2nd July, 2010
The rot in Enugu State judiciary reared its ugly head recently when an Enugu-based legal practitioner, Chinaemelu Okolo, was denied audience in the Enugu Magistrateâ€™s courts for raising alarm over an alleged $100 bribe by Senior Magistrate Administration J.L.C.Okibe [Mrs.] assuming a controversial jurisdiction over a case of interest.
Sequel to the incident, the applicant petitioned the Chief Acting Registrar of Enugu state High Court explaining the circumstances that led to the bribe which he witnessed and how Magistrate Okibe refused to follow the laid down judicial rules.
So angered by the lawyerâ€™s boldness to confront her, the most senior magistrate in the state used her enormous powers and issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the lawyer who was publicly manhandled by police agents of the magistrate.
â€œThe police pursued me to arrest me and in the process they assaulted me, tore my clothes and humiliated me. I was saved by some lawyers, policemen and Chief Magistrate J. Edeh,â€ said the applicant.
This was disclosed by Chuma Oguejiofor chambers, counsel to the complainant in Suit. No. FHC\EN\M\167\2010 before Justice A.R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court Enugu Division.
The matter is between Mazi Chinaemelu Okolo and Mrs. J.L.C.Okibe, Mrs. E.N. Egumgbe, Insp. Paulinus Onyibo, Insp. Matthew Okpara, Sgt. Nesi Messa and commissioner of police Enugu State.
Surprisingly, the Solicitor General of Enugu State C. Onaga [Mrs.] represented the police officers despite the array of police lawyers, therefore paving way for insinuations concerning the matter.
â€œO n 14th and 17th day of June, 2010, I appeared before Chief Magistrate Ochi and Senior Magistrate Ebele Udezeâ€™s courts respectively, they both denied me audience. My enquiries reveal that Okibe told them not to listen to me in their courts until I withdraw the matter,â€ Okolo said.
According to the applicant, â€œsince 19 May 2010 till date, I have been stopped from performing my legal and legitimate duties as a lawyer by Mrs. Okibe, through her threats and intimidation, even after she has been served with court processes from the Federal High Court,â€ he said.
However, the presiding judge, Justice A.R. Mohammed frowned at the inability of the elders of Bar and Bench in the state to settle the case out of court as pleaded during the last sitting, describing it as â€œa case of family fighting against itselfâ€.
He, however, resolved to go ahead and give his judgment on the next adjourned date if the matter was not settled before then. The case was adjourned till July 22.
The court had earlier granted three orders among which is an interim order restraining the respondents from arresting the applicant in connection with the applicantâ€™s petition to Acting Chief Registrar of High Court of Enugu State pending the determination of the motion on notice.