The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has said it cannot be held responsible for the alleged non-enforcement of a court order mandating the release of 40 Nigerians purportedly arrested by the Nigerian Navy as claimed by Femi Falana, counsel to the affected persons.
In a statement signed by Lambert Oparah, NHRC Director of Corporate Affairs and External Linkages, the commission described Falana’s claim as an “unwarranted attack”.
Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had in a letter dated August 5, which was circulated in the media, had berated the commission for failing to sanction the Navy over their refusal to comply with the court order.
But in its response, the NHRC said while it condemned the alleged detention and purported refusal of the Navy to comply with an order of the court, it was not its business to sanction any entity to enforce court orders.
It noted that Falana had approached the court to lay a complaint against the Navy’s disobedience of the order.
The statement read: “The Commission also wishes to state unequivocally that although it is empowered to protect and enforce human rights, it does not have the mandate of enforcing court orders in a situation where counsel have the capacity to move the court to enforce its own orders made in favour of their clients.”
“It is the duty of counsel and the beneficiary of any court order to move the court to enforce its orders. Mr. Falana has not shown the commission that the court has been moved to Enforce the orders declaring the detention of the 40 persons illegal and the refusal of the Nigerian Navy to comply with the orders.
“The NHRC condemns the alleged non obedience of court order by the Nigerian navy as claimed by Mr. Falana SAN, all organs of government must be seen to respect the rule of law as required in all civilised societies, but the duty to enforce court orders lies with the court itself using the instrumentality of law enforcement agencies of the police.
“It is the hope of the commission that this type of unwarranted attack on the commission be discouraged by well-meaning Nigerians of which we view Mr. Falana SAN.”
The NHRC stated that it had started treating Falana’s complaints and had sent separate letters to the lawyer and the Navy.