In the purported defence of the rule of law,the Attorney-General of the federal government "ruled" that the charges filed by the EFCC against ex-gov Orji Kalu are illegal on the ground that they were filed in defiance of the ex parte order issued by an Umuahia High court.Sometime in May 2007,Chief Orji Kalu had approached the High court of Abia state holding at Umuahia for the protection of his fundamental rights to personal liberty. While granting him leave to enforce his fundamental rights,the high court directed that the leave shall operate as a stay of action pending the final determination of the substantive application.
With respect,the intepretation of the learned Attorney-General to the effect that Chief Kalu could not be arrested or charged to court until the final determination of the application for the enforcement of his fundamental rights is totally misleading.In the case of Nzewi and others vs Commissioner of police(2000) 2 HRLRA 156 the applicants complained of arbitrary arrest and detention by the police. The federal High court granted them leave to enforce their fundamental rights and directed that leave should operate as a stay of further action pending the determination of the substantive case.The applicants proceeded to commit the respondents for contempt when they were invited by the police to answer the criminal complaint against them.In dismissing the application for contempt,the federal High court(per Ajakaiye J.) held inter alia:
"It is clear that what the Court intended in that order is that the applicants should not be arrested unless there is a legal basis or justification for it.It cannot be said to mean that the order granted to the applicants is a general bill of immunity or insurance from legal processes or redress in appropriate cases.The order was not meant or could not have intended to make the applicants or any of them an institution or anybody above the law.It was implicit in that order that while they carry on their lawful business peacefully and while they continue to be law abiding, their fundamental rights as enshrined in our constitution remain inviolate and guaranteed.No court of law can make an order capable of turning a citizen into an outlaw."
Since the EFCC arrested Chief Kalu and charged him to the federal high court promptly it cannot be said by any stretch of imagination that the order of the Umuahia High Court was disobeyed by the anti-graft agency.In any case if the EFCC has committed contempt in the circumstances,it is left for the Umuahia High Court to take appropriate action under the law.The honorable chief law officer has no power whatsoever to usurp the judicial functions of the Abia state High Court.Therefore, the pronouncement credited to him on a matter that is pending before a competent court of law is tantamount to a gross subversion of the Rule of Law which he claims to be defending.
Instead of playing on the collective intelligence of Nigerians,the Umaru Yaradua regime should be courageous enough to drop all corruption charges against his brother Governors and stop masquerading under the Rule of Law. .
President, West African Bar Association