The Federal High Court, Abuja has stopped the trial of the National Commandant, Peace Corps of Nigeria, Mr. Dickson Akor in the case preferred against him by the Nigerian Police Force.
The trial judge, Justice John Tsoho stopped the trial on Tuesday, on the grounds that the police failed to unseal the Corporate Head Office of the corps as ordered by the court. Giving a ruling, the judge asked that parties should stay action on the case until the order was respected. The appellant, Akor had asked the court to stop the trial pending when the police would obey the court order.
The judge held that the police was an institution established by law and, therefore, must not develop the habit of disregarding court orders and judgments with impunity. He maintained that it was wrong for the police to have disobeyed two decisions of the court which directed it to unseal the office in the last one year. The judge agreed with Mr John Ochogwu, counsel to Akor that keeping the office sealed had placed his client at a disadvantage in preparing for his defence in the alleged 13-count criminal charge preferred against him. Tsoho further held that the police had contravened Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution by refusing to give the defendant adequate time and opportunity to prove his innocence in the charge against him. “It has often been said that justice is not for one part but for all including the state. “In the instant case, the police cannot be said to be fair when the office of the defendant remained sealed on the instruction of the prosecution. “Let the point be made that the hand of the police is not clean by refusing to obey court judgments and at the same time seeking the defendant to obey provisions of the law,’’ he said. According to the judge, the court is swayed by the argument of counsel to Akor in his reply on points of law that the police flouted a valid order made by the court.
“There is a democratic norm that no person or institution is above the law,” the judge said. He consequently stopped the trial pending when there was evidence that the police had complied with the order of the court. The police had in 2017, slammed a 90-count charge against Akor but the charges were later reduced to 13 by the office of the Attorney-General. Justice Gabriel Kolawole, had in a judgment on an enforcement of fundamental human rights suit, ordered the police to unseal the corporate head office of the corps. He made the order based on the grounds that the action was unlawful, illegal and a breach of the fundamental rights of the Peace Corps members to own property.
The judge had awarded N12.5m against police and in favour of Akor and 49 others over their unlawful arrest and detention by police. Tsoho, had in another decision ordered police to vacate the office of the organization on the grounds that the presence of police in the office was against the law.