FRACAS IN COURT : ANAMBRA NBA DEMANDS THOROUGH INVESTIGATION
The Committee of Chairmen and Secretaries of the five branches of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Anambra State has called for investigation to unmask those behind the recent fracas that rocked the registry of Aguata judiciary headquarters, Ekwulobia.
Fighting had ensued between some politicians and judicial workers at the Ekwulobia High Court, the headquarters of Aguata Judiciary Division over an application filed by some politicians at the Ekwulobia High Court.
The politicians had filed the application seeking to be recognized as authentic party stalwarts, or as winners of party primaries. But the court registrar drew their attention to an outstanding directive from the state Chief Judge, Justice Paul Obidigwe to the effect that any political matter filed in any part of the state, must be brought before him before the commencement of hearing on such matter.
As soon as the court registrar informed the politicians of the CJ's outstanding directive, the source stated, the applicants became furious that referring the matter to the CJ first before hearing could delay justice and they allegedly became confrontational which almost resulted in exchange of fisticuffs.
This development, according to the source, prompted the CJ to order that the files of all the cases pending at the Aguata Judiciary be forwarded to the judiciary headquarters, Awka, from where they would be assigned to appropriate courts for adjudication.
Accordingly, the case that led to the fracas was transferred to Awka, also in compliance with the CJ's directive that all the processes of new cases emanating from Aguata judiciary headquarters would henceforth be filed and processed in Awka, from where the case files would be brought down to Ekwulobia for adjudication.
Ever since the fracas, lawyers and their clients who are filing new cases in Aguata Judiciary Division became disenchanted as they claimed that it costs them extra money and energy to travel to Awka, file and process their cases and wait for days for their case files to be brought down to Ekwulobia for adjudication.
Against this background, the NBA committee, in a communique issued after their meeting, noted with displeasure, the invasion of Aguata and Ihiala Judicial Division by thugs allegedly hired and aided some lawyers.
While calling for investigation into the identities of all persons behind the shameful act, with a view to bringing them to book, the committee said it became more worrisome when they learnt that the lawyers who allegedly masterminded the brigandage were from Anambra State. The Committee added, 'we roundly condemn this unfortunate development of an attempt to rubbish the judiciary which we sincerely believe is the last hope of the common man.'
The committee however noted with sadness that following the twin incidents at Ihiala and Aguata judiciary divisions, the Chief Judge, Justice Paul Obidigwe has now directed that the Registry at Aguata be moved to the Judiciary headquarters, Awka, adding that what it translates to is that every single process of Aguata High court is now filed, processed and assigned at the Awka judiciary headquarters.
The committee said the bar is deeply worried as to the consequences of the state of affairs on administration of justice in the state, adding, 'we therefore call on the CJ to, as a matter of extreme urgency return the Registry of the Aguata Judiciary to Ekwulobia since we had cause to refer to the classification of court processes as 'Political' and 'Non-political'.
The committee stated that in as much as they do not express opinion on the merits or otherwise of the classification, they call on the CJ to come out clearly with a directive which will be public knowledge for ease of compliance.
In the two-page communique which was jointly signed by the chairmen of Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi, Idemili and Aguata branches of NBA, Messrs J. I. Igu, C. H. Onyiuke, E. E. Egunonu, M. C. Efobi and D. U. Umeobika respectively, and the secretaries, U. F. O. Nnaemeka, C. C. Onwuzulike, Emeka Anikpe and S. U. Onyia respectively, the committee also called on all judicial officers to be more circumspect in issuing orders of court to avoid embarassing the Judiciary and destroying the authority of courts.
Meanwhile, a concerned lawyer based in Onitsha, Cliffford Iloegbune Okoye has given the CJ a 21-day ultimatum within which to return the Registry from Awka to Ekwulobia or he would personally take a legal action against the CJ.
Adding his voice to the committee's communique, Okoye who is the immediate past vice-chairman of NBA, Aguata branch, said the CJ has no right to relocate the Judiciary to Awka, just because some lawyers aided some politicians to confront the judiciary workers at Ekwulobia.
Okoye said the appropriate thing to do is to report the misconduct of such lawyers or judicial workers to the appropriate disciplinary committees to handle the matter, rather than punishing the innocent persons who do not know about the fracas, by relocating the Registry.