29 November 2018

Falana to Buhari, other ECOWAS leaders: obey court orders


RIGHTS lawyer Mr. Femi Falana, SAN has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and other Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders to “comply with judgments and orders of municipal courts and regional tribunals in the interest of public accountability and political stability”.
He spoke yesterday at the ongoing “ECOWAS Consultative Meeting on Access to Justice and Respect for the Rule of Law” in Accra, Ghana.
A statement by Tayo Soyemi of Falana and Falana Chambers quoted the lawyer as tracing “the lack of respect for court orders to prolonged years of military rule and the belief of African leaders that they are as powerful as the emperors and kings who ruled many communities in Africa before colonialism”.
Falana said: “The intervention of the President is a welcome development in view of the growing culture of impunity in Nigeria. But with respect to the President, it is not sufficient to recognise the court as a civilised forum for the amicable resolution of disputes in a democratic society. The aggrieved litigants require a firm assurance that the party leadership will not follow the bad example of the Federal Government by treating the judgments and orders of the court with contempt.
“Having now embraced the rule of law, President Buhari ought to direct the State Security Service to release Sheik Ibraheem Elzakzaky and his wife from custody in line with the orders of Federal High Court of December 2, 2016.
“In the same vein, the orders of the Nigerian courts and the ECOWAS Court for the release of Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) on bail pending trial should be complied with without any further delay.”
The senior lawyer also called on Buhari to obey other high-profile judgments, including at least four judgments obtained by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
He said: “Nigeria has a duty to show leadership by example in the region since President Muhammadu Buhari is the current chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Governments of the ECOWAS. Such leadership has just been demonstrated by the Nigerian leader, who has been reported to have distanced himself from the decision of the ruling party in Nigeria, the All Progressive Congress (APC), to expel its aggrieved members who sued the party in court over their grievances against the outcome of the recently concluded primaries of the party.
“President Buhari should equally show leadership in the region by ensuring that all judgments of the ECOWAS Court against Nigeria are fully and unconditionally obeyed.”
Falana added: “The hostile disposition of African states to courts is essentially the same. African governments, including Nigeria are yet to move away from the era of military and apartheid regimes when martial law was the order of the day. The rule of law is substituted for the rule of rulers. Not only are orders of courts disregarded, judges who rule against governments are harassed by security forces. The same attitude has been extended to regional and international courts.
“Even though majority of African States have ratified the Rome Statute, the African Union (AU) recently attempted to pull Africa out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to prevent the court from holding leaders accountable for gross human rights abuse, aggression, crimes against humanity and genocidal acts. The ICC has been accused of targeting African leaders notwithstanding that most cases of crimes against humanity were referred to the Prosecutor of the ICC by the governments of some African states.
He advised that Nigeria and other African governments should emulate the governments of Benin, Cote D’ivoire, Ghana, Mali and The Gambia that have empowered their citizens to access the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights sitting in Arusha, Tanzania.
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