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The House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions has directed the police to vacate the headquarters of the Peace Corps of Nigeria in Abuja which has been sealed by its operatives since February 28, 2017.
The panel gave this directive at a public hearing on Tuesday, after deliberating on a petition written to the House of Representatives last month.
A group, known as the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations for Justice and Equity, had on January 25, 2018, petitioned the House, accusing the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, of flagrantly disobeying subsisting court orders in favour of the Peace Corps.
This made the House to mandate its committee on public petitions to interface between the parties concerned.
In November, the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the police to unseal the headquarters of the Corps.
At the hearing, the Peace Corps boss, Dickson Akoh, told the committee that his organisation had secured 12 court judgements against the Police from various courts of competent jurisdiction.
He noted the most recent judgements by a judge, Gabriel Kolawole, on November 9, 2017 and another, John Tsoho, on January 15, asking the police to vacate his office.
Mr. Akoh affirmed that, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation had written five different letters to the office of the IGP, advising that outstanding judgements in favour of the Peace Corps be obeyed, “but the IGP always pays deaf ears to the advice”.
He also tendered video evidence where the IGP Idris reportedly vowed to frustrate the Peace Corps and make sure the bill establishing it did not receive the assent of the President.
“There are 11 court judgements in favour of Peace Corps on this issue. There are also five letters from the AGF advising the police to comply with the judgement of the court,” he said.
An assistant commissioner of police in charge of legal affairs, Henry Njoku, who represented the Nigerian Police, said the Force had instituted an appeal against the recent judgement of Mr. Kolawole, urging the lawmakers to disregard the petition by the group.
When asked whether the claim of Mr. Akoh concerning the AGF’s issued letters was true, he replied: “I cannot confirm that right now.”
Mr. Njoku also told the committee that his office needed time to study the documents, especially the annexes exhibited by the petitioners, saying he was only making “conditional appearance” on behalf of the Force.
He then argued that the said letter is ‘conditional’ as it refers to ‘if there is no subsisting court judgement on the matter’.
“There is a subsisting court judgement in the court of appeal. So, there is an appeal for stay of execution of the judgement before the court of appeal,” he said.
Members of the committee, however, argued that “the presence of an appeal does not nullify an existing court order”.
Mr. Uzoma-Abonta further asked him: “Are you not supposed to protect the court and justice? Is the police above the law? Apart from court orders on this, the attorney general has written to you and you still haven’t obeyed.
“This is wickedness for not obeying court orders. We shall be leading Peace Corps into possession of its headquarters,” he added.
The committee subsequently directed the IGP and AGF to appear before it within seven days.
“We want the IGP and AGF to appear before us within seven days and tell us why the court judgement has not been implemented. We want the AGF to also tell us why he hasn’t taken further action on this.
“For now, the police should vacate the place within 48 hours. We want Peace Corps to take possession of its headquarters, in compliance with the court order,” Mr. Uzoma-Abonta said.