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IJOKO-OTA:Where police ridiculed six-year-old Supreme Court judgment

Posted by By MOSHOOD ADEBAYO, Abeokuta on 2008/02/12 | Views: 561 |

IJOKO-OTA:Where police ridiculed six-year-old Supreme Court judgment


“The decisions of the Supreme court shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons and by courts with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Supreme Court”

“The decisions of the Supreme court shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons and by courts with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Supreme Court”

The above quotation is from Section 287(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 287 (2) and (3) also contain similar provisions with respect to the decisions of the court of Appeal and the High Court respectively.

Despite this, Ogun State Police Command, with headquarters in Eleweran, Abeokuta, the home of the first indigenous Chief Justice of the Federation, late Adetokunbo Ademola, and several other Nigerians with many firsts in their disciplines, including President Olusegun Obasanjo, has failed or refused to execute the judgment of a Supreme Court judgment, given over six years ago.

Interestingly, the State Police Commissioner, Mr. Joseph Apapa, who took over from the former Police Force Headquarters’ spokesman, Mr. Tunde Alapinni is a Barrister at law.
The refusal of the execution of the judgment, obtained by the Matanmi Family of Ijoko-Ota, Ogun State, is causing apprehension in the salt city, with many asking why the police decided to ‘slap’ the judiciary in the face.

The Matanmi family of Ijoko-Ota, were the Defendants/Counter Claimants, in Suit No. HCL/36/79. The suit was for the determination of title to a large expanse of land at Ijoko, on the January 20, 1987.
The High court of Ogun State delivered its judgment and dismissed the Plaintiffs’ case and affirmed the Defendants’ counter claim.

The Plaintiff’s appeal to the court of Appeal in Appeal No. CA/235/90 and the Supreme Court in Appeal No. SC/174/1997 were dismissed on March 21, 1996 and September 25, 2001 respectively.
The Matanmi family, through its counsel, Chief Afe Babalola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), applied for possession from the High Court of Ogun State, sitting at Ota in Suit No. MT/70/02. The court in its judgment, delivered on the June 3, 2005, granted his clients claim and gave him possession.
Some of the defendants in Suit No. MT/70/2002 appealed to the Court of Appeal, Ibadan, and filed a motion for stay of execution, which was withdrawn on the April 19, 2007.

In the family’s determination to enforce the judgment of the apex court, it wrote a letter dated August 9, 2007, to the Inspector-General of Police, for police protection. A Warrant for Possession was also issued by the High Court of Ogun State, Ota Judicial Division.
The Inspector-General, Mr. Mike Okiro, responded quickly in a letter dated August 16, 2007, and directed the Commissioner of Police, Ogun State Command, to treat the request of the Matanmis’, through their counsel.

The family, led by its attorney, Alhaji Fatai Matanmi, liased with the Commissioner of Police, Barrister Apapa, at his Eleweran Headquarters in Abeokuta.
Acting on the Commissioner’s directive, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), wrote a letter dated September 5, 2007, to the Squadron Commander of the Police Mobile Force 16 of the Nigeria Police Force, directing him to provide mobile policemen for the protection of court officials, who would be involved in the execution. They were so provided.

Adequate preparation for the comfort of the policemen and the court officials, who would carry out the execution, according to Alhaji Matanmi, were provided at a great cost. The commencement of the enforcement and execution of the Supreme Court’s judgment was fixed for September 17, 2007.
Expectations of the family, who have been on litigation for about 30 years, were high. At last, they would reap the fruits of their labour.

Unfortunately, very late on Sunday September 16, 2007, on the eve of the execution, Chief Matanmi got the sad news to the effect that the Police Commissioner, had directed that the execution be stopped allegedly on account of unfavourable security report.
“All our expectations and hopes that were earlier raised were later dashed, and the money spent on provision of facilities wasted,” Matanmi said.
According to him, the first of the series of the judgments on the land was delivered on January 20, 1987, about 21 years ago.

“That judgment was confirmed on appeal to the Supreme Court on April 6, 2001. There have been other series of judgments in-between the years, obtained by the family in respect of the land or parts of the land. It has taken us over 21 years of waiting to enjoy the fruits of our efforts, six out of which was after the Supreme Court judgment. We are worried and surprised at the audacity of the police and its flagrant disobedience to the Supreme Court order. I describe this as judicial summersault and assault on our judiciary. It is not clear when our land would be delivered to us, or whether it would ever be delivered to us”

Rhetorically, Matanmi, who is the Chairman/Chief Executive of Fat Land Hotels, Ota, said: “Is the police saying that these handful of recalcitrant judgment debtors are more important than the law or stronger than the police institution? There is nowhere that a judgment debtor would be asked to surrender what he has illegally acquired or obtained and he would do so with all smiles. On account of an alleged security report, the police have failed to assist our clients to recover what the highest court of the land has said belongs to them.”

According to Chief Matanmi, the extended family had done everything humanly possible to re-claim what belongs to them and have appealed once again to the Inspector General of Police to re-order the Commissioner
Also, in a letter written to the Inspector General of Police, counsel to the Matanmis’, Chief Afe Babalola, urged the IGP to reinforce the Supreme Court judgment without further delay, by ordering the Ogun State Police Commissioner to execute the apex court’s judgment.

“Any failure or reluctance to do this in the fear that the judgment debtors will retaliate is to leave our clients too with the impression that they could resort to violence, which may cause friction and threat to the peace of Ijoko-Ota and its environs. The rule of law guarantees that even though he be weak, a successful party is not denied the fruits of his litigation and that the affairs of men must at all times be governed by law. To refuse to assist a man to enjoy the outcome of his efforts in the courts is to rubbish the rule of law. The implication is that the law does not matter and it would encourage recourse to brute force.

“We would appreciate it if you could direct the Commissioner of Police, Ogun State, not to withdraw from this just assignment at the eleventh hour, otherwise, he would give some false sense of factory to those negligible few, who have sworn that they would render all the judgments our clients obtained, a mere paper tiger”.

For a successful execution, comfort and safety of those who would be involved in the national assignment, Babalola assured that the Matanmis’ were ready to make any material provision within their powers.
The Chief Judge of Ogun State, Justice Oluremi Jacobs, in a letter dated December 12, 2007, while responding to Chief Babalola’s earlier letter to his office, wrote inter alia: “The Ogun State Judiciary considers the inability of the police to assist in the execution of the above mentioned judgment as a matter of grave concern and worrisome, not only to you and your clients but also, to those who uphold the rule of law. It is regrettable that the Judiciary of Ogun State, possesses no coercive agent of its own that can enforce judgment or order of the court.”
While assuring the family of his office’s assistance, the Judge added: “You are therefore advised to persist in your effort to get the judgment executed because it is through your persistent effort that the judgment can be executed”.

Reacting to the allegations, the Ogun State Police Commissioner, Barrister Joseph Apapa exonerated the police of taking sides with any of the party. He added that the Police as security agents are always interested in the security of life and property
Speaking through the Command’s Public Relations officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mr. Olufemi Awoyale, he said that the police is an unbiased security agent interested in the security of life and property.

Apapa said that the execution of the Supreme Court Judgment appears to be delayed because of both the security and intelligence reports about the area.
“We are not taking sides with any of the parties involved. We are acting based on security and intelligence reports and the fact that this case is still in court. Any action taken now may not only lead to communal clash, but also, an act of contempt on our Command. The command has gotten in touch with Force Headquarters on the matter. We however, appeal to both parties to maintain peace as the Command will not tolerate any breach of peace from any individual or group,” the Commissioner warned.

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