Lawyer in Imo State have commenced a three-day boycott of courts in the state over an alleged invasion of the Magistrate Court, Umuneke Ngor, in Ngor Okpala Local Government Area of the state by the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, and his men.
The lawyers were also irked by the manner the police allegedly assaulted the presiding Magistrate, maimed one of their colleagues while two others, Emma Eke and Chukwuemeka Anyanwu, were dehumanised and detained.
Giving details of what happened, the Assistant Secretary who also doubles as the Acting Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Owerri Branch, Mr. Chinedu Agu, said: “On Monday July 16, 2018, three accused persons were arraigned before the Umuneke Ngor Magistrate Court. The two Counsel representing the accused persons, Emma Eke and Chukwuemeka Anyanwu raised a preliminary objection on the ground that the charge was defective and urged the court to strike out the charge and discharge the accused persons. The court entertained arguments from both the counsel and prosecutor and adjourned the matter to Thursday, July 19, 2018, for ruling.
“In his ruling, the court upheld the arguments of both counsel, but ruled in favour of the accused persons and struck out the charge. Immediately the ruling was delivered and while the court was still sitting, the police went berserk.
“They shouted at the top of their voices, rained vituperations on the Magistrate and made to re-arrest the accused persons. When the court wanted to call them to order, the policemen made for the Magistrate like rabid dogs and the Magistrate quickly took refuge in his Chambers. Some other lawyers and litigants scampered for safety when the police started shooting sporadically in the air. Chukwuemeka Anyanwu in the process escaped lynching by the Police and scurried into the Magistrate’s Chambers.
Giving the police angle in a live radio programme in Igbo language, yesterday, the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Andrew Enwerem, said the police did not invade the court as alleged by the lawyers.
“It is sad that most times, people blame the police for all manner of things. Ntu villagers brought the suspects. Police investigated and the suspects mentioned other persons that were arrested. They were brought to court. The defence counsel raised preliminary objections on the charges, specifically that the Divisional Crime Officer signed the charge sheet instead of the DPO.
“The police took the suspects into custody. Then last Thursday, the suspects were brought back to court, armed with the new charge sheet signed by the DPO. The other party insisted that it was the previous charge that would be looked into, since it was the only issue the court had started handling. The Magistrate, in his ruling, discharged the three thieves.”