By Section 299 (a) of the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria operates as the governor of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and this constitutional concept empowered the president to appoint a minister for the federal capital territory as an overseer for him. The afore-said section provides – “all the legislative powers, the executive powers and the judicial powers vested in the House of Assembly, the Governor of a State and in the courts of a State shall, respectively, vest in the National Assembly, the President of the Federation and in the courts which by virtue of the foregoing provisions are courts established for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”.
Thus, there is urgent need for the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu to intervene in the unending crisis attempting to create violence and civil disorder in the seat of power. From indications, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA), Mr. Olusade Adesola has not been able to give needed directions to the warring parties in line to the orders of the court which is gradually paving ways to anarchy if not timely arrested. The height of the crisis is that court orders are no longer considered important rather self-helps and all manner of manipulations leveraging on the vacation of the judicial officers which placed courts under lock and key except few ones opened for urgent essential matters. A society where court orders and judgment are disrespected is heading to a doom, hence, a stitch in time saves nine.
The impunity being deployed in the protracted tussle between the two companies under the control of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) namely; Abuja Investments Company Limited (AICL) and Abuja Markets Management Limited (AMML) is becoming so unfortunate to the extent that orders of various superior courts are disrespected without an atom of respect.
From investigation, the fracas began under the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Musa Bello but unresolved till he left office. When all efforts to resolve through the alternative dispute resolution mechanism failed, the Managing Director of Abuja Market Management Limited (AMML), Alhaji Abubakar Usman Faruk approached the National Industrial Court over attempts to arbitrarily push him away from office as the helmsman of the company, and also filed a second action at the Federal High Court, Abuja judicial Division.
From the court records, in the action filed at the Federal High Court with suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/499/2023, the presiding judge, Hon Justice D.U. Okorowo entered judgment in favour of the Claimant/Applicant, Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq Faruk against Abuja Markets Management Ltd; Abubakar Sadiq Maina; Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th defendants respectively. The court also gave a restraining order against the (4) four defendants from carrying on whatever planned acts particularly the plot to arbitrarily push away the claimant/Applicant from office as MD/CEO of AMML.
In similar vein, in the suit filed at the National Industrial Court with number: NICN/ABJ/62/2023, the court presided by Hon Justice R. B. Haastrup gave a concurring judgment in favour of the claimant, Alhaji Abubakar Usman Faruk affirming him as the substantive MD/CEO of Abuja Markets Management Ltd (AMML), and also gave restraining orders against Minister of the Federal Capital Territory; Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA); Abuja Markets Management Ltd; and Abuja Investments Company Ltd as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th defendants respectively.
The court then ruled among others giving restraining orders against the GMD of Abuja Investments Company Ltd (AICL) stopping him and his agents from carrying out actions in the manner they have done and further intend to do against AMML and her MD/CEO. Delivering the judgment, the judge said; “The pieces of evidence before this court confirm the facts deposed to by the Applicant and all point to some level of hostility by the Group managing Director (Mr. Abubakar Sadiq Maina) of the 4th Defendant”.
Thereafter, His Lordship, Hon Justice A.R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court in Abuja also made a similar order of interim injunction on same matters to the Abuja Investment Ltd; Federal Capital Territory Administration; Permanent Secretary, Federal Capital Territory; Mr. Abubakar Sadiq Maina; Engr. Mohammed Abbas Yakubu; and Corporate Affairs Commission as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th defendant respectively against taking any further action until empowered by the court. These are the proper way a civilized society thrives.
Unfortunately, perhaps leveraging on the vacation of the courts, actions that amount to affront to the courts are being taken with impunity. For instance, despite these orders of the superior courts of record, or rather than obey the orders of the courts, on 11th August, 2023, a party; Mr. Abubakar Sadiq Maina, supposedly ‘former Board chairman’ of Abuja Market Management Ltd following President Tinubu’s dissolution of boards of federal government parastatals, agencies, institutions and government-owned companies through a circular with reference number: FCTA/PS/1556 of 27th June, 2023, and who is a defendant in all the two matters already dispensed in the NICN and FHC and the pending one in FHC before Hon Justice Mohammed; all superior courts of record, boldly approached the Magistrate Court through a motion number: MN/108/2023 and obtained an order restraining the same Claimant/Applicant in the three matters at NICN and FHC against the orders of the above-mentioned superior courts. These acts of impunity and disrespect to the courts must be arrested. It must be noted that the court of law should never be subjected to ridicule of any kind as it is never a toothless bulldog. It can bark, bite, brake and may as circumstance warrant, eat up the bones.
In the celebrated case of Rt. Hon. Michael Balonwu and Ors v Governor of Anambra State and Ors (2007) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1028) at page 488 (paragraphs 564 – 565), B.G. per DENTON-WEST JCA said; “An order of the court whether valid or not must be obeyed until it is set aside. An order of the court must be obeyed as long as it is subsisting by all no matter how lowly or lightly placed in the society. An act of disobedience towards an order can render any further act by those who have acted disobediently to sanctions from other courts because no court would want its orders flouted. This is what the rule of law is about; hence the courts have always stressed the need for obedience of court orders”.
Similarly, in the case of Oshiomhole and Anor v FGN and Anor (2004) LPELR5188 (CA), it was stated thus; “But in a democratic polity, where principles of rule of law are firmly entrenched in the system, it will be working in an anticlockwise direction, an affront and indeed an onslaught on democracy if a person or body of persons however highly placed, shall decide to brush aside, downgrade and ridicule a court order…”
By lamentations of some leaders of the markets under the control of the Abuja Market Management Limited (AMML), the protracted tussles between the two helmsmen (of the holding company and that of the subsidiary company) has continued to instill fears, anxiety following deadly threats from a quarter. Thus. A timely presidential intervention is most needed.
Umegboro, an Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, public affairs analyst and social advocate writes from Abuja.