Major court orders Buhari administration disobeyed in his eight years

IN the eight years that Mohammadu Buhari has been president of Nigeria, his administration has exhibited disregard for court orders and judicial pronouncements, which pundits say made a mockery of the Nigerian judicial system. In this report, Adedokun Theophilus traces some important court orders that the Buhari administration disobeyed

The President Mohammadu Buhari administration has often come under attacks and criticisms for defying the constitution and court orders, particularly through the activities of security agencies like the Nigeria Police Force, the Department of State Service, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and other law enforcement agencies that are accountable to the president.

Civil societies, labour unions, media organisations and the Amnesty International have faulted the president’s nonchalant attitude towards the supremacy of the rule of law and the constitution to which he swore when taking his oath of office.

In 2022, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), accused Buhari of a brazen disregard for the rule of law and human rights, ignoring Nigerian judges on, at least 40 occasions.

The ICIR examines some cases where the Buhari administration had defied court orders.

Buhari ignored court injunction against naira note

The ICIR reported that the redesigned naira notes of N200, N500 and N1,000 were officially launched on Wednesday, November 23, 2022.

Naira notes
The redesigned naira notes.

The introduction of the new notes attracted a lot of criticism due to its poor implementation.

The ICIR reported how the scarcity of the new naira notes disrupted the day-to-day running of activities, with the situation resulting in civil disturbance, anger and protest across all states.

Due to the challenges encountered by Nigerians in depositing the old notes and the unavailability of the redesigned notes, President Buhari and the CBN extended the deadline for the exchange of old notes for new ones to February 10, from December 31.

Two days before the deadline, some governors filed a suit at the Supreme Court, and the court restrained the CBN from implementing the policy. But Buhari, in a nationwide broadcast on February 15, declared that only the old N200 note would remain legal tender, and that would be until April 10, while the N500 and N1,000 naira notes were rendered illegal tender.

Refusal to release the Zakzakys 

Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, a prominent Shi’a Muslim leader, and Zeenat Malama, his wife, were arrested in December 2015 after the Nigerian Army extra-judicially massacred over 300 followers of the Shiite leader in Zaria.


This happened after the group were accused of plotting to assassinate the then Army Chief Tukur Buratai.

El-Zakzaky was charged over allegations of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of the public peace, among other charges. A judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Gabriel Kolawole, ordered his release and that of his wife, Zeenat, from the DSS custody in December 2016.

It also ordered that the DSS compensate the couple with the sum of N50 million.

Subsequently, The ICIR reported that  El-Zakzaky and his wife were released for the first time on medical grounds to India in August 2019.

The couple were, however, rearrested after arrival in Nigeria.

They were later freed of all charges by the Kaduna State High Court on July 28, 2021.

DSS and Dasuki

A retired military officer and former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, was arrested in December 2015 by men of the DSS, according to a report by The ICIR.

Dasuki was arrested over an alleged diversion of $ 2.1 billion arms funds while serving as the NSA under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The former NSA boss was also charged with awarding ghost contracts to buy 12 helicopters, four fighter jets, and ammunition meant for Nigeria’s military campaign against the Boko Haram insurgency.

In October 2016, the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice ordered the release of Dasuki from custody. A Federal High Court in Abuja also granted bail to Dasuki from the DSS in July 2018.

By November 2018, the Buhari government had refused to grant Dasuki bail despite five different high court rulings.

The ICIR earlier reported the five times DSS refused to release Dasuki on different bases despite orders by the court

In July 2019, an appellate court, however, imposed a fine of N5 million on the DSS for the unconstitutional detention of a citizen.

What seemed like an unfinished fight for Dasuki’s freedom ended after his release from detention in December 2019.

Court order on debt limit flouted 

In February 2018,  a judge of the Federal High Court, G. O. Kolawole, ordered President Muhammadu Buhari to set limits for the consolidated debt of federal, state and local governments.

The judgement was in compliance with section 42 (1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

The case was filed by the Centre for Social Justice Limited (CSJ).

The five defendants of the case included President Buhari, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the (former) Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun, and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami.

However, the pronouncement was not followed nor obeyed.

Court judgment ignored by Immigration Service 

The Nigerian Immigration Service seized the international passport of a former governor of Rivers state, Peter Odili.

The passport of Odili, who served as the governor of Rivers State from 1999 to 2007, was seized at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, in June 2021, upon his arrival into the country.

Peter Odili

The NIS claimed that the former governor’s passport was seized based on a request from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after placing him on a watchlist.

Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, however, pronounced the passport seizure unlawful.

The judge ordered the NIS to return the passport to him.

But 38 days after the initial directive, the NIS did not comply with the order, which made the court give another directive.

However, Peter Odili’s passport was finally released to him in December 2021.

Nnamdi Kanu and DSS

The ICIR reported that the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, was initially arrested in October 2015.

DSS officers and Nnamdi Kanu

Kanu was accused of subversive activities, including inciting violence through television, radio and online broadcasts against Nigeria and its institutions.

Kanu was slammed with an 11-count charge bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods.

He was afterwards arraigned on January 20, 2016, and remanded at the Kuje prison.

The ICIR reported that the Federal government disobeyed the order of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Kanu’s bail and denied him access by his legal team and family members.

Two justices; Binta Nyako and Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, questioned the DSS on such disregard, yet the situation remained the same.

The ICIR further reported that another judge, Benson Anya of the Abia State High Court ordered the Federal government to pay Kanu the sum of N1 billion for the Nigerian Army’s unlawful invasion of his residence in 2017.

Legal practitioners’ reactions

Sharing his thoughts about the disregard for court orders by the executive arm of government and its agencies, a retired judge of the Federal High Court, Taiwo Taiwo, expressed his disdain for the incessant ways and manners government agencies disobey court orders.

Taiwo, in an interview with the Punch newspaper, stressed that it is unconstitutional and morally wrong for an order of the court to be disregarded.

He further stated that the disobedience of court orders could lead to anarchy.

“Unless we want to descend into a state of lawlessness, it is a must that lawful orders be obeyed,” he said.

Speaking to The ICIR, a Lagos-based lawyer, Paul Ojukwu, said disobedience of court orders could lead to a total breakdown of law and order, adding that the disobedience was done by the Federal government and not Buhari’s administration because the government is a continuum.

Ojukwu said, “The police is the arm of the executive that is supposed to enforce the court order. Unfortunately, the police is still controlled by the executive. The Inspector-General of Police is being appointed by the Nigeria Police Council, which is chaired by President.

    “So it is the president that appoints the IG of police, who is answerable to the president. If there is any order that is laid against the Federal government, it would be very difficult for him because he is being controlled by the executive.”

    He emphasised that court orders could only be obeyed if the judiciary has an enforcement arm of its own.

    “The judiciary does not have its own enforcement arm, therefore it is easy to flout court orders. But if the judiciary has its own enforcers, it would be easy for it to deploy them. If not, this issue will continue and every other administration will disobey court orders and nothing will happen,” he added.

    He called for reforming the judicial system and decentralising the police, adding that the court should be equipped to have an enforcement arm.

    Stories with punches holding the powerful accountable. His determination to speak out against corruption and influence the conversation in Nigeria, the surrounding region and the continent inspires him.

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