An advocacy group, Access to Justice, has expressed “escalating concerns” over alleged subversion of the rule of law and persistent acts of interference with the functions, independence and judicial authority of Nigerian courts by the Federal Government
It then urged the United Nations (UN) to intervene in order to reverse the situation in Nigeria.
The Executive Director of the group, Joseph Otteh, who stated this in a statement, made available to Daily Champion in Lagos, acknowledged the fact that “there is no one, not even the courts now that can rein in the Nigerian Government or reverse the situation”.
According to Otteh, only the United Nations stands in a good position to influence the government to help roll back “a culture of impunity that has characterized the government relationship with the judiciary under the present administration”.
The present government came into power in May 2015, after democratic elections that witnessed the first ever transition of power in Nigeria, to an opposition party. President Muhammadu Buhari, who was later sworn in as President had pledged, both during his campaigns and after his election to respect and abide by the rule of law, but he has failed to deliver on those commitments and promises”, Otteh alleged.
Otteh also alleged that President Buhari’s two years in office have been marked by persistent disobedience of court orders as well as massive and gross violation of human rights.
He mentioned the case of Sheik El-Zakzaky, who the High Court was ordered to be released with his wife in December 2016, but have yet to be released by the Federal Government.
Otteh pointed out that the Federal Government flouted the judicial pronouncement that their arrest was illegal and unconstitutional and that they be released immediately.
He also mentioned the case of Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retd), the former National Security Adviser (NSA) to a previous government, who is being tried for corruption in Nigeria.
“But he too, has been granted bail more than twice by the High Courts in Nigeria. On the 4th October 2016, the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS) Court of Justice made a similar order to release him on bail and ordered the Federal Government to pay him 1.5 million Naira for damages. The government failed to implement any of these”, he stated.
“Recently, the Lagos State Government had also disobeyed court orders to stop forceful eviction of residents of the Otodo-Gbame water front community in Lagos State. On the 26th of January 2017, a Lagos State High Court issued an order instructing the Lagos State government to stop the demolition of the Otodo- Gbame community, a fishing settlement outside Lekki.
“The court declared that the forceful eviction of members of the community constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The Lagos State government, however, ignored the orders of the court and carried on with the demolition leaving 5,000 residents of the community internally displaced”.
Persistent recalcitrance to court judgment and order is setting a new benchmark in Executive/Judiciary relations in Nigeria and compromising the ability of the Judiciary to act as a check and balance on executive power”, Otteh said.
He said given the impunity shown by the government to orders and judgment of the courts, the judiciary now appears powerless to act as safeguard for holding the government accountable in accordance with its full constitutional mandate as an independent branch of government.
“Access to Justice hereby calls on Mr. Diego Garcia Sayan, the United Nations (UN) social Rapporteur on the independence of Judges and lawyers , to inquire into allegations against the Nigerian Government. We do not need to remind the UN that the rule of law mandates due process as well as freedom of each arm of government to fully exercise its function without fear or favour”, the group further said.
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