Otodo Gbame: Court dismisses contempt application against Ambode

Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode

A Lagos High Court in Igbosere on Wednesday dismissed a contempt application filed by some displaced residents of Lagos waterfront settlements against principal officials of the state government over alleged disobedience of court order on the demolition of shanties and illegal structures.

Some residents Otodo Gbame area of Ilado in Lekki numbering about 33, had filed the contempt application against Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem; Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr Wasiu Anifowoshe, and Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, for allegedly flouting a ruling which ordered parties to maintain status quo.

Ruling on the contempt application, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo held that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the said application judging by constitutional provision.

Justice Onigbanjo had earlier ordered Mr Ambode to appear before him to explain reason for the demolition exercise, but the judge backtracked on the ground that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) gives the governor immunity which shields him from any legal case while he remains chief executive officer of the state.

“The court lacks the jurisdiction to rule on the third respondent (Governor Ambode) according to immunity bestowed on him by Section 308 of the Constitution of the land,” the judge ruled.

Specifically, Justice Onigbanjo said the governor, under Section 308 of Constitution, has constitutional immunity from prosecution and from being sent to prison, adding that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the application against him.

The judge said the other respondents could also not be held liable for contempt since it was the claimants’ argument that the other respondents acted under the order and direct supervision of the governor.

Speaking to newsmen at the end of the proceedings, Lagos counsel, Saheed Quadri, welcomed the decision of the court, saying that it was far from the truth that the government flouted any court ruling.

According to him, “The whole issue is about the fact that the state government asked the claimants not to reconstruct until they obtain building permit, but while we were in court for mediation at the Lagos Multi-Door Courthouse, the claimants went back to rebuild the illegal shanties.”