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Otodo Gbame: Court declines jurisdiction on application for contempt

…Dismisses Motion Against LASG, Police

A Lagos High Court in Igbosere on Wednesday dismissed a contempt application filed by some displaced residents of Lagos waterfront settlements against principal officials of the State Government over alleged disobedience of court order on the demolition of shanties and illegal structures.

Some residents Otodo Gbame area of Ilado in Lekki numbering about 33, had filed the contempt application against Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem; Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr Wasiu Anifowoshe; and the State’s Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni for allegedly flouting a ruling which ordered parties to maintain status quo.

Ruling on the contempt application, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo held that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the said application judging by Constitutional provision.

Justice Adeniyi had earlier ordered Governor Ambode to appear before him to explain reason for the demolition exercise, but the judge backtracked on the ground that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) gives the Governor immunity which shields him from any legal case while he remains as the Governor of the State.

“The court lacks the jurisdiction to rule on the third respondent (Governor Ambode) according to immunity bestowed on him by Section 308 of the Constitution of the land.” Justice Adeniyi ruled.

Specifically, Justice Onigbanjo said the Governor, under Section 308 of Constitution, has constitutional immunity from prosecution and from being sent to prison, adding that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the application against him.

The judge said the other respondents could also not be held liable for contempt since it was the claimants’ argument that the other respondents acted under the order and direct supervision of the Governor.

 

“Under those circumstances, I think that not only must the facts alleged in proof of contempt of court be proven beyond reasonable doubt, in this particular instance, because the respondents’ actions complained about was allegedly carried out with the direct supervision of the third respondent, who happens to be the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution unequivocally forbids the court from entertaining this manner of application or any other criminal proceedings against the occupant of that office so long as he remains in office.

“Now, because it is clear from the affidavit evidence adduced by the applicant that the third respondent ordered the actions complained about in flagrant disobedience of the above stated directives of this court, then it must follow that the other respondents in this suit cannot really be said to be in contempt of this court or to be said to have caused the actions complained about,” the judge ruled.

Speaking to newsmen at the end of the proceedings, the State’s lawyer, Saheed Quadri welcomed the decision of the court, saying that it was far from the truth that the government flouted any court ruling.

According to him, “The whole issue is about the fact that the State Government asked the claimants not to reconstruct until they obtain building permit, but while we were in court for mediation at the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse, the claimants went back to rebuild the illegal shanties.”

 

 

SIGNED
KAYODE OYEKANMI
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, PUBLIC AFFAIRS
MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
LAGOS STATE
APRIL 12, 2017

 

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