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Can The Court Grant A Stay of Execution To A Party in Disobedience of Its Orders?

Can The Court Grant A Stay of Execution To A Party in Disobedience of Its Orders?

CASE CITATION: IBRAHIM UMAR & 22 ORS. v. ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (2018) 7-10 S.C. 195

 DATE OF JUDGMENT: MONDAY, THE 22ND DAY OF OCTOBER, 2018

COURT: SUPREME COURT

SUIT:  SC. 764/2018

CORAM:

  1. WALTER SAMUEL N. ONNOGHEN (Presided)
  2. MUSA DATTIJO MUHAMMAD
  3. KUMAI BAYANG AKAAHS
  4. JOHN INYANG OKORO
  5. CHIMA CENTUS NWEZE (Delivered the Leading Judgment)

ISSUE(S):   Stay of Execution – Whether can be granted to party in disobedience

CASE SYNTHESIS

From the facts of this appeal, it is not in doubt that, while the Respondent was in grave disobedience of two Orders of the trial court, it approached the lower court for the discretionary orders of stay of proceedings and stay of execution. Nothing could be more impetuous than that! The Respondent’s approach reminds me of the insightful observation of Eso, JSC., in Military Gov. of  Lagos State and Ors. v. Ojukwu and Ors. (1986) 2 S.C.  10 (Reprint) 202

According to His Lordship:

I think it is a very serious matter for anyone to flout a positive order of a court and proceed to taunt the court further by seeking a remedy in a higher court while still in contempt of the lower court… (Underlining supplied for emphasis) 

Now, as shown above, on May 11, 2018, notwithstanding the invasion of the court by 2 hoodlums: an invasion that was characterized by the destruction of items of property the court was still able to deliver its Ruling on that day. It issued an interlocutory injunctive order restraining the Respondent from conducting its congresses.

On the following day, May 12, 2018, in a most contumacious manner, it (the Respondent), defiantly, purported to conduct another congress. As if that was not enough, on May 19, 2018; May 20, 2018 and May 21, 2018, respectively, it (the said Respondent), notwithstanding the pendency of that injunctive order, went  ahead to conduct Ward, Local Government and State  Congresses.

These defiant acts prompted the trial court’s Order of Mandatory injunction of May 30, 2018. The said order cancelled the said Congresses of May 12, 2018; May 19, 2018; May 20, 2018 and May 21, 2018.

Although still recalcitrant to the subsisting orders of the trial courts, namely, orders of May 11, 2018 and May 30, 2018, the Respondent, in a most impudent manner, beseeched the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, with an entreaty to favour it with an order of stay of  proceedings and stay of execution. The lower court, as shown above, favoured the Respondent (Applicant before it) with an order staying the execution of the “order of injunction made by the High Court of Rivers State in the Ruling delivered per Nwogu, J., on Friday 11th May, 2018 in Suit No. BHC/78/2018,” (Page 591 of the record).

The simple truth, therefore, is that, when the Respondent applied for an Order of stay of execution before the lower court, it was in gross disobedience of the injunctive orders of the trial court. From all indications, notwithstanding this unfortunate development, the lower court still found it legitimate to favour it (the Respondent) with the said Order for Stay. This was wrong. As Karibi- Whyte, JSC., held, most pungently, in Odogwu v. Odogwu  (supra):

The grant of stay of execution is entirely within the discretion of the court making the order. For an Applicant to be entitled to the exercise of the discretion he must bring his conduct within the legitimate scope of the exercise of discretion – See, Leavis v. Leavis  (1921) 299. Hence, where he is it) continuing disobedience of the Order of the court, I do not conceive it legitimate to consider the exercise of discretion in his favour – See, Gower v. Gower (1938) 106. The contumacious behaviour is more egregious and censorious where the Applicant seeks the discretion of the court to endorse such a behaviour.

The court guards its powers and image jealously. It should therefore be extremely wary in the manner it exposes such image, the diminution of its powers and the enforcement of its authority to public ridicule.

Regrettably, the lower court condoned the above contumacious, egregious and censorious approach of the Respondent herein. Well, this court has a duty to resist this attempt to achieve forensic victory through jiggery pokery. True to its constitutional mandate, this court cannot lend its weight to such an ungainly approach! In all, therefore, I have a duty to allow this appeal.  Accordingly, I hereby enter an order setting aside the Ruling of the lower court delivered on June 21, 2018.

 IBRAHIM UMAR & 22 ORS. v. ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (2018) 7-10 S.C. 195 @ 209-211 Para 5-25

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