BY DAYO BENSON, ABDULWAHAB ABDULAH & BARTHOLOMEW MADUKWE
Ojukwu vs Governor of Lagos State
On October 10, 1985 an ex-parte application made by Emeka Ojukwu (respondent) was brought before the High Court of Lagos State (Omotosho J), seeking interim injunction restraining the Military Governor of Lagos State, the Commissioner of Police Lagos State and the Attorney-General Lagos State from ejecting the said Emeka Ojukwu, who hereafter will be referred to simply as Ojukwu in this ruling, and members of his family from No. 29 Queen’s Drive, Ikoyi, which he referred to in his application as his house.
Late Justice Kayode Eso, who was the trial judge in the matter, granted the interim order for injunction on the grounds of Ojukwu’s ownership of the house and impending threat to evict Ojukwu.
Dismissing the application of the applicants, the late judge said: “With the contempt of the Court of Appeal by the applicants still subsisting, it would he inequitable for this Court to give a consideration to the application of the applicants. Let the Lagos State Government purge itself of this serious contempt, of this apparent violation of the constitution even as amended by Decree No. 1 of 1984 before coming to seek the favour of the court.
“Another very important matter emanating from the act of the applicants. They have no right to take the matter into their own hands once the court was seized of it. The essence of rule of law is that it should never operate under the rule of force or fear. To use force to effect an act and while under the marshall of that force, seek the court’s equity, is an attempt to infuse timidity into court and operate a sabotage of the cherished rule of law. It must never be.
“It is for these reasons that I dismissed the application of the applicants- The Military Governor of Lagos State, the Commissioner of Police Lagos State and the Attorney-General Lagos State on December 11, 1985 and so be it.”
Another judgement delivered by late Justice Eso was in the case of the State (Appellant) Vs S. O. Ilori & Ors (Respondents).
The appellant, by a motion dated November 21, 1978, brought an application for an order to quash the indictment but his application was dismissed by the court. On appeal, the State Court of Appeal, hereinafter referred to as the Court of Appeal, in a lead judgment, delivered by Uthman Mohammed JCA, to which Coker and Nnaemeka-Agu JJCA concurred, allowed the appeal and quashed the information.
“It was in consequence of this decision of the Court of Appeal that the appellant wrote a letter to the Attorney-General of Lagos State on May 8, 1979, wherein he requested for the prosecution of the respondents for the offences of conspiracy to bring false accusations against the appellant, contrary to S.125 of the Criminal Code (Cap. 31) Laws of Lagos State and conspiracy to injure the appellant in his trade or profession by maliciously procuring the seizure and detention of the property of his clients contrary to S. 518(4) of the Criminal Code.
“The appeal therefore fails and it is hereby dismissed. The decision of the High Court Lagos (Oladipo Williams J.) dated June 10, 1980 discharging the respondents after the Attorney-General Lagos State had entered a nolle prosequi in the matter is affirmed. The decision of the Court of Appeal, dismissing the appeal of the appellant, is also hereby affirmed, though for different reasons.
At the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, Justice Eso also handled very many controversial cases but he never for once betrayed his oath of office. Even his dissenting judgments could not be ignored by the neo-colonial legal establishment. At the Western State High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, he handled many controversial cases and never betrayed his oath of office.
At the Western State High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, he handled many controversial cases but he never for once betrayed his oath of office. His judgments in the cases of the State V Wole Soyinkan, Awolowo v Shagari, COP v Agbaje, Akilu v Fawehinmi, Military Governor, Lagos State V Ojukwu, Anya v Iyayi, Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee v Fawehinmi, among others, cannot be faulted on ground of law and facts.
In Attorney-general of Bendel State v Attorney-general of the Federation he advocated that the gates of our courts be opened to all aggrieved parties. In Fawehinmi v Akilu he condemned the anarchronistic doctrine of locus standi.
As far as he was concerned public interest litigation ought to be encouraged as “we are all our brothers’ keepers” in line with our extended family culture. In Military Governor of Lagos State v Ojukwu, he condemned “executive lawlessness.”
In Thomas v Olufosoye, he criticised the resolution of religious disputes in courts. In Awolowo V Shagari, he stated that a state, like a human being, could not be factionalised in the interpretation of two thirds of 19 states. In Garba v FCSC, he insisted that military dictators could not operate above decrees enacted by them.
Also, in Ariori v Elemo, Justice Eso said that judges had to take cognizance of our educational backwardness and level of development in the interpretation of the law. In Mrs Funmillayo Ransome-Kuti v Attorney-general of the Federation, the jurist consigned to the dustbin of history the invocation of state immunity to justify the violations of human rights of the citizens.
Meanwhile, In Obih v Mbakwe, Justice Eso ruled that a sitting governor could not hide under the immunity clause in the Constitution when his election is being challenged. While, in Afolabi v Governor of Oyo State His Lordship held that accrued rights of citizens cannot be taken away without remedies.