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I regret not ordering Obasanjo’s arrest –Ex -CJ, Uwais

Posted by By BASHIR UMAR and GODWIN TSA, Abuja on 2006/06/13 | Views: 615 |

I regret not ordering Obasanjo’s arrest –Ex -CJ, Uwais


Immediate past Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Muhammed Uwais, has said that one of the most painful experiences he underwent throughout his legal practice was President Olusegun Obasanjo’s utter refusal to obey Supreme Court’s order to release funds meant for the Lagos State local governments.

Immediate past Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Muhammed Uwais, has said that one of the most painful experiences he underwent throughout his legal practice was President Olusegun Obasanjo’s utter refusal to obey Supreme Court’s order to release funds meant for the Lagos State local governments.

"Sentiments apart", he said, "the president’s action was not only a clear contempt of the Supreme Court ruling but also illegal and unconstitutional. The ideal penalty was to arrest anybody who committed that offence," he said.

It would be recalled that the Lagos State government dragged the Federal Government to court in 2004 for seizing the Federal allocation meant for its local governments.

The Supreme Court, in its landmark ruling in 2005, declared the new councils as “inchoate,” and held that the Federal Government’s action was illegal and thus ordered it to release the money to the state.

The presidency had defied this judgment. It later paid N20 billion of the N34 billion involved, following the mediation of elder statesmen, led by former Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Chief Bola Ajibola (SAN).

Expressing sorrow for his inability to order arrest of the president on the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Monday, Justice Uwais declared that, "that breach of the Supreme Court order was utterly illegal and unconstitutional, and for anybody, whether president or a governor to be so daring, it pains me and any genuine legal practitioner till today that we could not issue order for arrest of the culprits."

In advanced countries, Justice Uwais said: "They could have easily issued warrant for an arrest, but here in Nigeria, we exercise that power only against the weaker mortals. If you issue an order to arrest the powerful, can the police even carry out the arrest?"
The former chief justice stressed that for any elected office holder, whether the president, governor, lawmaker or any body else to breach a court order, especially the Supreme Court’s, was a gross misconduct and that person can even be impeached, using relevant sections of the constitution.

He said the essence of his public outcry on the breach of court orders was to caution government functionaries about the consequences of such action or inaction as well as draw the attention of Nigerian lawmakers to ensure safeguarding of the law bordering on obeying court.

"This is not the military era when they used decree that courts could not entertain certain aspects of the law. This is democracy where the judiciary is one arm of the government and court orders must be obeyed if we are serious about democracy", Uwais concluded.
Meanwhile, the former Chief Justice on Monday broke down in tears while tracing his history as an orphan who rose from poverty to prominence.

Speaking at a valedictory session of the Supreme Court in his honour, Justice Uwais drew emotions into the hearts of his audience when he told the story of his life.
He told his audience how his father died when he was only six years, leaving him in the care of his mother, Hajiya Hajara Uwaisu who had to bring him up single-handed with the assistance of his sister, Hajiya Asamau and half- brother, Alhaji Shehu Abubakar.

The second time Uwais cried was when he recalled that his mother who brought him up “was unfortunately not destined to see me becoming the Chief Justice of Nigeria and thereby observe the crowning of the fruits of her labour.” His mother died in Zaria on January 20, 1990.
Uwais, who paid glowing tribute to his wives, children and families for withstanding the demands of his office, dedicated his success to them even as he acknowledged the support of his colleagues at the bench.

Speaking at the event, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN) poured encomiums on the retired justice, describing him as “a man who has participated in the arduous and principled struggle by the Nigerian Judiciary to assume its proper role in the complex polity and free itself of the shackles of political interference and manipulation as a necessary agent for controlling and direction behaviour.”

Ojo, who was represented by the Solicitor- General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Professor Ignatius Ayua, described the occasion as “a great day for the Nigerian judiciary and indeed the entire Nigerian legal community. It marks, in my estimation, another re-affirmation by the Nigerian judicial system of its faith in the due process of constant renewal of judicial institutions through retirements, promotions, and fresh appointments in an orderly and dignified manner.”
The minister noted that “while this routine now appears fairly settled in our system, we must never take the independence and integrity of our judiciary for granted but must assiduously work hard to consolidate it and defend it as it marks the basis of our existence as a civilized country living under the rule of law.”

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.