The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata has waded into the brewing crisis in the Abia State Judiciary following a directive by the Abia State Chief Judge, Justice Onuoha Ogwe to bar lawyers from its courts.

Justice Ogwe had in a letter to NBA branches in the state informed them of his directive to judges to deny audience to lawyers without original copies of the controversial Abia State High Court (Practice and Procedure) Rules, 2021.

CITY LAWYER gathered from impeccable sources that NBA branches in the state are bracing for a battle with the state chief judge over the directive which a senior lawyer described as “insulting and degrading.”

But apparently to stave off a full-blown face-off with lawyers which may cause total shutdown of the court system, Akpata told CITY LAWYER that he has waded into the matter with a view to reaching a resolution.

Aside from engaging the embattled chief judge on the matter, the NBA President has also directed the chairmen of NBA Umuahia and Aba branches to meet with Justice Ogwe in order to hammer out a win-win solution to the debacle.

Akpata told CITY LAWYER that “I have reached out to the CJ and I have also asked the Chairmen of our Umuahia and Aba Branches to see him today.”

On the position of the NBA on the controversial directive, Akpata said: “This directive really is not tenable and I have told the CJ that much. Firstly, right of audience before a Court cannot be circumscribed except by virtue of clear statutory provisions in this regard. Secondly, in this day and age it is a bit strange to insist that every lawyer must possess a hard copy of the Rules when technology provides us with other alternatives.”

The NBA President was however confident that an amicable resolution would be reached on the face-off, saying: “I am hopeful that the matter will be resolved today after the meeting between the CJ and our Chairmen.”

However, there are strong indications that today’s meeting may not hold due to the weekly sit-at-home in the South East originally ordered by the pro-independence group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

When CITY LAWYER contacted the chairman of NBA Umuahia Branch on whether the meeting was underway, he said: “The time of our meeting with the CJ is not yet settled. Today is sit-at-home in the East.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that the chief judge had in the letter observed that “lawyers have refused to purchase the new High Court Rules, while some photocopied the Rules for use in court.”

Dated June 16 and signed by the Chief Registrar of Abia State High Court, Mr. V. C. Okey-Nwokeukwu, the letter warned: “The Hon. Chief Judge directs that as from the date of this letter, any lawyer that appears in our High Court without his copy of the High Court Rules shall not be granted audience.”

But a senior lawyer who practices in the state told CITY LAWYER that many lawyers in the state are “agitated” by the directive, adding that they view it as “insulting and degrading.”

He said that while it is inappropriate for lawyers to photocopy the Rules as this may infringe copyright laws, “I can tell you that the directive will be ignored by most lawyers. Also, no judge can enforce that directive. On what basis will they do so? It is not compulsory for any lawyer to go to court with any Rules of court. It is optional. More importantly, it is payment of Bar Practising Fee that accords a lawyer audience in court, not possession of any court rules.”

Apart from Umuahia and Aba, the other NBA branches in Abia State are Isiala Ngwa, Ohafia, and Ukwa.

CITY LAWYER investigation shows that at least one jurist, Justice C. U. Okoroafor has refused to recognize the new Rules given that it bears the name of the former chief judge of the state as the signatory.

It was gathered that though the current chief judge had ‘corrected’ the defect through a Practice Direction, Justice Okoroafor does not permit the use of the Rules in his court, leading to a face-off with NBA Aba Branch which directed its members to boycott Justice Okoroafor’s court, citing “particularly his blatant refusal to use and or allow lawyers to rely on and or use the Abia State (Practice & procedure) Rules, 2021 in his court on the erroneous premise that there was no High Court Civil Procedure Rules in existence in Abia State.”

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The Lagos State Chief Magistrate who was reportedly arrested and incarcerated by a senior police officer has given a blow-by-blow account of her face-off with the top cop.

In a voice note obtained by CITY LAWYER, the judicial officer, Mrs. S. K. Matepo who is the Chief Magistrate at Court 1, Mushin debunked news reports that she was arrested and detained while on a routine oversight visit to a police cell in Mushin.

It is recalled that several news outlets (not CITY LAWYER) had yesterday reported that the Area Commander of Area D Police Command, Lagos, ACP Aliko Dankoli had last Monday ordered the arrest and detention of the Chief Magistrate who, in line with the provsions of the Adminsitration of criminal Justice Act, went to the command to see the interview detainees. The reports had alleged that ACP Dankoli was angry because the Chief Magistrate did not seek his permission before speaking with the suspects.

This led several lawyers including the Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN-led Nigerian Bar Association Security Agecnies Realtions Committee (NBA-SARC) to wade into the debacle, even as the Lagos State Police Command debunked the reports.

