The Balogun market imbroglio
Flippant abuses of court orders continue unabated in Nigeria. For example, anybody who has been following the multiple lawsuits between the Balogun Business Association, Lagos (BBA) and the disgruntled and disenchanted members of the BBA over the last few years could readily attest to the serial abuses of court orders and disobedience to court orders by these disgruntled members of the BBA.
You may be well aware that two years ago, the Incorporated Trustees of the BBA brought a lawsuit against the aforesaid disgruntled members as well as the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) Abuja, seeking, inter alia, an Order of Interlocutory Injunction restraining the CAC from meddling with the subject matters of the suits brought by the Association against some disgruntled officers and members of the Association.
Despite being served with the necessary court processes relating to the suits, the CAC cancelled the certificate of the BBA as well as imposed some new officers on the Association.
Impelled by the action of CAC, the BBA approached the Federal High Court and obtained a court order stopping the implementation of the CAC’s cancellation of the certificate until the determination of the suit. Further, the BBA also appealed against an order of the High Court obtained against the BBA by the disgruntled members. It also filed a stay of execution against the said order.
The court processes relating to the Appeal and the stay of execution were duly served on the disgruntled members. To guard against the disgruntled elements using the police to harass and intimidate the BBA, the association approached the Federal High Court and secured an order warning the police and the disgruntled element not to destroy the res or the subject matter of the suit pending the determination of the suit in court.
But unfortunately, in disobedience to the aforesaid court order and in utter disregard for the court processes relating to the stay of execution and the Appeal, which in fact had been entered for by the Court of Appeal, duly served on them, the disgruntled elements together with their cohorts swung into action, mobilized more than 300 policemen from Lagos State and Ogun State and proceeded to Balogun Market and attempted to take over the Market and install themselves as the new management of the BBA but fortunately, the attempt failed.
This is sad. It is trite law that any party who is aware of a court decision against him is obliged to uphold, comply with it or obey it until it is set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction. It is incomprehensible that a group of trouble makers can ignore a court order obtained against them and court processes served on them to descend to the low level of resorting to self-help and over-reaching both the High Court and the Court of Appeal and other litigating parties in the suits.
It is trite law that once a party submits himself to the jurisdiction of a court for the purpose of adjudication of a suit, whatever actual or perceived rights he has or may think he has been subsumed under the jurisdiction of the court and the parties must maintain the status quo until the court pronounces on their rights.
The party must not dispose of or tamper or attempt to tamper in any way with the res or the subject matter of the dispute through self-help or otherwise, so as to render the court’s decisions on the suit nugatory.
See the popular case of Ojukwu v Governor of Lagos State (1986)1 SC. Pages 227-324: John A Osagie v Alhaji S. O Oyeyinka and Ors SC 194/1985; Ogundami v Arabia & Barclays Bank of Nigeria Ltd (1978) 6 & 7 SC; Alakija v Abdulai (1998) 5 SC 1 at page 7; Iheka V Njoku (2017) LPELR-42002.
Specifically in the case of Ezegbu v First African Trust Bank Limited (1992) 1 NWLR (PT. 220) page 699 at 724 the court held: “It is trite law that where a matter is before a court of law, none of the parties can legally or wrongfully take any unilateral action that will prejudice or tend to prejudice the hearing or adjudication of the matter by the court.
Parties who have submitted to the jurisdiction of the court are under a legal duty not to do anything to frustrate or make nonsense of a possible court order. They must, whether they like it or not, wait for the court order. They must, whether they like it or not, wait for the court to take a decision one way or the other…the parties cannot jump the gun and do their own thing in their own way. That will be tantamount to undermining the integrity of the court”
Rather than resort to self-help and forceful illegality of the Balogun Market, one would have expected the aggrieved disgruntled Balogun traders to seek remedy in a court of law as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution. Resort to self-help or force in the settlement of disputes is a recipe for anarchy. Consequently, the police hierarchy is humbly advised not to allow the police to be used in settling civil disputes which are already before the courts.
There are reports of renewed efforts by the trouble makers to use the police to take over the Market. The police hierarchy should not allow this to happen since the parties are already in court. The Balogun Market, arguably, is an economic behemoth of the nation. Therefore anything hampering the Market will hamper the economy. The disgruntled members of the BBA should allow peace to reign at the Balogun Market.
They should approach the court to seek remedy if any. Nothing is gained by resorting to violence. The function of the judiciary as a dispenser of justice, sustainer of good governance and economic growth is endangered by the undermining of the integrity of the court and disobedience to court orders. Our democratic experiment will be aborted by undermining the integrity of the court and resorting to self-help in settling disputes.