Editor's note: Media practitioner, Linus Aleke, writes on the legal issues and controversy surrounding the Peace Corps on Nigeria, the Nigeria Police Force and a group known as the Citizens Media and Development Network (CIMEDEN).
One of the cardinal objectives of law is to regulate the activities of men and institutions, spell out duties and obligations of governors and the governed, resolve disputes and protect rights and liberties with the view to protecting the weak from the strong.
To this end, Thomas Hobbes in his famous work ‘Leviathan’ envisaged what life would be like for people if they were not organised under a sovereign political power, and regulated by law. He looked at humanity in this ‘state of nature’ and saw that they were driven by a common passion: a desire to be superior to others for the dual purpose of self-gratification and self-protection.
“So they find themselves in perpetual conflict with a restless anxiety about the future. It is a bleak world where there is continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
But despite the fact that organised political structure and body of law exists to checkmate this state of nature, some individual and institutions are still paving way for a return to this state of nature by fragrantly disobeying the law of the land.
This undemocratic act and disobedience to court order is continually perpetuated in total disregard to the sacred judicial creed that ‘he who goes to equity must approach her with clean hands.’ Just recently, the Inspector-General of Police, colourfully snubbed invitation by the highest law making body in Nigeria - the Senate - to answer to some issues ranging from the continual killings by marauding herdsmen, as well as the controversial arrest of Senator Dino Melaye.
This is in addition to several other violation of court order by the police, especially the Nigeria Police and Peace Corps of Nigeria, even when he is the number one law enforcement officer in the federation. How then can Nigeria Police Force judiciously enforce the law of the land when the number one law enforcer is widely seen to be disparaging, desecrating and disobeying the law, as well as denigrating democratic institutions, some critics queried?
Aligning himself with the ecclesiastic saying that when a salt loses its taste, it is good for nothing but to be thrown away, Mr. Obiora Okpe said that when the head is rotten, the whole body would be bad, insisting that the Nigerian Police Force as currently constituted is incapable of enforcing law as the IGP is allegedly disobeying the law of the land.
Recall that the Senate, infuriated by IGP’s disregard to the parliament designated him an enemy of democracy and unfit to hold any public office. But exasperated by the position of the Senate, IGP also threw caution to the wind and disparaged the Senate, accusing her of blackmail.
The IGP, who spoke through the force spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP Jimoh Moshood took parliament to the cleaners. The statement said that it is urgently imperative that the Nigeria Police Force respond to this resolution of the Senate which is a deliberate blackmail, witch-hunting, unfortunate and mischievous.
“The Nigeria Police Force, therefore, owes no apology to any individual or groups in its effort to ensure preservation of law and order, supremacy of the law of the land, and make sure that all Nigerians are subject to the same law, no matter what their position is in the society.”
Meanwhile, Nigerians were quick to discountenance the defence of IGP that Nigerian Police Force is a defender of democracy and democratic institutions in Nigeria, saying that the Senate was not far from the truth when they branded IGP an enemy of democracy. Some watchers said that Nigeria Police is disobedient to court order and disrespects democratic institutions, citing the Senate example, the several judgments and court order in favour of Peace Corps of Nigeria that the police deliberately refused to adhere to.
Giving credence to the following view, the Citizens Media and Development Network, CIMEDEN, condemned in strong terms, the refusal of the Nigeria Police to obey the court order to unlock the national headquarters of the Peace Corps.
This position is contained in a report of its public policy review meeting held in Abuja, anchored by the organisation’s Partnership Lead, Mr. Ekainu Gabriel, on behalf of the director of the organisation. The pro-democracy, development and public policy communications advocacy organisation said, “As the number one law enforcement agency in Nigeria, it is expected that the Nigeria Police, its men and officers should respect the law of the land.”
The statement further reads that, “The most decent thing for the Police to do is to honourably obey the court order given by a court of competent jurisdiction, particularly the order compelling Nigerian Police Force to unseal the headquarter of Peace Corp of Nigeria. If the police do not obey court orders, who else will do?
“It is a dangerous trend and an invitation to anarchy. The only option available to the Police is that if they are not satisfied with the court order, they should go to court to canvass that it should be vacated. Until then, they should immediately unseal the offices of the Peace Corps.
“The action of police is illegal and it is a bad precedence for the present hierarchy of the police not to obey court orders.” the statement observed.
Lending his voice to the aforesaid position, the programme officer of CIMEDEN, Mr. Elijah Elias, said that it is imperative for the police to be law-abiding, observing that; “the public image of the police, as well as the human rights reports about Nigeria in recent times are not particularly impressive.”
He added that; “as an organisation, our immediate concern on this matter borders on human rights and the rule of law.”
Elias noted that it is disturbing that an institution charged with the responsibility of enforcing the law would flagrantly disobey an order of court, arguing that such negative posture is capable of portraying Nigeria in a bad light among the committee of nation.
“It is a minus for the international image of Nigeria and it is definitely not in the best interest of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.” Elias posited.
Also supporting the foregoing views, an Abuja based legal practitioner and human right activist, Barr. Frank Tietie said that the police, under the leadership of this particular Inspector General of police have been abysmal in its failure to comply with the law in terms of law enforcement and human rights standards.
He argued that; “The Senate has absolute powers to summon the IGP. The senate does not need to give any reason why it is summoning the IGP. The IGP is bound by law to obey the summon.
“The way out of this imbroglio is for the President to give directive to the IGP to comply with the law in the interest of protecting the Nigerian democracy. In the alternative, the president should direct the IGP to resign.”
On his part, a law graduate, Mr. Daniel Iroadinso said; “The president appointed the IGP and he is answerable to him alone. The constitution established that the senate can summon anyone. If the person fails, they can order for the arrest of the person. But in this instance now, who will arrest the IGP?
“The police Act stipulate that the duties of IGP can be performed by a DIG or AIG if the IGP is engaged. If the IGP is engaged in an assignment with the president and the Senate want him, who would he obey? This season that a senator is going through criminal prosecution is not the best time to summon the IGP or the time to answer summon by IGP,” he argued.
It is however imperative at this juncture to conclude with the words of two global statesmen, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto and the late Catholic pontiff, Pope John Paul II who said this about the rule of law:
“Military dictatorship is born from the power of the gun, and so it undermines the concept of the rule of law and gives birth to a culture of might, a culture of weapons, violence and intolerance.” – Benazir Bhutto.
“When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law, engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.” Pope John Paul II.
If the police are not satisfied with the court order, they should go to court to canvass that it should be vacated. Until then, they should immediately unseal the offices of the Peace Corps to show that they are enforcers of law and order.
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