By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
A Federal High Court, Abuja yesterday told the Nigeria police to stop making a mockery of the law by disregarding it.
Halting the trial of National Commandant of the Peace Corps of Nigeria, Ambassador Dickson Akoh in a 13 count alleged criminal charges brought against him by the Nigerian police, at the hearing in Abuja yesterday, Justice john Tsoho said he could not go on with the trial following the persistent refusal of police to open the Corporate Head office of the Corps sealed up since February 28, 2017 during its official commissioning in Abuja.
Delivering ruling on the motion on notice brought against the police by Akoh, the court held that police as an institution established by law must not be seen breaking laws and disregarding court orders and judgments with impunity.
Justice Tsoho stressed that it was wrong for police to have chosen to disobey two judgments of the court which directed it to unseal the office in the past one year.
He however, agreed with counsel to the Peace Corp boss, John Ochogwu that Akoh as a defendant in the 13 count alleged criminal charges had been disadvantaged in preparing for his defence in the charges against him as required by law.
The court held that the police have breached section 36 of the 1999 constitution as amended by refusing to give the defendant adequate time and opportunity to prove his innocence in the charges against him by sealing up the office where the material for defence were said to have been kept.
The judge said that the police which relied heavily on speedy trial of the defendant must be seen adhering strictly to the rule of law and natural justice by ensuring that the defendant was not placed at a disadvantaged position.
“It has often been said that justice is not for one part but for all including the state. In the instant case police cannot be said to be fair and just to the defendant by sealing up the office were the defence materials could be obtained and at the same time demanding for speedy trial at the court.
“Let the point be made that the hand of the police is not clean by refusing to obey court judgments..This court is swayed by the argument of counsel to the applicant /defendant in his reply on point of law that the police had flouted a valid order made by the court.
“If the police truly deserve adherence to or compliance with the law, it should first show good example by respecting the law. It cannot be reasonably encouraged to promote the hypocrisy of requiring others to be subject of the law while the police wears the toga of an outlaw with impunity.
“There is a democratic norm that no person or institution is above the law, consequently the judge stopped the trial when there is evidence that police has complied with the order of the court.”
The police had last year slammed a 90 count charge against the Peace Corps boss but the charges were later reduced to 13 by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole had in a judgment on the enforcement of fundamental human rights ordered the police to unseal the corporate head office of the corps on the grounds that the action was unlawful, illegal and breach of the fundamental right of Peace Corps members to own property.
The judge awarded N12.5m against police and in favour of Akoh and 49 others over their unlawful arrest and detention by police.
Justice Tsoho in another judgment had ordered police to vacate the office of the organization on the grounds that the presence of police in the office was against the law.