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Peace Corps: Why AGF should compel police to obey court order

It is now crystal clear, especially for those who invested so much hope and aspirations in the so-called Transformation Agenda of the incumbent Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, that they have lost their investment. For want of a better expression, the Police remains its same old self—truculent, repressive, dictatorial and above all, lawless.

In Nigeria today, the rule of law is increasingly under attack. In simple term, the law has two qualities; its “spirit”, and its “letter”. The spirit of the law infers that administration of law is about redressing unjust situations. It has long since been declared dead in Nigeria. In saner climes when people commence litigation their objective is to seek justice.

Back home in Nigeria, the reverse seems to be the case. Our Courts are increasingly used to frustrate justice. As for the letter of the law, Nigerian lawyers continuously seek ways in which to twist the meaning of very simple words to ensure that cases drag on for years and guilty persons go free. The legendary Lord Denning warned about allowing people to… “use the law to escape justice!” Nigeria has graduated from the indiscipline of the 1980’s to lawlessness. Lawlessness isn’t the absence of laws, but rather a disrespect for them and the inability to enforce them.

This disrespect for rule of law and the courts has just manifested itself in the recent judgment given by Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday, 9th November, 2017, in the case between the Peace Corps of Nigeria VS the Nigeria Police and others. In the aforementioned judgment, Justice Kolawole specifically held that the Police and other security agencies involved in the invasion of the PCN office were reckless in their action and acted outside their statutory powers.

Consequently, he ordered the Police, being the ‘’Chief Antagonist’’ to immediately unseal the Corporate Headquarters of the Corps and pay N12.5million damages to the officials of the PCN, who were unlawfully arrested, brutalized and illegally detained.

Instead of respecting the valid court order by peacefully vacating the Corporate Headquarters of the PCN, which it illegally sealed off since Tuesday, 28thFebruary, 2017, the Police, in its characteristic arrogant and intransigent manner, flagrantly disobeyed the court order. The Police, which claimed that it was still studying the judgment and awaiting further directives from the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), also said that its earlier action against the Corps was at the instance of the NSA. Imagine the cheekiness! Can this kind of thing happen in any part of the civilized society?

Even when some concerned Nigerians under the umbrella of Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Justice and Equity (CCSO-JE) led by the President of Lawyers Integrity Crusade Network, Barr. Edward Omaga, decided to further the cause of justice through enforcement of the Order by mobilizing journalists, staff and well wishers of the Corps to make the Police see reason why the office should be vacated on Thursday, 16th November 2017, the Police rather became aggressive as over one hundred more policemen were mobilized to completely take over the office. What manner of country is this?

In a country where there is respect for constitutionality and rule of law, a Valid Court Order like the one given by Justice Kolawole for the reopening of the PCN office will be clinically executed and not toyed with in such a cavalier manner that the Police have done. This high level of impunity that the Police have displayed is a direct affront on the culture of integrity that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is instilling in the governance of the nation, which if not nipped in the bud, has all the potentials of further smearing our country’s image in the comity of nations.

This explains why the President, through the office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice should urgently wade into this budding crisis by ordering the Inspector-General of Police to withdraw his men from premises of the office of the PCN. The great works that the President has done in the last two years to burnish Nigeria’s image internationally must not be allowed to be rubbished by the selfishness of the leadership of this foremost law-breaking (sorry, law-enforcement) agency. The notoriety of the Police in abusing the fundamental human rights of the citizenry which has flourished over the years must be halted forthwith.

It would be recalled that the Corps had won several cases against the police in the past. They include: Suit NO: FHC/ABJ/CS/231/2010; Suit NO: FHA/ABJ/CS/481/2012, which was delivered on 22nd April, 2012; Suit NO: FHC/ABJ/CS/613/07 and a report of Police Investigation into the activities of the Corps dated 25th April 2008, which exonerated the Corps of any criminal activity.

In the aforementioned police report titled: RE: REQUEST FOR POLICE CLEARANCE/EXTRACT OF INVESTIGATION REPORT ref no CR: 3000/FHQ/ABJ/VOL.66/85 dated 25th April 2008, which emanated from the Office of the IGP, the Police said: ‘’Discreet police inquiries conducted on the activities of the PCN (formerly known as International Peace Corps), among other things, to ascertain the legality of its existence, its activities and motives, objectives of its formation as well as the identity of its promoters did not reveal any negative motive or threat to security.

‘’Since its 11years of existence (1993-2004), it has operated in twenty-six (26) states and the FCT. From available records, the Corps as an entity has not been involved in any shady deals or any anti-social or subversive activities that constituted security threat.’’ This investigation was conducted at the instance of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR..

Similarly, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), while exonerating the PCN of allegations of extortion of money from applicants said in its report dated9thJuly, 2015 and signed by Adedayo A. Kayode (HOD Investigation) thus:

‘’The Commission investigated a case bordering on the violation of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offenses Act 2000. The Peace Corps of Nigeria was alleged to ‘’extort’’ the sum of N40,000 from every potential member into the Corps. However, after a thorough investigation by the Commission, this allegation has been proven to be false as this amount collected by the Corps represents a subsidized rate for enlisted members for the provision of complete uniform kits and the payment is voluntary.’’

For an organization like the PCN that has rule of law as the fulcrum of its existence to be so wantonly abused and humiliated by an agencies of the government without fear of any repercussive consequences baffles all right thinking Nigerians.. The Corps, just like the erudite Justice Kolawole said in his ruling, has not committed any infraction against the laws of the land to warrant such a cavalier treatment. We are not in a banana republic, where the rule of the jungle reigns supreme. As a law-enforcement agency, the primary responsibility of the Police anywhere in the world is to ensure that the laws of the land are not infringed upon. But it is rather sad to note that the Nigeria Police has long departed from such well respected established norms and embraced the crude policy of reckless violation of the same laws it is expected to enforce. The time for President Muhammadu Buhari to tame the seemingly lawless Nigeria Police is now if his enviable record as the most democracy-friendly President is to be sustained. Let the PCN office be unsealed without further delay.

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