A human rights advocacy group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has called on the United Nations to prevail upon President Muhammadu Buhari to put a stop to wilful disobedience of court judgments by his government. The organisation, in a petition dated May 11, 2018 to the UN, lamented the Federal Government’s habit of picking and choosing court judgments to obey.
It expressed concern that if not checked, a situation where the Federal Government wilfully disobeyed court judgments would ultimately “put the rule of law in Nigeria under siege.”
The letter, signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, was addressed to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Mr. Diego García-Sayán.
SERAP urged García-Sayán to use his good offices to prevail upon President Buhari to ensure the sanctity of the country’s constitution as well as respect for the country’s international obligations.
Among others, SERAP noted that the Federal Government had so far refused to obey the court judgment ordering the release of the leader of the Shi’ite movement, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenatu, who have been in military detention since December 2015.
It noted also that despite a court judgment, a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), was still being detained in prison custody.
Besides these, SERAP noted that it had got two different judgments against the Federal Government, which the Buhari administration had continued to disobey.
It said, “Other court orders that the government continue to disobey include: the ECOWAS court judgment ordering the Nigerian authorities to provide free and quality education to all Nigerian children without discrimination; the rulings by the Nigerian courts ordering the authorities to establish education banks to assist poor students to obtain loans to pursue tertiary education and the restoration of people’s bank to give loans without collateral to underprivileged citizens.
“At least two of the court rulings SERAP recently obtained from the Federal High Court have been disobeyed by the Nigerian authorities. The first involves a case with suit number FHC/IKJ/CS/248/2011 delivered in March 2016 where Justice Mohammed Idris ordered the Federal Government of Nigeria to widely publish details on the spending of recovered stolen funds by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999.
“The details ordered to be published by the court include: detailed information on the total amount of recovered stolen public assets that have so far been recovered by Nigeria; the amount that has been spent from the recovered stolen public assets and the objects of such spending; and the details of projects on which recovered stolen public assets were spent.
“The second court judgment involves a case with suit number FHC/CS/964/2016 delivered in July 2017 where Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordered the government to tell Nigerians the circumstances under which allegedly recovered stolen assets were recovered, as well as the exact amount of funds recovered from each public official.
“However, the Nigerian authorities would seem to have only partially obeyed the court orders in this case. The authorities are not known to have appealed any of these court judgments and rulings.
“Under both the Nigerian constitution and international human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is entitled to the right to an effective remedy, and to seek justice in courts in cases of violations of human rights.”
SERAP warned that continued disobedience of court judgments and rulings would undermine “the crucial role of the judiciary in combating corruption and obstruct access to justice, contrary to international standards, including Article 11 of the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”