The Muhammadu Buhari government has again simply refused to obey the 6th bail order granted by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which ordered the federal government to release Col. Sambo Dasuki who has been detained since December, 2015. For the records, this is the 6th court order, including ECOWAS’ release order, which this government has blatantly refused to obey.
This is simply a government given to unparalleled impunity and executive lawlessness. And it does it so unabashedly and audaciously, believing that it possesses all the apparatchik of coercion and life and death over Nigerians. Obedience to court orders is the cornerstone of any constitutional democracy. The alternative is chaos and anarchy.
Before Justice Ojukwus latest bail order to enforce Col. Dasukis fundamental rights, four different judges of Federal High Courts and FCT High courts had, at one time or the other, granted Dasuki bail. But, the PMB government refused to release Dasuki. Instead, it sat as an appellate court over the courts, inspite of the Doctrine of separation of powers enshrined in sections 4 (Legislature), 5 (Executive) and 6 (Judiciary), of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as altered and ably espoused in 1748 by Baron de Montesque.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola and Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, including Justices Peter Affen and Baba Yusuf of the FCT High Court, had earlier granted Dasuki bail, but the government disdainfully refused to release Dasuki, even after Dasuki had fulfilled the bail conditions attached thereon. Frustrated, Dasuki had approached the sub-regional ECOWAS Court which also ordered his release. The government said no.
We are having the dangerous situation where this government picks and chooses which orders to obey or disobey, an anarchical situation. The same government has so far refused to obey several orders for the release of the Shittes leader, El-Zakzaki. This is clearly against constitutionalism and the Rule of Law.
The Rule of law doctrine theorises, amongst others, that: all people and institutions are subject to and accountable to law, the principle of government of law. The rule of law means that no person or government is above the law; that there is restriction of arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws. It means that no person however highly placed, is above the law, whether law makers, law enforcement officials, judges or persons in government.
Cicero once famously declared that we are all servants of the laws in order to be free. In Leviticus, we are admonished (19:15), you shall do no iniquity in judgement. You shall not favour the wretched and you shall not defer to the rich. In righteousness you are to Judge.
As espoused by A.V. Dicey, its greatest proponent, the rule of law means absolute predominance or supremacy of ordinary law of the land over all citizens, no matter how powerful.
Let the PMB government hear it loud and clear that the rule of law means that legal duties and liability to punishment of all citizens is determined by the ordinary regular law, and not by any arbitrary fiat, government decree, or wide discretionary powers; and that disputes between citizens and governments are determined by ordinary courts of the land, not by the executive arm of government deciding what is right or wrong.
The Supreme Court of Nigeria and other courts of superior jurisdiction, have emphasized, again and again, that orders of courts, even if unpalatable to the recipient, or even, if patently illegal or wrong, must be obeyed, except upturned on appeal, by a higher court. In GWARZO v. MOHAMMED & ANOR (2012) LPELR-22375(CA), the Court of Appeal held thus:
“It is, also, well entrenched that an order, no matter how unorthodox and unconventional, irrespective of whether or not the trial Judge was right to make it, is a subsisting order of the Court, unless it is set aside. Likewise, a judgment of a Court of law, no matter how incorrectly arrived at, subsists until set aside by a competent Court.
In the case of EFCC v. DADA (unreported), decided on 31st December, 2014, in CA/L/463/2011, it was held thus: “…it is settled that Orders of Court must be obeyed, even if they are perverse.”
Also in the case of FAME PUBLICATIONS LTD V. ENCOMIUM VENTURES LTD & ORS (2000) LPELR-6833(CA), the Court held thus: “Orders of a competent Court must be obeyed as long as they subsist. They remain binding on parties thereto until set aside by a Court of competent jurisdiction or declared null and void as the case may beIt follows that once a party knows of an order of the Court, whether it be valid or not and whether regular or irregular or even perverse, he is obliged to obey it.”
Mr President sir, in the name of almighty Allah, the Supreme God we all serve, let Dasuki go home on bail. Give him a breather. He has a family, friends and dependants to care for. He has not yet been convicted by any court of law. He is still presumed innocent under section 36 of the Nigerian Constitution.
Give him a lifeline. Help us build strong institutions, not strong men. I appeal to you sir, on my bended kneels. Let the milk of human kindness flow in you. Seek ye not vengeance. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath; for it is written, vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
Ozekhome is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist .