By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Following the refusal of the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ogbonaya Onovo, to appear before it yesterday, an Abuja High Court sitting in Maitama, has ordered the Federal Capital Territory Police Command to ensure that he was arrested and produced in court on September 7.
Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, who was irked by the absence of the police boss in court yesterday, however, acceded to a request by a police lawyer, CSP Henry Njoku, who pleaded for more time to enable the force put its house in order.
CSP Njoku, who yesterday maintained that the police-chief would not intentionally undermine the honour and integrity of the Nigerian judiciary by holding its orders to contempt, added that the police authority got to know about the pendency of the suit, as well as the warrant of arrest against the IG, via Newspaper publications.
According to him, “my Lord, I was at the registry of this court yesterday (Wednesday) after reading the publication titled ‘Court orders the arrest of the IG of police.
“The registrar, one Mr Malik, then showed me a bench warrant directed against the IG, and informed me that a copy of it was served on the FCT Police Command for eventual execution.
“I think my lord that there is an avoidable lacuna in respect of this case as the respondent will not do anything intentionally to undermine the honour and integrity of this court in particular and the judiciary in general.
“In the circumstance, my lord, we most humbly and passionately apply for a very brief adjournment to enable us to regularize appearance and perfect the orders of this court.
“With regards to section 36 of the 1999 constitution, it will amount to a great injustice if the respondents are not given fair hearing in this case,” he insisted.
However, counsel to the applicants, Mr Asekome Oteiku, while refuting claims by the police that it was yet to be properly intimated about the court order, prayed the high court judge to go ahead and preserve the sanctity of the judiciary and the rule of law by ensuring that its orders were strictly complied with.
In his short ruling after listening to both counsels, Justice Adeniyi held thus: “There is enough proof before me to show that the warrant of arrest issued against the IGP on August 30 was duly served on the FCT police command.
However, I shall in the over-stretched interest of justice accede to this request, though grudgingly, but at least nobody from today can claim ignorance of this order."
“This case bothers on the issue of life and death and Order 4 Rule 3 of this court calls for its speedy disposal. The constitution does not give anybody, no matter who he is, the right to keep Nigerian citizens in custody indefinitely.
“The law that made him IG is no respecter of anybody, am guided by the procedures of this court and he must also be properly guided. The records before me show that he was properly served.
“Consequently, I hereby set down this case till September 7 to await the compliance of the respondent”.
It would be recalled that the high court on August 30, ordered the arrest of the IG, over his alleged refusal to comply with a summon issued to him by the court in a case of unlawful detention of two police corporals, Onyebuchi Eze and Kenneth Chikwe.
The court equally ordered all the law enforcement agencies in the country to comply with the directive, adding that he should be detained under prison custody until yesterday.
Justice Adeniyi had, ab-initio, ordered the police boss to personally appear before him to show cause why he should not be committed to prison for allegedly violating four separate court injunctions, allegedly served on him on August 9, 12, 18 and 20, 2010, with regards to the continued detention of the two accused persons.
The duo alongside one Mr. Austine Duru where on October 7, 2009, arrested by operatives of the State Security Services, SSS, at Owerri, the Imo State capital, for allegedly collaborating with suspected kidnappers in Anambra State and subsequently transferred to the Force Headquarters in Abuja.
Though they are yet to be arraigned before a competent court over the alleged crime since they were arrested in 2009, a human right organization, the International Human Rights Initiative, however, took the case to court after the 1st accused person, (Onyebuchi Eze), was said to have developed appendicitis while under detention and was denied medical attention by the police.
The right body applied to the court for an order directing the Nigerian Police to grant him conditional bail to enable him to go for a surgery, a request that was acceded to by the high court and refused by the police authorities.