Army 38: Defence Minister, Perm Sec Face Contempt Charges over Disregard to Court Order
The National Industrial Court (NIC) has granted permission that contempt of court charge be filed against the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd) and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence (MOD), Ms. Nuraitu Batagarawa over the alleged refusal to comply with valid order of the court.
Magashi and Batagarawa by the virtue of their positions are the chairman and secretary of the Nigerian Army Council respectively.
The application was filed in February 2020 by Lt. Col. Abdulfatai Mohammed, who was unjustly retired from the army in 2016 alongside 37 other top officers of the Nigerian Army.
Mohammed’s victory is about the 7th court victories the forcibly retired Army Officers had either secured against either the Nigerian Army, Defence Headquarters or Ministry of Defence, most of which have not been complied with.
The leave to file the contempt charge against the Chairman and Secretary of the Army Council was granted to Col. Mohammed by Justice R.B Haastrup in Abuja following refusal to reabsorb him back into the Nigerian Army as ordered by the court two years ago.
The duo may be committed to two years imprisonment on the order of the court if found guilty of the contempt charge.
The court had earlier found that right to a fair hearing was violated since the army’s rules require that dismissals be based on indictments, queries, or the rulings of a court marshall.
In January, the court directed the Nigerian Army Council to reinstate Lt. Col. Mohammed to his original position within the force but the council has yet to comply despite having been served this order. He was represented by his lawyer, Mr. Abdul Mohammed.
Reading the judgment on Tuesday, Hon. Justice R.B. Haastrup granted leave to the applicant “to commence a contempt proceeding against the chairman and secretary of the Nigerian Army Council”. He had relied on provisions of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act of 2004 and the Judgment (Enforcement) Rules.
The court refused the applicant’s other requests, including that committal proceedings against the council chairman and secretary be formalised and that the two should be summoned to explain why they “should not be committed to prison for the act of disobedience to the order of the court”.
The latest ruling was similar to the one delivered by Justice Edith Agbakoba of the NIC in May, against the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin, who refused to transmit the applicant’s appeal for administrative redress to the president as required by law.
The court had ordered that Col. Mohammed who was a Commanding Officer in the North East Theatre of Operations at the time he was unlawfully and illegally kicked out of the Army, was denied fair hearing by the Army as required by law and therefore ordered that Olonisakin present the case of the retired Army officer President Muhammadu Buhari for a review.
However, since the appeal for a review of the retirement was presented to the CDS, he was alleged not to have taken any concrete step to transmit the court order to President Buhari.