But in the voice note reviewed by CITY LAWYER, Chief Magistrate Matepo stated that while she had a heated argument with the top police officer, it did not degenerate to her arrest or detention. She also added that not only did she complete her assignment by interviewing the suspects, the senior police officer was reprimanded while a formal apology from him is pending.

The full transcript of the recording by CITY LAWYER is below:

“Good afternoon, my colleagues, Magistrates of Lagos State.

“Thank you everybody for the calls and love. This is Mrs. Matepo, the concerned magistrate, Chief Magistrate Court 1 Mushin.

“I just want everybody to know that, yes, something happened but not as bad as it was narrated. I went on the police visit to Mushin and the Area Commander insisted that I must take his approval or permission before I interrogate the suspects in the cell.

“I explained to him that, having seen his senior officers who led me to the cell, I don’t think I need to see him first. I might come back to him after interrogating the suspects – if need be.

But he kept on and insisted that it shouldn’t have gone that way. But I put it to him that that is the way I do my job – I need not visit him in his office. I stood my ground and insisted that I must complete my job and his officers might report to him after I might have finished, or if there is any need for me to see him, that is when I will see him, and that I’m not supposed to see him first.

“Though he (got) agitated and shouted; Anyway, I put it to him. And immediately the second day, I came to the High Court to report him to Mr. Fadeyi who called him and put him to order. He warned him and told him that he would make arrangement for him to apologize.

“So, that was the situation before all this news that went viral this morning (yesterday) about this situation. There was no arrest or detention. Mrs. Matepo is fine and everything is in order. I think the High Court is taking proper step on the issue. Thank you very much.”


1. It has come to the notice of the NBA-SARC via a series of online publications by media outlets, accessed today, Thursday, June 2, 2022, that a magistrate, whose name was withheld, had on Monday, May 30, 2022, during a routine check of suspects in cells at the Area D Police Headquarters, Mushin, Lagos State, been arrested and detained on the orders of the Area Commander, ACP Dankoli over the allegations that the Magistrate went to check suspects detained in the Command’s cell without his permission.

2. Indeed, it is preposterous to think that a Magistrate will be humiliated and even detained for carrying out one of the statutory responsibilities of her office as obligated by the Lagos State Judiciary and the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State.

3. In line with the NBA-SARC’s mandate, our Committee is presently making urgent efforts at verifying the facts and circumstances surrounding the instant report especially as it relates to the arrest and detention of the magistrate in question. This is to inform further steps, actions and/or decisions made from the standpoint of knowledge and information.

4. In the interim, we call for calm from the legal community and further reassure that no stone will be left unturned in ensuring the justice of this instant case and that whoever is found wanting faces the music in the present investigative efforts by the NBA-SARC. We continue to condemn, unreservedly, all forms of unlawful arrest and detention and the instant case, if verified, is no different. We are making efforts to reach the said Magistrate, her aides and eyewitnesses, if any, to ascertain the extent, and/or nature of confrontation with the Police on that the said day.

5. We remain ever committed to the safety and welfare of all members of the Nigerian Bar Association and its me.

6. I remain yours in this lofty struggle.

Signed: Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, OFR, MFR SAN (Chairman, NBA–SARC)


The Lagos State Police Command is aware of a June 02, 2022 news story by one Michael Akintola of PM Express titled ‘How Area Commander Locked Up Lagos Magistrate Inside Cell at Area D Command.’

The Command wishes to state clearly that the story is nothing but fiction. At no time did the Area Commander detain or attempt to detain the magistrate, who was at the Area Command for Cell Inspection exercise. The Police will never engage in such disrespect to the Judiciary.

The writer referring to a serving magistrate as ‘the innocent woman’ says a lot about his objectivity/bias and contrived efforts at sensationalism. Also, it is suspicious that the writer could not provide the name of the magistrate, who is a public officer. It is equally suspicious that the writer made no attempt to contact the judiciary to verify the purported detention.

The Lagos State Police Command did the needful and contacted the judiciary. The Lagos State Judiciary confirmed that there was no such thing and neither was the magistrate prevented from carrying out her Cell Inspection exercise. We hereby state it unequivocally that any attempt to cause disaffection between the Police and the Judiciary will be fiercely resisted. We remain worthy partners in the justice sector.

The Lagos State Police Command enjoins Lagosians to disregard the story as officers and men under the stewardship of CP Abiodun Alabi, fdc will continue to be professional and uphold the rule of law at all times.

Police Public Relations Officer,
Lagos State Command,

June 02, 2022.

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