Tough call

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No doubt, a difficult choice: raiding the public purse, for a whopping N200 million, when everyone ought to protect that till. Yet, this garnishee order was to compensate a family, whose scion was illegally slain by the Police, the state’s prime civil security agency.

Waheed Kabiru was extra-judicially killed by the police in 2015.  The garnishee order was made by Hon. Justice C. J. Aneke of the Federal High Court, Lagos, “attaching the sum of N200 million, belonging to the Nigeria Police Force, under whose authority and behest the judgment debtor violated the rights of the judgment creditor, giving rise to this action, which sum is in the possession of the garnishees.” The Federal High Court had earlier, on November 1, 2016, delivered a judgment against the Police, ordering it to pay N200 million as damages for the extra-judicial killing of Waheed.

It was to execute the judgment, that the judgement creditor approached the court for a garnishee order against the monies of the Police in the named banks, to satisfy the judgment debt. The court consequently ordered the banks to “file statements under oath showing the standing account of the Nigeria Police as at the date of service of the order nisi on the garnishees.” But the judgment debtor claimed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, was frustrating the execution of the order of the court.

As a consequence, the plaintiff obtained leave of the court to commence contempt proceedings against Mr Godwin Emefiele, the Director of Legal Services, Mr Akinwunmi Johnson, Mr Olusegun Bolaji and Mr Gbenro Adetona. Consequently, the court ordered the respondents to appear in court on February 20, to show cause why they should not be sent to prison for the alleged contempt of court.

Regardless of the fact that the money ultimately comes from tax payers, we support that judgement debts against the Police has to be paid. Of course, we are miffed that the negligent act of a few policemen would expose the public treasury to such a huge expenditure. However, we  agree that negligent acts of policemen, especially the painful extra-judicial killing of citizens, must have dire consequences.

Of course, whether that consequence should be borne by the individual policemen responsible or their employers is open to debate. Of note, we know that when a person is unlawfully killed, apart from the criminal indictment against the culprit, a liability arises against the culprit, and his employers under whose behest he acted. It is in that respect that the police authority was held vicariously liable by the court.

When to consider an employer liable is the duty of the courts, as per section 6(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The section imbues the courts established for the federation to determine: “all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any person in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person.”

The fundamental rights enforcement suit brought by the family of Waheed, against the Police, is a constitutional right, and a judgment in their favour ought to be obeyed, unless set aside on appeal. Why the Police did not exercise their right of appeal, should be investigated, even as administrative procedures should be put in place to continuously train police men on use of firearms. Importantly, psychopathic policemen should be weeded out, to reduce the exposure of public treasury to avoidable damages.