…Police unaware of court order to reinstate dismissed officer

Say IGP’ll never disregard court ruling, rule of law

By Kingsley Omonobi & Ikechukwu Nnochiri

THE Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday sentenced the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba to three months in prison for disobeying a court order.

But the Police in a swift reaction, said in a statement yesterday that the IGP would never disregard court ruling or rule of law, insisting they were not aware of a court order reinstating any dismissed police officer.

But the court, in a ruling delivered by Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon, held that the IGP should be committed to prison and detained in custody for a period of three months until he obeyed an order it made since October 21, 2011.

“If at the end of the three months, the contemnor remains recalcitrant and still refuses to purge his contempt, he shall be committed for another period and until he purges his contempt”, the court held.

The IGP’s committal followed a suit marked ABJ/CS/637/2013, which was filed by a police officer, Mr. Patrick Okoli, who was unlawfully and compulsorily retired from the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, in 1992.

Justice Olajuwon noted that though the Police Service Commission, PSC, recommended Okoli’s reinstatement into the Police, a decision that was inline with a judgement a High Court in Bauchi State delivered since February 9, 1994, the IGP, refused to comply with the order.

The trial judge further noted that it was owing to willful refusal of the Respondent (IGP) to comply with the judgement, despite entreaties, that caused the Applicant to file another suit for an order of mandamus to compel him to enforce the directives and orders of the Police Service Commission, PSC, as contained in a letter dated 5/5/2009 (with Ref. No. PSC/CSP/01/295A).

In a subsequent judgement that was delivered by Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court, on October 21, 2011, he ordered the IGP to comply with directive of the PSC by reinstating the Applicant. 

The court also ordered the payment of N10million to the Applicant, being special and general damages for the unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional denial of his rights and privileges as a Senior Officer of the Nigeria Police Force from 1993 till date.

Dissatisfied with the decision, the IGP filed an appeal that was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. 

According to the court, the PSC, in a follow-up letter to the IGP, dated September 2, 2014, expressed its concern about the refusal to obey the court judgement.

“In a bid to ensure that the judgement was complied with, the Applicant further wrote a petition to the House of Representatives and the Senate, which in their proceedings of 19th   and 27th February, 2014, respectively, prayed the Respondent to enforce the judgement.

“It was due to the series of refusal, that the Applicant commenced the contempt proceedings against the Respondent.

“My learned brother, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, at a point, ordered that the Respondent should appear before the court to show cause why he should not obey the court order.

“If the Respondent could not implement the decision of the Commission as directed, he could have come to the court to challenge same or pursued an appeal in that regard.

“The terms of the order of this court are clear and unambiguous. This court is satisfied that the Respondent (presently and those before him) has had proper knowledge of the orders of this court. 

“There is no denial of such knowledge and receipt of Forms 48 and 49. The Respondent filed a counter affidavit and was duly represented in court by different counsel who stated how they had written several legal opinions that were not attended to.

“The refusal and failure of the Respondent to comply with the orders of this court has been proved in this case”, Justice Olajuwon held.

She, therefore, ordered that the IGP should be committed to prison and detained for an initial period of three months that could be extended should he still refuse to obey the court judgement.

Earlier, the court, dismissed a counter-affidavit the IGP filed to challenge the suit.

The IGP had argued that it is the PSC that is responsible for promotion and reinstatement of any police officer and that the remuneration is the responsibility of the Federal Government through the CBN and the Accountant General of the Federation.

He told the court that the service-file of the Applicant could not be traced in the Police database, a situation he said prevented him from recommending the Applicant for promotion.

Besides, the IGP said he did not disobey the order of court as the Applicant has not attended the Mandatory Management Course, which will enable him to be promoted to the management rank.

He argued that the directive from the PSC was for the Applicant to be elevated to the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, and thereafter retired, as he has clocked over 60 years and would not be of any use to the modern police and could not attend senior command/management course for him to attain the rank of CP and above.

Furthermore, the IGP stated that the delay, so far, in responding to the Applicant, was due to the busy nature of his work as a result of the insurgency and security situation of the nation.

IGP’ll never  disregard court ruling, rule of law

Reacting to the ruling yesterday, Police headquarters said it was not in possession of any court order directing the reinstatement of any dismissed officer, adding that the IGP would never disobey a court ruling.

Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, said:  “The Nigeria Police Force wishes to state emphatically that the office of the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, did not disregard court order or rule of law.

‘’The office is not aware of any court order during the current IGP’s tenure, with respect to a matter making the round in the media that the IGP disobeyed a court order on the reinstatement of a dismissed officer of the Force.

“It is instructive to note that the case in point concerns an officer who was dismissed as far back as 1992, a few years after the current IGP joined the Nigeria Police Force, based on available facts gleaned from the reports.

“The most recent judgement on the matter was given in 2011 which should ordinarily not fall under the direct purview of the current administration of the Force. Thus, the news is strange and astonishing.

“The IGP has, however, directed the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Force Legal Unit to investigate the allegation in a bid to ascertain the position of the court and profer informed legal advice for the IGP’s prompt and necessary action.

“The Inspector-General of Police reiterates his commitment to upholding the rule of law and synergizing with the judiciary to ensure quick dispensation of justice for an improved criminal justice system.”

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