Disobedience Of Court Orders Becoming Prevalent


As the calls for judicial reforms continue to grow, one area that lawyers and litigants have identified as a significant drawback to fundamental rights and seeking redress in Nigeria is the enforcement of a judgment.

They insisted that the enforcement of a judgment is just as crucial as obtaining the judgment itself and that it would just be a waste of time to go to court, get a judgment and be unable to reap the benefits of the judgment.

Many Nigerians are brutalised daily or illegally detained by police and the military, however, they are discouraged from seeking legal redress because of the non-enforcement of court verdicts by the government.

There is no official record of how many judgments are obeyed or disobeyed in the country, but an independent investigation by this medium has shown that many losing parties choose to ignore unfavourable judgments, especially the executive branch of government. 

Some challenges to the enforcement of judgments in Nigeria, according to stakeholders in the justice sector, include proce­dural, reciprocity and public policy issues.

Others are outright disobedience to court orders, death of parties to the action, court jurisdiction, delay in issuance of court orders, abuse of court process, high cost of execution of judgment, corrup­tion and the problem of enforcement of decisions against the government and its agencies. 

A senior lawyer and a former lecturer at the Lagos State University, Professor Gbenga Ojo, said that the judiciary faces challenges in enforcing its judgments, mainly when the government or powerful individuals are involved because of a lack of effective enforcement mechanisms.

Ojo also identified corruption and bribery, political considerations, especially in cases involving political figures or interests, lack of respect for the rule of law,  technicalities, appeals, and stay of execution orders as other factors leading to disobedience of judgments in the country.

There are many examples of disobeyed judgments in Nigeria. Still, some of the famous cases are those of the leader of the Islamic movement in Nigeria, Ibraheem El-zakzaky, who was granted bail multiple times, but the government refused to release him.

That is also the matter of Omoyele Sowore and the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Emmanuel Emefiele.

However, it is not only the federal government that disobeys or refuses to enforce court judgments; there are several instances where the national and state assemblies ignore court orders.

But another primary culprit is the state governors, whose control of the state Judiciary is often not hidden. 

Some stakeholders in the justice sector have stated that solving the problem of disobedience of court judgments requires a multi-faceted approach that involves various stakeholders and strategies. 

The director of a civil society organisation, Nigeria Legal and Law Advocate (NLLA) Mustapha Popoola, said the primary solution is enhancing judicial independence and autonomy.

Popoola also called for improving judicial training and capacity building, increasing transparency and accountability within the judiciary.

The lawyer also called for establishing a robust judgment enforcement unit that will be domiciled and controlled by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Another lawyer, Michael Okechukwu, called for the strengthening of institutions to check executive powers and the amendment of laws to strengthen judgment enforcement in the country. 

Also, at the National Summit on Justice Reforms recently held in Abuja, the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, suggested that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice should be stripped of his role in judgement enforcement.

Akpabio called for the amendment of the law section that placed the statutory burden on a judgment creditor to obtain the consent of the AGF before a monetary judgment can be enforced against the federal government.

He maintained that the requirement constitutes a bottleneck, delaying justice and undermining the autonomy of our judicial system.

He proposed replacing the requirement for the Attorney General’s consent with a mandatory notification system. “Upon receiving a judgment against the government, the relevant authorities will notify the Attorney General immediately in writing.

“Following the notification, the Attorney General will have a specified period, say 30 days, to respond. The response could involve initiating an appeal or settling the matter directly. This timeline ensures prompt action and prevents undue delays in justice delivery, he said.

In a recent interview, human rights lawyer Femi Falana said he had compiled a list containing 32 court orders the Nigerian government disobeyed.

He said, “In my latest compilation, I’ve compiled about 32 court orders being disobeyed flagrantly by the government of Nigeria, which is not in line with the rule of law.

“It doesn’t lie in the mouth of an attorney general or the president of a country to choose and pick which court orders to obey.

“When you do that, you are reducing the status of the country to a banana republic. And that is why the bar has to rise now and take its rightful place,” he said.

Falana also warned that unless proactive steps are taken, nobody will respect the rights of Nigerians because “there is no penalty for impunity in our country.

Also, Ojo warned that Nigeria is gradually sliding into autocracy with government disobedience to court judgments. 

He said, “This is very unfortunate. The government must obey the judgment of the court. If the government is unsatisfied with the decision, the remedy is to appeal. This is where the Attorney General comes in.

“Though now a member of the executive, he is, first and foremost, a legal practitioner who must ensure that the government obeys the court’s judgment. He is serving as a blot on our democratic governance of this country. Nigeria is gradually sliding towards autocracy as against democracy,” he said.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.