Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A senior lawyer from the legal department of the Nigeria Police Force, Simon Lough, narrowly escaped the wrath of a Federal High Court judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, who threatened to jail him for contempt in connection with the alleged examination malpractice case against Senator Ademola Adeleke.
The court went ahead to dismiss the application brought by the Inspector General of Police to stay the execution on its order granting Senator Adeleke leave for foreign medical treatment in the United States of America (USA), for lacking in merit.
The court had, on May 6, granted leave to Adeleke to travel to the USA on May 7 and to return on June 9, 2019, to enable him undergo an urgent medical check-up.
He equally ordered Adeleke to honour an invitation of the police on May 6 before he left for the US, having restrained the police from arresting him.
In obedience to the order of the court, Adeleke went the force to honour an invitation by the police but was however arrested and consequently arraigned the next day before a magistrate court in Mpape area of Abuja on a five-count charge, bordering on alleged false statement and forgery.
Adeleke, who is the Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2018 governorship election in Osun State was however granted bail and had to travel abroad for the check up.
To prevent the senator from the medical trip, the police approached the court with an application for stay of execution of the ruling, pending the hearing and determination of the appeal at the Court of Appeal.
The police further asked the court to restrain Adeleke from acting upon or enforcing the ruling pending the hearing and determination of its appeal before the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal.
In the appeal, which was predicated on five grounds, the police said the statutory duties of the police will be disturbed if the ruling of was executed, while the appeal was pending, since Adeleke, who knew he was about to be charged for forgery and false declaration could have escaped from the country.
The police held that the failure of the court to grant the application would render the decision of the Appeal Court nugatory if the appeal succeeded.
However, in his ruling on Friday, Justice Ekwo said by arraigning Adeleke on the day he was granted leave to travel for medical check up in an inferior court had acted disdainfully and thereby derided the authority of the court, which he said was a condemnable act.
He said from the submission of the police counsel, Adeleke has travelled and was now attending to medical check up in the USA, “which means that the application is spent.”
By this development, he said, there was nothing to stay as the injunction was not normally granted over completed act.
According to the Judge, “the issue here is not merely that of granting an injunction over a completed act but whether a party can disobey an order of court and come before the same court, seeking for its discretionary power.”
He said the police refused to comply with the order of the court made on May 3, 2019, so as to have reason for not complying, the police resorted to self help by arraigning Adeleke before the Magistrate court on May 7, just to stop him from traveling.
“It is obligatory on every person to obey the order of court.
“This court stands to commit Mr Lough to prison custody for this blatant act of impunity and contemptuous disobedience.
“The exercise of restraint by this court in dealing with the learned counsel for the complainant/applicant (Lough) forthrightly is to demonstrate to the learned gentleman that the best of use of power is to restrain,” Ekwo held.
He said by arraigning Adeleke on the day he was granted leave to travel for medical check up in an inferior court, he had acted disdainfully and thereby derided the authority of the court, which he said was a condemnable act.
“It must be noted, therefore, that when positive order of the court is flouted, it is the court that is unduly taunted.”
He described Adeleke’s arrest by the police and his arraignment as a very dubious manoeuvre of judicial system in order to avoid compliance with the order of the court.
He said he took the police application to avoid denying them of right to fair hearing, adding that the police are not entitled to the exercise of the discretion, while in disobedience of the order of the court.
The court consequently found the application lacking in merit and dismissed it.