Criticisms have trailed the deployment of armed policemen from Abuja in Magodo Phase II Estate, a highbrow Lagos neigbourhood.
Southwest governors, lawyers, and lawmakers, who reacted to the development yesterday, were miffed that the action was taken without Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s knowledge.
They chided the Inspector-General of Police, Alkali Usman and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami (SAN) for allegedly being behind the deployment of the policemen.
Lawyers who reacted were Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, and Jiti Ogunye. The lawmakers were Ademorin Kuye and Rotimi Agunsoye of the House of Representatives.
Last year, armed security operatives stormed the estate to execute a Supreme Court judgment, which mandated the Lagos State Government to give back 549 plots to the original owners of the area — the Adeyiga Family.
The continuous presence of the armed policemen in the estate prompted the residents to protest.
On Tuesday, Sanwo-Olu led members of his cabinet to visit the estate where he openly confronted the security operatives. He told the leader of the team, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), that they had no business being in Lagos State without his knowledge as the Chief Security Officer.
The governor, who consequently asked the CSP to vacate with his men, said the case at hand was between the judgment creditors (the original owners of the land) and the state government.
But the CSP told Sanwo-Olu that “I am here on the instruction of the Inspector-General of Police, through the AGF.”
The governor said AGF Malami told him he was unaware of the operation, and that he had spoken extensively with IGP on the matter.
Sanwolu-Olu’s colleagues, under the aegis of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, condemned the alleged role of Malami in the presence of the policemen in the estate.
They said in a statement by their Chairman, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, that it was ‘disgraceful’ for a security agent to disregard Sanwo-Olu, who visited the area to broker peace.
While activist lawyer Ogunye described the Magodo crisis as a rule of law catastrophe, Adegboruwa pointed out that only restructuring could save the nation.
Ogunye argued that the policemen had no business being in the estate to enforce a judgment since they are not Sheriffs of any court empowered to do so under the Sheriff and Civil Process Act (SCPA).
He said, “The Magodo Lagos incident is a rule of law catastrophe. AGF’s and IGP’s agents lawfully cannot invade the estate in the pretext of enforcing a Supreme Court judgment.
“They are not Sheriffs of Court empowered to so do under the SCPA. If the LASG disobeyed the court, the redress venue is still the court. Not the office of IGP or AGF.
The AGF has no power to instruct the IGP to enforce the judgment of the Supreme Court. The IGP has no authority outside the provisions of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act to enforce the order of any court— Supreme, Appellate, or High.
“If the judgment is not being obeyed, it is still the court that parties must return to.
“Court judgments are not enforced by policemen but by the sheriffs who are assisted, security-wise, by the police. The enforcers are the sheriffs and the mechanism of enforcement is a “civil” process. Not a martial or police process.
“The Supreme Court has the NJC (National Judicial Council) by its side to receive a petition and punish any judicial officer that may be frustrating enforcement of its orders and can direct that the CJ(Chief Judge) of any state should ensure that any sheriff that subverts its orders be sanctioned.
“The judgment creditors have my sympathy. My sense of justice should make me their ally. But I can’t in good conscience support a situation in which agents of the central government in a supposed federation are recklessly invading a state in the name of enforcing a judgment in the face of tons of judgments being disobeyed by the Federal Government and its agencies, including the police.
“No reasonable person should support this irresponsible conduct.
“For the Lagos State Government that is locked in a fresh legal battle with the judgment creditors on appeal over the writ of possession that was issued and set aside, the resolution route is a settlement and compliance with the judgment.
“The judgment of our courts is binding on all authorities and persons- Section 287 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Judiciary that gave the judgment is the third arm of government. It is therefore an act of executive lawlessness if the Executive branch willfully and perennially disobeys the decision of the judicial arm.
“Incidentally, history is repeating itself. The complaint of the judgment creditors was that while their action was in court and after the court had granted an injunction in their favour , the Lagos State Government and it’s officials kept allocating their lands to third parties. Terrible of course.
“But consider the situation today. While the fresh action on the set aside writ of possession is pending in the Court of Appeal, the judgment creditors have resorted to self-help, illegally aided by the AGF and IGP to take over the subject matter of the pending appellate litigation.”
Adegboruwa, in a statement titled “Governor Vs IGP: Only restructuring can save Nigeria,” stated that the Magoda brouhaha has shown that only restructuring can save Nigeria.
He added that: “the 1999 Constitution tells a lie against the people of Nigeria when it claims that we are running a federation but strips the governor of a state of powers over security.
“Kuye and Agunsoye of the House of Representatives advised that the involvement of Malami and Usman in the matter be probed.”
They argued that the presence of the policemen from Abuja in the estate amounted to a bid to “destabilise the peace of the state, scuttle the ongoing settlement process and enforce an illegality.”
A group, the Housing Development Advocacy Network (HDAN), also described the presence of armed policemen in the estate as illegal.
It, therefore, called on the Federal Government to stop the “illegality” being perpetuated by the police
HDAN’s Executive Director, HDAN, Festus Adebayo, said what played out yesterday has brought to the fore, the need to review the Land Use Act.
Adebayo said, “We call on the IGP and the Attorney General to stop the illegality. The Sheriffs are the enforcers and they can only seek the support of the police to enforce.
“But from what we saw, there was no sheriff in the team that went to forcefully enforce the court judgment but only the police.”