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Obey court judgments or face contempt proceedings, SERAP tells Buhari


The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the federal government to “immediately take meaningful steps to implement several court judgments obtained by the group or face contempt proceedings in national courts.”

The civil society group on Wednesday at a press conference in Ikeja, Lagos, said the contempt proceedings would attract international sanctions against the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for its “persistent disobedience of court judgments.”

At the event tagged, “Rule of law crisis: How failure of the Buhari government to enforce court judgment is contributing to grand corruption and impunity in Nigeria,” the group’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said the apex government “has the habit of deliberately refusing to obey court judgment.”

In his welcome address, Mr Oluwadare, said the government’s refusal to obey the court judgment is tantamount to human rights violation.

“Among the several judgments the Buhari administration has failed to obey is the judgment by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, which awarded N30m as compensation for the ill-treatment of journalist Agba Jalingo, who faced trumped-up and politically motivated charges of treason,” he said.

“Another judgment the Buhari administration is failing to implement is the judgment by the ECOWAS Court which found the government responsible for abuses by oil companies and directed it to hold to account the companies and other perpetrators of oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

“We urge President Buhari to without further delay publicly instruct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami SAN to ensure the effective implementation of all of the judgments obtained by SERAP and other outstanding judgments.”

Mr Oluwadare said the implementation of the court judgment would protect the integrity of the legal system and build public trust in the government.

“Implementing the judgments will provide the government the much-needed resources to fund national budgets, reduce the growing level of borrowing, and serve as an effective deterrent to corrupt public officials and improve public confidence and trust in the administration’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption, respect human rights and observe the rule of law,” he said.

Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer, during the presentation of SERAP Law Report wondered why the federal government “would take a swipe at the group for going to court to challenge acts of corruption and official impunity”.

“In any country that professes to practice rule of law, it is the height of primitivity for the government to challenge the act of going to court by the citizens,” Mr Falana said.

“It is quite ironic that those who have protested against misrule and impunity in the past are now in bed with those in government and clamp down on attempted protests by the citizens.”

Mr Falana commended SERAP for seeking accountability despite repression.

Demands

The group demanded that Mr Buhari prioritise the implementation of the judgment by “Honourable Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari delivered on 5 July 2017 ordering the Federal Government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts recovered.”

“The second judgment, by Hon. Justice Mohammed Idris, on 26 February 2016 ordered the Federal Government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999.”

“The third judgment, by Hon. Justice Oguntoyinbo on 26 November 2019 ordered the Federal Government to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors now serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly to collect such pensions, and to recover pensions already collected by them.”

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“The fourth judgment, by Hon. Justice Mohammed Idris on 28 May 2018, ordered the Federal Government to prosecute senior lawmakers suspected of padding and stealing N481 billion from the 2016 budget; and to widely publish the report of investigations into the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.

“The fifth judgment, by Hon. by Justice Obiozor, on 4 July 2019 ordered the Federal Government to publish the names of companies and contractors who collected public funds since 1999 but failed to execute any electricity projects.”

“The sixth judgment, by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, delivered on 19 November 2009 ordered the Nigerian authorities to provide free and quality education to all Nigerian children without discrimination.”

Despite reiterating his commitment to upholding the rule of law and respect for human rights, Mr Buhari has serially disobeyed court orders.

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