ENUGU RULING: DIALECTICS OF CTC, REMAND AND LAWYER’S FREEDOM, BY PROF. RACE ACHARA

In this article, leading jurist and former Dean of Law, PROF. R. A. C. E. ACHARA tackles the claim that the certified copy of a trending ruling of an Agbogugu Magistrates Court presided over by His Worship, Ezeobi Ngozi Anidi (Mrs) which allegedly ordered a remand of one F. C. Okeke Esq, is fake and proffers a synthesis 

The beauty of law often consists in its long established rules for testing between opposed versions of a story.

Currently, there is a CTC of the court’s proceedings. A CTC is by our Evidence Act the equivalent of the manuscript record of the presiding magistrate. If it has been forged by the court’s registrar, we should all be alarmed and the felon should be prosecuted and dismissed from service. What was published is not an enrolled order where perhaps the registrar might, in the inevitable attempt at summarization, have lost the meaning intended by the adjudicator. But even here, the hoary legal principles provide an important safeguard. If it is an enrolled order drafted by the court’s clerk or registrar, the adjudicator himself must sign it. This affords such a magistrate the opportunity and duty to cross-check the draft. A CTC involves no summary. It is a direct capture ipsissima verba of the record made by the adjudicator on the record book. This is why there’s no legal necessity for the judge to sign it, having already signed the original record book from which it has been extracted by her own staff.

So, which of the two conflicting stories would lawyers accept under our age-old laws and practice procedures? The record book (extracted by the court’s registrar, at a fee, and under the judicial seal of Enugu State by the usual Evidence Act procedure of a CTC)? Or, a social media publication by a random lawyer (with no legal practitioner’s stamp and seal, no claim of representation for the Hon. Chief Magistrate, or any apparent nexus or employment with the Enugu State judiciary)?

Nota bene:

The two narratives conflict only on the matter of whether or not the learned magistrate made the order suggesting, as shown in the CTC of her own records, that learned counsel should be remanded in police custody until such a time as his contemptuous client is found to replace him in gaol.

The grammatical ambiguity might be good reason for the police not to detain the lawyer, but that is a different conversation altogether.

Other than in this respect, the body of the new narrative does not conflict with the gist of the CTC. It talks of the conduct of the client, which if proven, could warrant his committal to prison for contempt. Apparently, the learned Chief Magistrate had already indeed committed him (ostensibly in absentia) to prison. It did not address the CTC evidence that as a result of the client’s assumed peccadilloes, the Hon. Chief Magistrate turned her ire on the client’s counsel. Indeed, the narrative tends to buttress this.

This is no instance to throw the safety of fellow counsel to the dogs merely for representation of their clients in court. Unless taken to its legal limits, the precedent would be dangerous and only encourage any out of control adjudicator to gamble on an abusive, infra dignitatem imprisonment of a legal practitioner, in the malicious understanding that before its reversal, the humiliated fellow lawyer would have unjustly, even if for a few hours, been incarcerated in shame.

Chief Theodore Ezeobi, SAN, God rest his soul, would never tolerate this sort of humiliation. His name need not be dragged into this fiasco.

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ALLEGED REMAND ORDER: IN DEFENCE OF ENUGU MAGISTRATE, BY LAWYER

Following a trending ruling of an Agbogugu Magistrates Court presided over by His Worship, Ezeobi Ngozi Anidi (Mrs) which allegedly ordered a remand of one F. C. Okeke Esq, counsel for the accused person, MARY BASSEY GODWIN, ESQ. x-rays the proceedings and concludes that the entire saga is designed to smear the hard working jurist, adding that no lawyer was remanded in custody or mistreated

THE TRUE FACTS OF THE FABRICATED ORDER TO ARREST A LAWYER PURPORTEDLY ISSUED BY AN ENUGU MAGISTRATE CIRCULATING (IN) THE SOCIAL MEDIA

The complainant who claimed to be an only child of her parents, told the court on giving evidence that her father made her promise not to forfiet (sic) her father’s name in order to secure the family name.

Upon the death of her father, her mother married a woman into the family to bear children. The accused is said to be the produce of the said marriage.

Upon hearing, the complainant told the court she received a call from Lagos that her step-brother had demolished the house she built and has demolished her father’s house. She rushed down to the east and saw it was true. She went to the police station and made a formal complaint and the matter was brought to court.

Upon the commencement of proceedings, the complainant prayed the court that she was stranded and had no place to sleep each time she came to the village praying the court to allow her have a room in her father’s house pending the determination of the suit that her brother would not allow her into her father’s house any more.

The court gave a ruling ordering the brother to open a room for the sister pending the determination of the suit.
The court’s ruling was based on the Supreme Court case of Ukeje v Ukeje, the judgement of Honourable Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour (which now grants women from the Eastern part of Nigeria a right to inheritance).

The accused’s counsel appealed the ruling to the High Court Agwu, Enugu State. The High court upheld the judgement of the lower court and sent the case back to the magistrate court.

The magistrate then gave an order for the accused to make a room available to the complainant. In December 2020, the matter came up again before the magistrate. The court was informed that the accused had not carried out the order of court.

The magistrate again instructed the accused to carry out the order of the court or face a contempt charge. Yet again, the Accused did not carry out the order of the court. The accused told the court he would not give up a room for his sister. The court then ordered for the arrest of the accused who was in contempt of court for disobeying the order of court.

The accused was remanded in prison custody. At the next adjourned date, the complainant informed the court that the accused was not in prison custody and had been going about town bragging that his money is speaking and remains untouchable.

The court issued a warrant of arrest repeatedly and was told by both counsel and the prosecutor that they were unable to locate the accused. The complainant at the following hearing informed the court that the Accused was in the village.

On the 16th of March the matter came up .The court yet again asked if the accused has been seen, the counsel for the accused said no. The court yet again asked the counsel for the accused if he was aware that the accused is at large. Counsel for the accused, after a short silence told the court that the accused was sick.

After this revelation, the court addressed the other lawyers in court who immediately rebuked the counsel for the accuses (sic) and asked him to apologise to the court. Counsel for the accused pleaded with the court and undertook that by the next adjourned date, he will work with the police to produce the accused. The magistrate then issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the accused.

After that hearing, the spurious and fabricated document emerged on social media in an attempt to intimidate the court.

Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Muhammad Aliyu and the officiating DPO, Mr. John Igele, have both confirmed that the order to arrest a lawyer circulating on social media is a fabrication. It never existed nor was any lawyer arrested.

Mary Bassey Godwin, Esq.

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