Army 38: General Olonisakin risks imprisonment over contempt of court charge

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Olanisakin

The National Industrial Court has granted permission that contempt of court charge be filed against the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin over the alleged refusal to comply with valid order of the court.

Olonisakin may be committed to two years imprisonment on the order of the court if found guilty of the contempt charge.

The leave to file the contempt charge against the CDS was granted to Lt-Col. Abdulfatai Mohammed by Justice Sanusi Kado in Abuja following refusal to reabsorb him back into the Nigerian Army as ordered by the court two years ago.

The industrial court had in a judgment by Justice Edith Agbakogba ordered Gen. Olonisakin to convey the court order in writing to President Muhammadu Buhari for the review of the unlawful premature retirement of Lt. Col. Mohammed.

Justice Agbakogba, in the order, directed that prove of the transmission of the court order to President Buhari must be provided to the Registrar of the court.

Lt. Col. Mohammed was among the 38 senior officers who were in June 2016 unlawfully retired by Army authority in flagrant disregard to the rules of engagement in the military.

The purported premature retirement of the Army officer was however voided and set aside by court on the ground that it ran foul of the law because the plaintiff was neither indicted for any offence nor issued with query or face panel and court marshal before he was kicked out of the Army.

Justice Agbakogba held that Lt. Col. Mohammed was denied fair hearing by the Army as required by law and therefore ordered that the CDS present the case of the retired Army Chief to President Buhari for a review.

The court ordered that Lt. Col. Mohammed who was a Commending Officer in the North East Theatre of Operations at the time he was unlawfully and illegally kicked out of the Army to be reabsorbed into the military.

However, since the appeal for a review of the retirement was presented to him, Gen. Olonisakin) was alleged not to have taken any concrete step to transmit the court order to President Buhari.

His lawyer, Mr. Abdul Muhammed, had argued that the “development is particularly unfortunate considering that this officer was a Commanding Officer in the North East theatre of operation risking his life for his country, but his Commander in Chief and nation failed him by never responding to his cry whether for good or bad”.

Muhammed noted that the “Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for Officers (THACOS) provided a right of review and the some members of the Army 38 had submitted letters for review through the Chief of Defence Staff, but had received no proof that those appeals were indeed transmitted to the President for his mature consideration”.

To this end, the order,  which was made over two years ago by Agbakoba and the recent order by Kado, have paved the way for the issuance of summons to be served personally on the Chief of Defence Staff in initiation of committal proceedings to compel the compliance with the lawful order of court of competent jurisdiction.