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Court orders IGP’s imprisonment over contempt of court

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A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, committed the Inspector-General (I-G) of Police, Mr. Usman Baba, to a three-month imprisonment over alleged refusal to obey a sister court judgment reinstating a police officer, Patrick Okoli, who was compulsorily retired back to work.

Justice Bolaji Olajuwon, in a ruling on the contempt proceedings filed by Okoli’s lawyer, Arinze Egbo, also warned Baba against non-compliance with the earlier court judgment.

Justice Olajuwon warned that if the I-G failed to purge himself of the contempt, he shall be liable to another three months jail term.

It was reported that Okoli, in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/637/2009, had sued the I-G 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.

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He said his compulsory retirement, under Decree 17 of 1984, was illegal.

Justice Okorowo, in a judgment delivered on Oct. 21, 2011, gave an order of mandamus compelling the respondent (I-G) to do his duty according to law.

He directed the I-G to comply with the orders of the PSC, as contained in their letter of 5th May 2009 (with Ref. No. PSC/CSP/01/11/295A), directing him to reinstate the Okoli into Nigeria Police Force and to present for the recommendation of the commission, the I-G’s recommendation for the promotion of the applicant from 2013 to date, among others.

However, following non-compliance with the judgment, Okoli’s counsel, Mr. Egbo, filed Forms 48 and 49 supported by an affidavit before Justice Olajuwon, praying the court to convict and sentence the I-G for failure to obey the court judgment delivered by Justice Okorowo on Oct. 21, 2011.

The lawyer urged the court to grant their application because the I-G disregarded a memo of legal advice by the PSC advising him to take cognizance and obey the court judgment.

Delivering the ruling, Justice Olajuwon held that 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.

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The judge said he had blatantly refused to carry out the order of the court.

According to her, court orders are not to be obeyed at the whims and caprices of the respondent and the rule of law is only supreme when parties, no matter the status, obey the court order.

“The refusal and failure of the respondent to comply with the orders of this court have been proved in this case. 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 three months or until he has obeyed the order of this court, made on the 21st October 2011, in all things that are to be performed, whichever period is shorter.

“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 until he purges his contempt,” Justice Olajuwon ruled.

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