By Ononye VC/Vanguard
ONITSHA – The recent judgement obtained by a human right activist, Francis Gozie Moneke against Anambra state government, the state Attorney-General and the state police command, over police road blocks in the state has taken a new dimension.
This followed the filing and serving of a notice of consequences of disobedience of order of court (Form 48) on the respondents by the applicant.
In the Form 48 filed at the High Court Registry, Awka, yesterday and duly served on the respondents, the applicant, Moneke reminded them that unless they obey the directions contained in the court order recently delivered by Justice Ike Ogu, asking them to dismantle all police road blocks in the state, they would be guilty of contempt of court and would be liable to be committed to prison.
The Applicant, Francis Moneke, Esq., the Executive Director of Human Rights and Empowerment Project Ltd/Gte, and Principal Counsel in the law firm of Gozie Moneke and Associates based in Awka, had dragged the trio to court asking that the retinue of road blocks mounted by the police in various highways in the state are illegal and should be dismantled to avoid impeding free movements of law-abiding citizens of the state..
Moneke contended that such roads blocks mounted by the police have continuously impeded his free movements and that of other law-abiding citizens in and around the state as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria.
Consequently, the presiding Judge, Justice Ike Ogu held that the govt and police have no reason whatsoever to erect road blocks, adding that such illegal blockage flagrantly violated the Applicant’s right to freedom of movement on major roads in Anambra State in the guise of checkmating insecurity.
The Court therefore ordered the State government and Police to immediately remove every such road block in Anambra State to allow free movement of persons and vehicles, adding that the respondents should also pay some amount of money to the Applicant as compensation for the violation of his fundamental right to freedom of movement.
According to the judgement, “The fact that in this country, unconstitutional acts are often carried out by the executive arm and the Nigeria Police as well as security agencies without any complaint from the citizens does not mean that those acts are legal. But when the occasion demands as in the instant case, the perpetrated acts will not receive the imprimatur of the Courts for they are unconstitutional acts”.
“It should be borne in mind that it did not lie within the province or embroyo of the 3rd Respondent (the Commissioner of Police) to enter into an exercise that he had no powers or authority to execute or carry out. We have journeyed from the medieval era into military rule when few men in the name of traditional rulers or supreme military council could at the shout of Jack Robinson banish or restrict the freedom of movement of others; and are at the moment practising democracy which is founded on the rule of law and respect for the civil rights and obligations of persons residing in this country.”
“In this case, the Applicant demonstrated and the Respondents admitted the restriction of the right to freedom of movement. However, there is no evidence before the court to justify the said restriction, as evisaged under Sections 41 (2) (a) & (b) and 45 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)”.
“Rather, the Police who are responsible for the protection of the rights and freedom of every person in Nigeria as enjoined by the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 are the very organ restricting the freedom of movement of the Applicant and others. There was therefore no justification for the Respondents to restrict the freedom of movement of the Applicant and other law abiding citizens”.