By Adewale Sanyaolu
For disobeying a 2012 Supreme Court judgment, the Court of Appeal has ordered the arrest and imprisonment of the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr Alex Okoh, for 30 days.
The BPE DG had sought a stay of execution on the December 17, 2019 order of the Federal High Court for his arrest and imprisonment over the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON).
However, the Court of Appeal has now reaffirmed the order of the High Court two years after the ruling for the arrest and imprisonment of the DG was declared
Specifically, Okoh is to be remanded in prison for 30 days for his repeated and calculated effort to impugn the integrity of the Supreme Court by flagrantly disobeying the unanimous decision of the Apex court since 2012.
While the BFI Group has continuously and repeatedly shown its belief in the rule of law and Nigerian judicial system, by taking all its grievances before the court as stipulated by law, the BPE under Okoh was alleged to have repeatedly shown disdain and complete disregard for the rule of law by failing to obey a simple, direct, unambiguous and unanimous judgment of the Supreme court since 2012.
The failure of the BPE to obey the court ruling necessitated the decision of the BFI Group, a Nigerian American consortium, and winner of the bid for ALSCON to approach the Federal High Court, even after securing a Supreme court judgment over six years earlier, to explain why an agency of Government can be so powerful, to the extent of flagrantly disobeying and disregarding the judgment of the nation’s Supreme Court.
The High Court, after intensive hearings, ordered that the DG, Alex Okoh be remanded in prison until his flagrant and consistent disobedience of the Apex Court judgment is sufficiently explained, or at best obeyed.
Speaking after the judgment, President of the BFI Group, High Chief Reuben Jaja explained: ‘This statement means finality for us because the Appeals Court judgment basically validates all the issues that were in question. This means finality. It means ALSCON can move forward. It means Nigeria can finally put this strategic asset into use, it means our industrialization policy, particularly in the Niger-Delta region will now commence.”
‘Like I said, this judgment of the Appeal Court indicates finality to the long legal tussle. It would basically ensure that both parties understand that there is a limitation to legal tussle, and let us focus on helping our country to move forward.
‘This is our administration. This government is serious with rehabilitating and refocusing the economy, and those of us who are in the private sector, and are positioned and willing to assist this government move forward must be given a chance to support not just this government but the country in general.
‘This judgment has rekindled my confidence in my country, particularly the judiciary. The judiciary looked at the matters and left all the rhetoric and issues that aren’t vital to the assessment of the truth and facts and merits of the case, so the judgment has given me a strong confidence as a businessman, and also it has reassured international investors who may be thinking of coming into Nigeria, that the legal system is strong and bold enough to take action on any case whether it involves the government or private sector, and take decisions that are based on fairness, equity and fair play.
This is a signal not only to domestic captains of industry but also to industrialists in the international community, who had an interest in our nation,.’