The Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) has decried the increasing impunity of the Nigerian police force, which has constituted itself into a major stumbling block to the advancement in Nigeria’s democracy, and the aspiration to ensure that the Rule of Law prevails in the country.
Reacting to the recent abduction of a Lawyer, Augustine Etim Edet, Esq., from his office in the most despicable manner in Uyo while preparing to leave for Court by the police from Zone 6, Calabar, State Chairman of the CLO in Akwa Ibom State, Clifford Thomas, explained that “democracy is under the most dangerous threat since Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999. And the police should be held responsible if democracy collapses in Nigeria.”
“The supremacy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended has never been in doubt. The police is a creation of the Constitution. The Courts with properly defined roles are also products of the Constitution. The government, tiers and arms of government and everything that have to do with our country find live expression in the Constitution. Any disobedience to the Order of Courts should be considered treasonable.”
The CLO’s reaction followed the contemptuous disobedience to the Orders of the Federal High Court, Uyo; that, the Augustine Edet, Esq., whom the police claimed they merely arrested for representing “criminals”, should be released forthwith, to enable him continue to carry out his lawful duties of representing his clients, parties to a communal dispute in Mbiakong, Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
The first Order had restrained the Police from arresting the Applicants on record in Suit No. FHC/UY/CS/78/17, and was issued on the 7th day of June, 2017. But the police got very angry at the Lawyer for obtaining an Order against them, so, the police arrested the Lawyer on Monday, June 12, 2017.
He was stripped to his bare pants, inside his office after illegally detaining him inside his office by locking the doors for several hours before forcing his clothes on him, got him handcuffed, and dragged along the popular Ikot Ekpene Road in Uyo, where his office is located.
He was taken to Shelter Afrique Police Station and locked up till the following day when he was moved to the police zonal office in Calabar and detained under conditions that have compromised his health.
On Tuesday June 13, 2017, the Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, approached the Federal High Court, Uyo; and obtained an Order directing the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone, Calabar, and the Inspector General of Police, who are parties in the suit pending before the Court, to release the Lawyer, immediately and unconditionally.
While the office of the Inspector General of Police received the Order, the Legal Department of the Police zonal command in Calabar, refused to collect it, and personnel in the office of the Assistant Inspector General of Police in Calabar, refused to collect the Order, saying that they instructed not to receive such letters of Orders from the Courts. They claimed that they can only receive orders from their superiors.
The CLO had to obtain leave to serve all the Orders by substituted means so that the Way Bills of the delivery courier firm will serve as proof of service of the Orders.
By June 15, 2017, the CLO approached the Court again to get an Order for the Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice to advise and warn the Inspector General of Police as a creation the statute and the laws of the federation, ensure compliance with Orders of Courts in the country.
While the CLO is preparing to commence a major enforcement of fundamental rights action against the police and all the persons and authorities found to have violated the rights of this legal practitioner in private practice, it stated that the matter will be internationalized if it is not properly handled.
In his words, “this is a threat to Nigeria’s growing democracy, supremacy of the Constitution, and the Rule of Law. We call on all lovers of democracy to rise up in condemnation of this shameless action of the police against Nigerians, particularly a Lawyer whose major offence is that he gave legal representation to clients who briefed him to represent them.
“The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) will be seen as a failure if it does nothing to protect its own from the evil claws of officers of the Nigeria Police whose indiscretion have been exercised ultra vires its legitimate powers.”