-We’re Working On Stay Of Action- AGBy Denen Achussah
The Attorney General (AG) and Commissioner for Justice Benue State, may be sent to a correctional centre for six months if the court so decides that he is contemptuous of its decision.
Benue State Command’s Commissioner of Police is also liable as rights lawyer Bem Orlunan Ayati indicates that he will be filling “contempt proceedings.”
On 7th July, 2021, a Gboko High Court presided by Justice Polycarp Kwahar nullified the ban on the use of all kinds of motorcycles in Katsina-Ala and Ukum Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Benue State.
The decision was in respect of an application in Suit Number GHC/1M/2021 between Bem Orlunan Ephraim Ayati, on behalf of himself and all the motorcycle users in the two LGAs (Applicants) and the Governor of Benue State, the Attorney General of Benue State, Nigeria Police, Commissioner of Police, Benue State, Nigerian Army, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (Respondents).
According to the judgment, the ban was “unconstitutional, ultra-vires, null and void.”
The learned trial judge held that the sanctions in Katsina-Ala and Ukum are tantamount to a breach of or threatened breach of fundamental rights of the applicants, provided and guaranteed under Section 44(1) (a), (b) and Section 35(1); 36(1) (a), (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
Justice Kwahar therefore, issued an order of “perpetual injunction, restraining the respondents or any person(s), acting through them or by their directives, instructions or briefings as their agents, assigns, servants, employees, appointees howsoever called, from impounding or continuing to impound any motorcycles in or within Katsina-Ala and Ukum Local Government Areas without first affording the Applicants or affected person(s) an opportunity to be heard for the determination of his/their interest therein before a court of Law or Tribunal established by law.” No order was issued as to damages.
However, more than two weeks after the decision, there is no compliance. Locals say state agents have continued to enforce the restriction on operation of motorcycles in Katsina-Ala and Ukum LGA.
The 1st applicant (Ayati Bem Ayati, Esq) told ThisWeek exclusively that “there has been total non-compliance with the judgement as motorcycles have continued to be impounded by security operatives in the affected areas, even at a worse scale now.”
According to Ayati, “the act of non-compliance is contempt of the authority of the Court, the judiciary by extension and a wanton disregard for the rule of law as well as a recipe for anarchy.”
He explained that it is sad that security operatives and contingents in Sankera have “re-invigorated their zeal to unlawfully impound motorcycles in the axis at the instance of the Benue State Government in clear violation of the subsisting judgement of the Benue State High Court in the unreported case of BEM EPHRAIM ORLUNAN AYATI, ESQ. VS. THE GOVERNOR OF BENUE STATE & ORS., delivered since the 7/7/2021.”
According to Ayati, “instead of taking steps to implement the judgement as would be expected in any civilised nation governed by laws, or at least set in place steps to keep its enforcement in abeyance, it has resorted to illegally using security operatives to harass citizens, rob them of their properties in broad daylight and in some worst cases even arrest them in purported enforcement of a non-existent ban on the use of motorcycles.”
He observed that “the Benue State Government which should be in the vanguard for obedience to law is conversely championing and inciting violence and a collapse of law and order via its criminal, illegal and unconstitutional use of security operatives to forcefully seize motorcycles in some parts of Sankera in obvious demonstration to the citizens that one who loses in the Courts has an option of self-help.”
The said judgment according to findings by ThisWeek was served on the respondents on 13th July, 2021.
If found guilty, the contemptnors are liable for a maxim of six months imprisonment (at the correctional centre) or such a shorter period of time as the court may determine. The contemptnors may also be required to purge themselves of the contempt as a condition for their release.
Mike Gusah, the Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice says his office has filed stay of action notice.
While admitting receipt of service, the AG said ”we have filed our processes for stay of action. We are waiting for the records of court.” When asked if fees for the records have been paid, he answered in the affirmative.
According to the AG, the decision of the State Security Council was in the interest of the public with intent to arrest the general insecurity in Sankera.
Mike Gusa, Benue AG
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