“Undue Police Interference In The Administration Of Justice”

“Undue Police Interference In The Administration Of Justice” By Barr.  Johnson O. Esezoobo 

Dear learned colleagues, it is with great concern that I want to bring to the attention of the Bar the undue Police interference in the administration of justice in Nigeria. For the good part of the outgoing year 2022, I have witnessed more of Police interference with the job of the lawyer, using the coercive power of the State to wrestle the lawyer’s job and cause disaffection between the client and his lawyer. 

I cannot give all the details here save to say that this attitude of the Police is a result of the sell out by many of our colleagues who, out of desperation for money, have made the Police the hob of their practice, inspiring and colluding with them to abuse the power of their office. They do this by writing for the Police fictitious petition  criminalizing commercial relationships upon which the Police act in arresting the suspect(s) and purporting to be investigating a crime extort money from the victims. Let me live this for the main issue I want to draw attention to.  

The idea of this new alarm is to call the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to the rescue by calling it’s members, the lawyers, to order, as well as caution the Police, to stop the new level of impunity lawyers and Police are taking the Country to. 

Below is a letter that explains this part of the problem:  October 26, 2022, The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, GRA, Ikeja Lagos State,   Nigeria
Dear Sir,

We are a registered trade Union in Nigeria with membership jurisdiction covering all Senior Civil Servants in the Federal and State Civil Services of the Federation on grade levels 07 and above. We are the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs in the Suit under reference and you are the 5th Defendant representing 1st – 4th Defendants in the said Court action. We wish to remind you and to state that the Suit leading to the  Court Order which you executed on Friday October 21, 2022 on behalf and on the directives of the 1st Defendant (IGP) was instituted on the advice of Your State Command citing advisories from the Command’s Legal Unit on the issue of IGP’s directives  that you provide us (the Plaintiffs) with security, which enforcement resulted in the arguments and crisis that brought us to your office on 22/8/2022 with Area C Commander, Adedeji Adefolarin, ACP. You may wish to recall that, in that meeting, following the unruly behavior of the principal suspect (Bashir Alade Lawal who is still being investigated for embezzlement of the Union’s funds by the FCID) you directed that the office be sealed up to maintain peace, and that the parties should submit their documents to the legal unit for evaluation and proper legal advice on the way forward. It was on the advice arising therefrom that we instituted the instant Court action. When the matter came up yesterday for hearing,  the Court in it’s wisdom declined jurisdiction and dismissed the suit. The Court ordered that we consolidate our action with the existing suit, which we instituted in the National Industrial Court, Abuja. At best the Order was Judicial advisory to the Plaintiffs to consolidate their case at the NIC, Abuja.A copy of the order is here attached for your record and information to the effect that the order is just a judicial advisory to the Plaintiffs and not an  enforceable Order of Court in that:1. It is not directed at or binding on any party in the suit for enforcement or execution. 

2. No party in the suit is a beneficiary of the Order except to the extent of its advisory benefits.  

3. The Order did not disclose any one on whom it will be execute, neither did it name anybody, internal or external to whom it is executable. 

4. It is not explicit as required by law and therefore unenforceable and vague.

5. The Order disclosed no party known in the matter, and did not direct any enforcement agent or the police to execute it. 

6. Every Order of Court must be in favour of a named party in the matter or properly joined and identifiable as a party. 

7. The Order is vague, discloses no beneficiary and therefore unenforceable as executable Court Order against the Plaintiffs who are already in possession of the Secretariat in compliance with the earlier Orders of the Court which is explicit on purpose.

8. This Orders clearly re-enforces earlier Orders and Ruling in favour of the Plaintiffs by FCT High Court  in Suit No. CA/87/202 delivered by Hon. Justice A. O. Musa on  March 15,2021 and February 1,2022 (copies attached); and that of the NIC in Suit No. NICN/ABJ/214/2022     delivered by Hon. Justice O. O. Oyewumi on October 25, 2022 (copy attached) both of which the criminal suspects have always held in breach since March, 2021.
In conclusion, we wish to request that the Command should not allow itself be dragged into the illegality of using the Police to enforce an judicial advisory to the Plaintiffs as an Order of Court for an undisclosed party  or beneficiary in the matter. Kindly accept our warm regards, in firm believe of fairness, equity and justice; and in sincere anticipation of your continued cooperation in defence of the truth and maintenance of law and Order in the Country.  Yours faithfully, Comrade Innocent Bola-Audu, Comrade Acho Gamaliel Chinyere, Ag. Secretary-General and National President

The genesis of the above letter to the Commissioner Lagos State is stated below. There was an intra-union dispute resulting in the suspension of the President who went to the High Court of the FCT Abuja to challenge the suspension. We challenged the competence of the suit and jurisdiction of the court. While in Court, the President resorted to self-help when he tried to seize the Secretariat with the help of some Police men. He failed and was subsequently expelled from the union. He went to the NICN to challenge his expulsion. While the case was still pending, he resorted to fictitious petitions through some lawyers alleging fraud against the leadership of the union so as to have them put away for him to take over the Secretariat. As soon as the leaders were arrested, he took over the Secretariat. But again, he failed in the attempt when the *suspects* upon release on bail returned to assume office.

Police Intervention Suddenly, the Commissioner of Police Lagos State called the parties and directed our clients to hand over the Secretariat to the President. Upon their protests, the Commissioner of Police sealed up the Secretariat whereupon we wrote to the IG who directed the Commissioner of Police to open up the Secretariat as he has no power over intra-union dispute.

The Conspiratorial Suit As is evident from the letter above, the Commissioner of Police advised the expelled President to institute the action using the name of the Association he had sued at the NICN to reinstate him as member and as President. And to execute the plan, they found a good instrument in a lawyer whose name I like to keep secret for now, who filed and action at the Federal High Court under the Fundamental Rights Procedure Rules. The lawyer successfully obtained very wide Ex-Parte Orders which froze all the accounts of the Union and directed that the Secretariat which had long been unsealed be unsealed and delivered to the expelled  President as President.

Objection and final Order We raised objection to the competence of the suit for lack of instructions to the Counsel and jurisdiction on account of the subject matter of the suit. The Court after taking arguments, ruled that the suit was an exercise in forum shopping  and abuse of the process of Court and that it lacked jurisdiction over the matter which it dismissed. The Court went further and ordered that the plaintiff now in possession of the Secretariat should vacate the same and hand it over to our clients. It is against this Order that the ex-President, and expelled member of the Union now wrote to the Commissioner of Police not to honour as we see in the letter. 

It is startling to me that lawyers can be involved in conspiracy with Police to use the Court process for unlawful and untoward results. We can all see from the letter where we are going. I have put forward this story for us to see how some unscrupulous ones among us operate to lower the standard of the profession. 

Barrister Johnson Odion Esezoobo can be reached via-:+234 803 320 0595