Flagrant disregard for court judgment is seen as a normal occurrence in Nigeria. In most cases, whenever the judiciary gave judgement against governmental authorities such as cases of fundamental human rights abuse by the police or military, such judgments are usually not enforced because of the lack of political will by the executive arm of government.
This, according to analysts, has contributed in no small measures to impunity and lawlessness in the country.
But that may now be a thing of the past with the wind of change blowing in the country, especially in Lagos State.
The state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode last week won the hearts of many when he announced that his administration would implement the verdict of the Coroner’s inquest on the September 12, 2014 building collapse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), which left 116 persons, mostly foreigners from South Africa dead.
The Coroner Court headed by Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe,had called for the investigation and prosecution of the church and its contractors over its failure to secure the necessary permit and approval before commencing the building of its collapsed structure, which killed 116 persons, mostly foreigners from South Africa.
Consequent upon the judgement, Governor Ambode promised to implement the verdict to the letter.
According to him, aside prosecuting the contractor and structural engineer who handled the project, the state government would also prosecute the church authorities for failure to obtain building approval before commencing the building, contrary to the provisions of the Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law, 2010.
The statement from the governor has received commendations from well-meaning Nigerians. Constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) who described the incident as a criminal offence, urged the governor to back up the statement with actions to serve as deterrent to others.
“The statement from the Lagos State Government is a commendable one. This is because the whole tragedy not only involves human lives; it also involves the lives of non-Nigerians creating what I will call a diplomatic incidence between Nigeria and South Africa”.
Also speaking, former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, Monday Ubani who also applauded the position of the state government said the verdict if implemented would give Nigerians a sense of hope that indeed, true change has come to the country.
“That is a good one from the governor. It is heartwarming when a government official says that he will carry out the judgment of the court. Nigerians will be happy to see government follow up on their vow and promise to do the right thing”.
“ If the coroner has make a recommendation and the government has vowed to implement it that is a healthy development because most times, judgement of the court are usually not being followed up by government officials”.
“Let us begin to follow our law. And the change we have voted for, let it now start from every angle. Those who have been implicated by the Coroner should be prosecuted in accordance with the law” Ubani said.
Born 52 years ago in Epe Local Government Area of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Dapo Ambode, a public finance consultant and activist was educated at Federal Government College, Warri, University of Lagos and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is the 14th governor of Lagos State.