Lord Denning in Gouriet v. Union of Post Office Workers remarked; “the law should be obeyed. Even by the powerful… I would use Thomas Fuller’s words over three hundred years ago “be you ever so high, the law is above you”.
With the above word of exultation, one may feel disheartened about being personified in a generation in which those who are meant to uphold and execute the law, flout and disregard judicial orders by treating it with kid gloves whenever their excesses were being checked, or when it was against their whims and caprices.
Despite our transition from military to democratic rule, however, executive’s contempt toward judicial orders heightened due to its constitutional immunity from prosecution, this emboldens many self-serving governors to abuse judicial powers, including Kano state governor who was recently a beneficiary of an unpopular order of a court halting the investigation of serious corruption allegation against him when caught on a spy camera allegedly receiving bribe.
This becomes evident when in Suit No. K/497/2018 instituted by Barr. Muhammad Zubair, National Coordinator of Lawyers for Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria against the Kano State House of Assembly, Hon. Baffa Babba Dan Agundi and other members of the seven-man Investigative Committee and Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice of Kano state, the presiding Judge, Justice A.T. Badamasi issued an Interim Injunction, upon ex-parte application, which restrained the Kano State House of Assembly Seven-man Investigative Committee from further investigation of the said bribery allegation, while parties were then ordered to maintain status quo ante pending the hearing and determination of the originating summon.
When the case came up for hearing, counsel to the Kano state House of Assembly and Investigative Committee Chairman, Baffa Babba Dan Agundi, Mohammed Waziri, Esq., described his clients as law-abiding citizens who would not breach the law in any way, and state that “I wish to state that the First and Second defendants are law-makers and law-abiding citizens. The Order came a day to the date slated to listen to witnesses at the Investigative Panel. “Since then, no step has been taken by the state House of Assembly or the Investigative Committee to breach the law. This is to tell you that Kano state House of Assembly is law-abiding. “The Assembly has no intention whatsoever to take any further steps until the subsisting matter is decided upon because constitutional issues are being raised.”
This article therefore juxtaposes how the Kano state governor, whose political life was rescued by that lifesaving order, turned a blind eye when the same machinery rise to protect others from falling victims of his self-serving mutilation and dismemberment of the Kano Emirate, as against centuries of historically centralized Emirate.
It was no longer news that the state House of Assembly while on recess was immediately reconvened on Monday, 6th May, 2019 and the Bill Kano State Emirs (Appointment and Deposition) Amended Law 2019 (1440 AH) was presented at plenary, which passed first, second and third reading. While Governor Ganduje signed the law on Wednesday, which created four additional emirates, a move that was widely viewed as an effort to reduce Emir Sanusi’s influence.
With this development therefore, a High Court sitting in Kano presided by Hon. Nasiru Saminu in its ruling in an ex parte motion dated May 10, 2019 and filed by Hon. Sule Gwarzo issued an order against the appointment of four new emirs in the ancient city. The court restrained Gov. Ganduje, the Kano State House of Assembly and the Speaker, Clerk of the Assembly, the Attorney-General and the State from implementing the division of Kano into five emirates.
Given the fact that the governor has decided to ride roughshod over the court order, he apparently feigned ignorance of the order to execute the divisive agenda. Reacting to order, the Commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba said the government is not aware of any court order as the governor was not served neither was the Attorney General of the state served, although he has seen the order on social media. He argued that the order had already been overtaken by events, saying that those appointed Emirs in the newly created Emirates were issued their letters of appointment in letters dated 9th May, 2019, with reference number SSG/REPA/5/A/86/T by Secretary to the State Government Alhaji Usman Alhaji on Saturday.
As ridiculous as this explanation might appear even to a gullible mind, the law is that that anyone who is served with, or becomes aware of a valid order of court should ensure that he obeys it in full. Failure to obey a valid order may amount to willful breach of it which could lead to contempt proceedings with serious consequences. See the case of RALPH UWAZURIKE & 7 Ors v. THE ATTORNEY-GENRAL OF THE FEDERATION.
One thing to note here is that the interim restraining order given by Hon. Justice A.T Badamasi in favor of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje restraining the Kano state House of Assembly and its seven man committee from further inviting or taking further steps in investigating the corruption allegation against Gov. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje came at a time when both governor Ganduje and the publisher of Daily Nigerian Jaafar Jaafar testified before the investigative committee while the whistle blower had willingly offered himself to voluntarily testified in proving the allegation contained in the video clips released by the Daily Nigerian publisher.
Despite this development and public discontentment of this order, the Kano State House of Assembly and its seven-man committee halted it investigation in obedience to the court order, a situation similar to the purported installation, issuance of letters and staffs of office to the four newly appointed Emirs that took place between 11th and 12th May, 2019.
The state of affairs of this nature in which the Executive that is headed by someone who swore an oath and made a covenant with God that he would respect and obey the constitution, including total obedience to the orders of the court, but turns round to mock the constitution by refusing to obey what that helped to keep him in office as Kano state governor, through indulging in cheap tactics to evade, desecrate, denounce and dethrone the rule of law, is an onward march towards anarchy.
This in the word of an author who put it as troubling and trembling state when some chief executives like Kano state governor and his minions spurn and treat the orders of the courts with levity, leaving the impression that since the courts have neither the police nor guns or the army to enforce whatever orders they make, they could treat such orders with impunity. And by so doing, the courts are considered useless.
Law and Order constitute the foundation of all civil societies; without order, there can be no peace, no justice, and no society at all.
The problem in Nigeria is that executives and public officers act as though they are above the law. In addition to flagrant disobedience, Nigerian rulers have also been notorious for bribery and corruption, and the same set of shameless executives will use the machinery of court as escape route.
Adam Bashir, Esq. is a legal practitioner based in Kano. He can be reached through: [email protected]