CONTEMPT: CHIEF OF NAVAL STAFF RISKS JAIL
The chief of Naval Staff may soon face contempt proceeding over alleged deliberate refusal of the navy to obey court order, which had mandated the institution to reinstate, an officer, Lt. Cdr. Adeolu Omotosho. Omotosho, who was wrongly retired from the service of the Nigerian Navy had through his counsel, Akin Kejawa successfully challenged the retirement and got redress at Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos.
The court presided over by Justice M. I. Shuaibu in his verdict delivered on May 7, 2004 declared null and void, the trial, conviction and sentence passed on him by the special court martial that retired him at the instance of the navy.
Among others, Justice Shuaibu had ordered the immediate reinstatement of Omotosho into the service of navy with all the entitlements due to him such as salaries and emoluments, promotion and accommodation at 23 Road 'H' Close, House 4, FESTAC Town, Lagos.
Dissatisfied with the verdict, the Nigerian Navy appealed at the Court of Appeal, Lagos division. The appellate court subsequently dismissed the appeal. The development appeared to have resolved the matter finally.
However, the defendant has been treating the order of court with impunity by its conduct. Instead of obeying the order, Omotosho apartment had been occupied by another officer Cdr. P. A. Onaji who ought to have packed out of the apartment in view of the subsisting order of the court.
On its part, the navy had not paid Omotosho's salaries since January 2003, in clear violation of the court order. The court had specifically ordered that his reinstatement should take effect from November 15, 2002 being the date of purported wrongful retirement.
Following the perceived treatment of the express order of the court with impunity, Omotosho wrote series of letter to the navy demanding simple obedience to express court order in his case.
The letters specifically addressed to the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) were dated January 7, 2009, February 4, 2010 and September 17, 2010 all drawing the attention of the naval authorities to the subsisting order of the court in the matter in respect of the suit NO: FHC/L/CS/1208/02 between Lt. Cdr. A. A. Omotosho as plaintiff and the Nigerian Navy, Chief of Naval Staff, the Attorney General of the Federation, Nigerian Navy Board and one Captain S. L. Baje.
To compel navy to respect and obey the subsisting court orders, the chambers of Festus Keyamo took up the matter and on March 22, 2011, sent a letter to the CNS demanding immediate reinstatement of Omotosho in accordance with the court order.
'We want to again on behalf of our client demand the implementation of the judgment of the Federal High Court, presided over by Justice Shuaibu delivered on May 7, 2004.
'Wherein, the Federal High Court reinstated our client into the Nigerian Navy with all his prerequisites of office including his salaries, arrears of pays, promotion and accommodation at 23 Road, 'H' Close House 4 FESTAC Town, Lagos restored.
'The Court of Appeal reaffirmed this decision on November 5, 2008. The continuous disregard of the judgement of the Federal High Court and the Court of Apeal is disrespectful to the court and it amount to contempt.
'Be that as it may, we shall be constrained to file contempt proceeding against you if you fail or neglect to heed our request within seven days of the recipt of this letter,' the letter warned.