Civil society group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to “immediately take meaningful steps to implement several judgments obtained by SERAP against the Federal Government to raise money to fund the budget, reduce the growing level of borrowing, and address the escalating rule of law crisis in the country.”
A statement by SERAP through its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, on Wednesday said unless the judgments were immediately implemented, the organisation would consider pursuing contempt proceedings against the Nigerian government in national courts, and international sanctions against the administration for its persistent disobedience of court judgments.
“Among the several judgments the Buhari administration has failed to obey is the judgment by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, which awarded N30million as compensation for the ill-treatment of journalist Agba Jalingo, who faced trumped-up and politically motivated charges of treason.
“We urge President Buhari to without further delay publicly instruct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, ensure the effective implementation of all of the judgments obtained by SERAP and other outstanding judgments.”
Speaking while presenting the SERAP Law Report to the public at the media briefing organised by SERAP in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, human rights’ lawyer, Femi Falana, said, “We are surprised that the Buhari administration took a swipe at SERAP for going to court to challenge acts of corruption and official impunity. In any country that professes to practice rule of law, it is height of “primitivity” for government to challenge the act of going to court by the citizens.
“This was firmly rooted in the case of Ojukwu v Gov of Lagos State which was decided during the military era. The victory over the military junta came through protests and other acts challenging official impunity in court and other lawful fora.
“It is quite ironical that those who have protested against misrule and impunity are the past are now in bed with those in government and clamps down on attempt protest by the citizens.”
The briefing, titled “Rule of Law Crisis: How failure of the Buhari government to enforce court judgements is contributing to grand corruption and impunity in Nigeria” was held at the Radisson Hotel, Isaac John Street, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos.
Falana also said, “SERAP has embarked on public interest litigation in order to promote accountability and transparency in line with the tenets of the rule of law and constitutionalism. The publication of SERAP Law Report could not have come at a better time than now that anti-democratic forces are bent on imposing fascism on the country.
“It is sad to note that many of the judgments delivered in favour of SERAP have been ignored by the Federal Government contrary to Section 287 of the Constitution which has imposed a binding obligation on all authorities and persons in Nigeria to comply with the verdicts of all courts. I enjoin SERAP to take advantage of the provisions of the law to enforce the judgments without any further delay.”
SERAP added, “The failure and/or refusal to enforce and implement legally binding judgments of court is entirely inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s international human rights obligations. It is unacceptable to take the court, which is the guardian of justice in this country, for a ride. A democratic state based on the rule of law cannot exist or function, if the government routinely ignores and/or fails to abide by court orders.
“Other high-profile judgments obtained by SERAP that the Federal Government is refusing and/or failing to obey include the following: The first of such judgments is the judgment by Honourable Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari delivered on 5 July, 2017 ordering the Federal Government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts recovered.
“The second judgment, by Hon. Justice Mohammed Idris, on 26 February, 2016 ordered the Federal Government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999.
“The third judgment, by Hon. Justice Oguntoyinbo on 26 November, 2019 ordered the Federal Government to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors now serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly to collect such pensions, and to recover pensions already collected by them.
“The fourth judgment, by Hon. Justice Mohammed Idris on 28 May 2018, ordered the Federal Government to prosecute senior lawmakers suspected of padding and stealing N481 billion from the 2016 budget; and to widely publish the report of investigations into the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.
“The fifth judgment, by Hon. by Justice Obiozor, on 4 July 2019 ordered the Federal Government to publish the names of companies and contractors who collected public funds since 1999 but failed to execute any electricity projects.
“The sixth judgment, by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, delivered on 19 November, 2009 ordered the Nigerian authorities to provide free and quality education to all Nigerian children without discrimination.”