Lawyer to detained leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenat, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) has moved to prove to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami that even as the Chief Law Officer, he is not above the law in a democracy.
The Lagos lawyer has notified a Federal High Court in Abuja of the intention of his clients to seek the imprisonment of those who continue to hold them in custody in contempt of court order.
The couple are still in the custody of the Department of State Service since December 15, 2015, despite the order by Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja, delivered on December 2, 2016, ordering their release within 45 days.
The 45-day ultimatum given by the court to the DSS and the AGF to release them had expired on January 17, 2017.
The lawyer to El-Zakzaky and wife, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has now filed before the court a ‘Notice of consequence of disobedience of order of court’, otherwise referred to as FORM 48, on January 23, 2018.
He joined the Director-General of the Department of State Service, Mr. Lawal Daura, and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, as contemnors, who has refused to comply with the court order.
The FORM 48 was served on Malami personally last Tuesday.
Contained in the Form 48, which was served on Malami last Tuesday, is a warning to Daura and Malami that they would be guilty of contempt and be liable for imprisonment if they further failed to comply with the court’s judgment.
The Form 48 reads in part, “Take notice that unless you obey the direction contained in the order of the Federal High Court of Justice, Abuja delivered on December 2, 2016, which ordered you to release the applicants in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/281/2016 and its sister case with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/281/2016 within forty (40) days, inter alia you will be guilty of contempt and will be liable to be committed to prison.
A copy of the said order of court earlier served on you is hereby annexed for your on-the-spot reference.
This court has been informed that even as at today, you are yet to comply with the lawful order of this honourable court by refusing to release the following persons namely: Sheikh Zakzaky and Zeenah Ibraheem in your custody.
You are hereby directed to comply with the court order forthwith or you will be guilty of contempt of court.
The AGF on January 19, 2017, two days after the ultimatum given by the court for the release of the couple expired, had filed an eight-ground notice of appeal against the court’s judgment. A year later, the Sheikh remains in detention and the case was barely heard this week with the AGF still pleading for time to file his reply to the counter affidavit out of time, even as he had no explanations for defying the court judgement.
But while speaking at the end of the appeal case recently, Mr. Falana said the appeal had no effect on the enforcement of the court’s judgment.
He argued, “No motion for stay. Even if they filed one it will be an exercise in futility as it has been held that the liberty of a citizen cannot be stayed.
“Even under a military dictatorship, the Court of Appeal held in Nigerian Army v Mowarin that once the release of anyone has been ordered, a motion for stay of execution cannot be granted to prolong an illegal detention.
“That law has not changed. I want to believe that that is why the federal ministry of Justice did not file any motion for stay of execution.”
Falana argued that the AGF can’t be above the law. He said that Mr. Malami had earlier personally told him that the government will not obey even the appeal court gives a judgement to free the Sheikh. He also further informed that the AGF repeated that in a BBC Hausa service interview that they would not obey the judgement. We therefore have to tell them that they risk being jailed f9r this impunity.