The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday committed the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, to three months’ imprisonment over alleged refusal to obey a sister court judgement reinstating a police officer, Patrick Okoli, who was compulsorily retired.
Bolaji Olajuwon, in a ruling on the contempt proceedings filed by Mr Okoli’s lawyer, Arinze Egbo, also warned Mr Baba against noncompliance with the earlier court judgement.
“The respondent in this case, the Inspector General of Police, in the person of Usman Alkali Baba, is to be committed to prison and detained in custody for a period of three months or until he has obeyed the order of this court, made on October 21, 2011, in all things that are to be performed, whichever period is shorter,” the judge ruled.
Ms Olajuwon warned that if the IGP failed to purge himself of the contempt, he would be liable to another three months jail term.
“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,” Ms Olajuwon ruled.
Mr Okoli, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/637/2009, had sued the IGP as a sole respondent in the matter.
The plaintiff, who prayed the court to order his reinstatement, said he was unlawfully retired in 1992 by the Police Council, presently known as the Police Service Commission (PSC), while serving in Bauchi State Command as a chief superintendent of police, among others.
He said his compulsory retirement, under Decree 17 of 1984, was illegal.
Justice Okorowo, in a judgement delivered on October 21, 2011, gave an order of mandamus compelling the respondent (IGP) to do his duty according to law.
He directed Mr Baba to comply with the orders of the PSC, as contained in their letter of May 5, 2009 (with Ref. No. PSC/CSP/01/11/295A), directing him to reinstate Mr Okoli into Nigeria Police Force and to present for the recommendation of the commission, the IGP’s recommendation for the promotion of the applicant from 2013 to date, among others.
However, following noncompliance with the judgement, Mr Okoli’s counsel filed Forms 48 and 49 supported by an affidavit before Ms Olajuwon, praying the court to convict and sentence the IGP for failure to obey court judgement delivered by Justice Okorowo on October 21, 2011.
The lawyer urged the court to grant their application because the IGP disregarded a memo of legal advice by the PSC advising him to take cognisance and obey the court judgement.
Delivering the ruling, Ms Olajuwon held that Mr Baba, whose attention severally and through different quarters has been brought to the orders of the court, mandating him to give effect to the directives of the PSC, had not denied knowing the orders.
The judge said he had refused to carry out the court’s order.
“It is unfortunate that the chief enforcer of the law is one who has deliberately refused to comply with the same law.
“It is a duty which every citizen, who believes in peace and stability of the Nigerian state, owes the nation, and the court has a duty to commit the individual who has failed to carry out the order of the court for contempt, to prevent the authority and administration of law from being brought to disrespect and to protect the dignity of the court,” she said.