The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, was sentenced to three months in prison by Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon of the Federal High Court in Abuja for disobeying a court order (contempt).
Following a suit filed by a former police officer, Patrick Okoli, who claimed he was unlawfully and compulsorily retired from the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Justice Olajuwon issued the order.
According to the supporting affidavits, the applicant (Okoli) was forcibly retired in June 1992.
After challenging his forced retirement, a Bauchi High Court ruled in his favor on February 19, 1994, and quashed the letter of compulsory retirement.
The applicant was also reinstated with all rights and privileges, according to the high court.
In a letter dated October 13, 2004, the Police Service Commission (PSC) directed the then-IGP to reinstate the applicant and issue a recommendation for promotion in accordance with the court’s decision.
As a result, Okoli filed a suit at the Abuja Federal High Court, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/637/2009, seeking an order of mandamus to compel the enforcement of the Bauchi High Court’s order and the PSC’s directives.
On October 21, 2011, the Federal High Court in Abuja issued a decision in favor of the applicant.
The IGP’s office filed an appeal against the court’s decision, but it was denied.
The applicant went on to take additional steps to enforce the order, including approaching the Federal House of Representatives, which then wrote to the IGP’s office.
Following the failure of previous efforts, the applicant approached the law firm of Festus Keyamo to initiate a committal proceeding against the respondent.
In his decision, Olajuwon stated that the IGP should be committed to prison and detained for three months, or until he obeys the order.
The judge said, “It is unfortunate that the chief enforcer of the law is one who has deliberately refused to comply with the same law. It is important to state that obedience to orders of court is fundamental to the good order, peace and stability of a nation,” the judge held.
“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, so as to prevent the authority and administration of law from being brought to disrespect and to protect the dignity of the court.
“The terms of the Orders 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 the receipt of Forms 48 and 49.
“The respondent filed a counter affidavit, was duly represented in court by different counsel, who stated how they had written several legal opinions which 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. 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 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 and until he purges his contempt.”