…Warns against harassment, intimidation of members
The judiciary in Anambra State has warned that it would not tolerate further acts of intimidation, threats and harassment on its members.
Prof Ilochi Okafor(SAN) gave the warning on Monday during a special court session held at Anambra State Judiciary headquarters, Awka, to mark the commencement of the 2018/2019 legal year.
Prof. Okafor who spoke on the occasion as the most Senior member of the bar in the state, condemned recent acts of intimidation on judicial officers in the state by senior police officers, and members of the political class.
He said, “It is very sad that our judges and magistrates are increasingly being subjected to physical assaults, abuse, intimidation, threats, and blackmail.”
“Most of our colleagues have passed through this several times in Anambra, and we must not let this to continue to happen.”
The Senior Advocate said “the official car of Justice Peace Otti, on the orders of an Area commander of Police was stopped, detained, and her driver searched, while Justice Otti was locked inside the car. This happened in the full view of the public near a Market.”
He noted a similar case of a magistrate who was bullied by another police Area commander because the judicial officer gave an order for stay of proceedings to await further directive from the office of D.P.P. in a criminal trial.
According to him, “the Area commander was audacious to the extent that he even spoke over the phone to the magistrate in furtherance of his threat”.
He stated that “these acts of intimidation must stop. The judiciary can not be cowed or intimidated. The independence of the Judiciary is paramount under the rule of law”.
He called on the chief judge to immediately meet with other stakeholders and schedule for a meeting with the CP and the state governor in order to stop this ugly trend.
In her address, the Attorney-General and commissioner for Justice, Dr Ngozi Nwogu disclosed that the state government and was set to install an electronic case management system in the ministry, in order to keep accurate track of all cases that involves the ministry, “from the first day that the police submitted the case file to the office of Attorney General till the date the case is disposed-off”.
Mrs Nwogu maintained that with “the click of a button, all the cases concerning the state government would be accessed”.
The Chief Judge of the State, Justice Peter Umeadi who presided over the special court session used the opportunity to reel out a long list of achievement by the state judiciary within the legal year and make projections for the new year.
While declaring the new legal year open, the Chief Judge canvassed for the abrogation of the rule that prevents judges from returning to full legal practice after their sojourn in the judicial bench, noting that other countries have waved this rule.
According to Justice Umeadi, “a judge will certainly be more relaxed, bolder and more resolute, if he or she is aware that regardless of any untoward occurrence, he or she can can still dust the Wig and gown and return to legal practice.”
“Afterall a returning judicial officer to the bar would not change the law”, he reiterated.
The special court session was preceded by a Thanksgiving Mass celebrated by the Catholic Bishop of Awka, Most Rev. Dr Paulinus Ezeokafor, which was attended by the State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano; as well as the inspection of Guard of Honour, mounted by a detachment of the Nigerian Police.