Nigeria being amongst states of the world that practice constitutional democracy is expected at all times to cherish, observe and apply the rule of law in all her dealings irrespective of whose ox is gored, but the unfortunate thing about the entity called Nigeria especially the custodians of the law is what I termed INVISIBILITY/UNTOUCHABILITY syndrome cum mentality which gives them the impression that whatever they do is correct and perfect. Hence the populace as a matter of life dependency shall comply with the dictates of the whims and caprices of the leaders whether or not the leaders COMPLY with the law.
Nigeria practices constitutional democracy, hence the three arms of government, namely the Legislature, The Judiciary and The Executive arms have their respective and independent functions. The Executive being has the burden of implementing the laws and is further divided into three independent tiers, namely, the Federal Government, State Government and the Local Government. The implications are straightforward and clearEvery arm and tier of government has a specified duty to carry out at every given time which should not be interfered with by the others unless where stipulated by an enacted law.
The invasion of Magodo phase 2 by purported men of the Nigeria Police acting out the order of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) through the Inspector General of Police (IGP) is an issue which needs to be addressed in perspective. It is a perfect example of a situation in which a federal appointee acted outside the scope of his executive powers.
In issue of this nature what agitates the mind of a legally conscious being is the word ‘JURISDICTION’. One will curiously ask, what is the interest of the AGF in the issue in question regarding the allotment of state land? Does it fall under the purview of responsibilities allocated to the said office under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Does the AGF have the power to direct the police to enforce/execute the judgment of any court in Nigeria in blatant disregard to the Sheriff and Civil Processes Act?
To start with, it is a common knowledge that both the AGF and the IGP are answerable to the President by virtue of section 150 and 214,215 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) 1999 respectively.
In considering the crux of the issue which necessitated the invasion of Magodo phase 2 on the 21/12/2021, being the case of Military Government of Lagos State Vs Adebayo Adeyiga&Ors, the names of the parties literally means that whatever outcome of that said suit should be resolved between parties as captured above, hence any other involvement by any office or persons should be regarded as trespass.
It is not in doubt that the AGF just like any other minister of the Federation MAY give the IGP such lawful direction in a bid to maintain public peace by virtue of section 215 (3) of the CFRN, but strict application of that section has been the bane of our volatile democracy. Can we really say that the instruction of the AGF to the IGP was aimed at maintaining public peace? Rather the instruction seemed to be aimed at deteriorating public peace and enforcing a judgment while the matter was still pending in court.
Naturally, judgment of courts are enforced and executed by the Deputy Sheriff of the High Court that delivered the judgment at the first instance, but the situation at hand does not suggest that such was the case. Why did the AGF choose to disregard the rules on enforcement of judgment?
It is correct that the judgment of the Apex court was delivered in 2012. It is also correct that even whilst the Lagos State Government (judgment debtor) was on appeal, they were still considering out of court settlement, a fact which the Supreme Court acknowledged right in their judgment of 2012.
It will not be far-fetched to state that the landgrabbers who accompanied the purported Abuja police were ill advised on the process of execution of judgment of a court.
In the instant case where the Apex court granted 549 plots of the Magodo Phase 2 to all judgment creditors as a matter of first priority, even if all amicable means to settle the rift has failed, such allocation should be made side by side the judgment debtor bearing in mind that there are over 1000 plots of land in the said Magodo Phase 2, writ of Possession under Section 24 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act in order to enforce a judgment or order for the recovery of land or the delivery of possession of land will not be appropriate rather both the judgment debtor and the judgment creditors will negotiate and agree on the best way to allocate empty lands and further compensate if there is a shortfall in the required plots.
The Magodo residents may still challenge the action of the landgrabbers and claim damages in court for defacing the entire property with a red ink in an obvious attempt to mislead the public that the entire property has been taken over by the judgment creditors just for the reason of allocation of 549 plots from a vast property.
The enforcement and execution of a state High Court judgments are not among the items on the exclusive nor concurrent list of the Second schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution, as such the AGF has no connection whatsoever to involve in internal affairs of any state of the federation.
One may still ponder on the offence committed by innocent residents owners of the Magodo phase 2 by authoritatively procuring such property from the Lagos State Government and why the AGF was willing to cross the lines of legality to ‘enforce’ the judgment of the Supreme Court. It’s almost comical, can a declaratory judgment really be enforced by a writ of possession? When the past Chief Justice Atilade refused to sign the comical document, the Adeyiga’s petitioned her to the National Judicial Council.
They seem to be used to manipulating the system, they started with the petitions to the NJC against Justice Atilade, Justice Adebiyi and now strange orders are coming from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
Nigeria needs to come to a point where law and order will be honored and the laws that have been made in this country are obeyed. Two wrongs do not make a right. The ‘failure’ of the Lagos State Government to implement a Supreme Court judgment would not empower Malami, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to enforce a judgment while the matter is still pending in court and in violation of the judgment enforcement rules.
CHUKWUEBUKA ANYIAM Esq.