Contempt proceeding in Nigeria: The case of AGF and CBN

Following the Disobedience of the court order by the Federal government,  the three state governors instituted a contempt proceeding against the Attorney General of the Federation and the Central Bank of Nigeria. In this article, we will discuss the nature of contempt and what constitutes contempt.

Nature of Contempt

There are two types of contempt: criminal and civil.
Criminal contempt occurs when a person directly interferes with the ability of the court to function properly. For example, by chewing gum inside the court or making calls inside the court while the court is sitting. This is also called direct contempt because it occurs directly in front of the judge. A contemnor can be fined, jailed, or both as punishment for his actions.
Civil contempt occurs when the contemnor willfullydisobeys a court order. This is also called indirect contempt because it occurs outside the judge’s immediate realm, and evidence must be presented to the judge to prove the contempt. A civil contemnor, too, may be fined, jailed, or both. The fine or jailing is meant to coerce the contemnor into obeying the court, not to punish him, and the contemnor will be released from jail just as soon as he complies with the court order. 
Civil contempt includes any conduct that legally constitutes an infringement of the authority and dignity of courts and civil proceedings, especially the art of enforcing court judgments
Civil contempt serves the plaintiff’s interests in a lawsuit by awarding compensation if the lawsuit is civil and the penalty is purely curative. There is also justification for the powers of the courts.
Under Nigerian law, the maximum sentence for civil contempt is six prison terms.

Can the Court hold the AGF and CBN inContempt?

The power to hold individuals or entities in contempt lies with the courts. The Supreme Court is the highest in Nigeria, and it has the power to hold individuals or entities in contempt if they disobey court orders or interfere with the administration of justice.

However, it is not within the power of the Supreme Court to hold the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) or the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in contempt without a valid legal basis. Contempt of court is a serious offence, and it requires clear evidence of willful disobedience of a court order or interference with the administration of justice.

If the AGF or the CBN are found to be in contempt of court, the court may take appropriate actions, such as imposing fines, issuing a warning, or even ordering imprisonment. However, any such actions would need to follow due process and be consistent with the Nigerian legal system.


When court orders are ignored and the reputation of the entire judiciary is threatened, everyone is left with nothing but to take matters into their own hands. This leads to losing respect for the courts thereby leading to the destruction of our society. Courts of justice have an inherent power to punish all persons for contempt of their rules and orders, for disobedience of their process, and for disturbing them in their proceedings.

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