enrolled order held, “it is evidently clear that the respondents, the Inspector General of Police and the Force Secretary have flouted the order of this court made on February 27, 2023, to appear before the court to show course why they should not be held in contempt of this court for their flagrant disobedience to the decision of the court even when their legal department had issued legal advice urging the IGP to comply with the decision of the court.”
“It has become the attitude of government officials which include the Nigeria Police Force to persistently flout or disobey orders of the court as if they are living outside of this nation or above the provision of the 1999 Constitution which operates as a guide to curb action and Inactions of the State in the country and it’s operators.”
“The same Constitution has given courts in this clime, including this court, the inherent power to enforce the constitutional provisions rule of law, against authorities and the people in the State called Nigeria.”
“A situation where the courts are degraded by disobedience to their orders would engender danger to the rule of law and God forbid that this clime will become like the proverbial Banana Republic.”
“God forbid that and I say that again”.
“The excuse put forward by the respondent counsel is verbose and same is lacking in merit”.
“It is in view of that that I discountenance the excuse, except the reason put forth respecting the Inspector General of Police”.
“I emphatically disregard the excuse respecting the Force Secretary, Assistant Inspector General of Police Hafiz Inuwa”.
“It is in view of this that before I proceed to hold them in contempt of this court, I give both the Inspector General of Police Usman Alkali Baba and the Force Secretary, Assistant Inspector General of Police AIG, Hafiz Inuwa, the second chance of appearing before this court to show cause why this court should not proceed to find them guilty of being in contempt of this court.”
Based on the consent of lawyers in the suit, Justice Oyewumi fixed May 2, 2023, for the Inspector General of Police and the Force Secretary to appear before the court.