*Okeke Challenges Those Dismissing The Order As Fake To Produce The Genuine One
*Registrar Says He Doesn’t Know Whether The Order Has Been Discharged Or Not.
Controversy has trailed the order of an Enugu Magistrate sitting at Agbogudu which remanded a lawyer, F. C. Okeke, Esq., in police custody on the basis that his client did not show up in court.
His Worship Ezeobi Ngozi Anidi (Mrs) was said to have made the order on the 16th March 2021, in a criminal case between Commissioner of Police vs John Chidozie Igwe (CMC/12c/2017).
According to the ruling John Chidozie Igwe, was absent, therefore his lawyer, FC Okeke, Esq, must be remanded in police custody pending when his client is produced.
The order went viral on social media and elicited mixed reactions amongst lawyers. Many people dismissed the order as fake while others argued otherwise. A statement was seen by TheNigeriaLawyer signed by one Mary Bassey Godwin stating that the order which was seen viral in the media was a “spurious” and “fabricated” document aimed at intimidating the court adding that “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.”
The Chairman of Enugu Branch of The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Jude Ezegwui Esq., on the other hand said the Branch has launched an investigation into the matter. He said he has requested a hard copy of the Court Proceedings and/or Order of court; and written facts of what transpired in court that day to enable him to take further action.
“We cannot allow this action by one person to threaten the whole mutual respect existing between the Bench and the Bar. I assure the bar that we shall follow this matter to a logical end. In this regard, we shall keep the bar updated. Thank you.” Ezegwui said.
FC OKEKE, ESQ GAVE HIS ACCOUNT OF THE STORY
TheNigeriaLawyer reached out to FC Okeke, the lawyer who was ordered to be remanded, by the said Enugu Magistrate. He confirmed to us that indeed, the Magistrate ordered for him to be remanded.
He said the order is genuine. According to him, he paid for the record of proceedings and the receipts are with him. He said if the order is fake then which proceedings did he pay for? The only thing is that, according to him, the order is incomplete.
“The order to my understanding is incomplete. Because the Magistrate purportedly made an order vacating the previous order but the last order was not contained in the order I got. And moreover, she issued a bench warrant against the accused person but the question is all these things are they contained there?”
“If they say the order is fake they should bring the genuine order na to counter this one. The presumption is that when such thing exists, that thing is genuine until it is rebutted”
He said for now his liberty is at stake as there is nothing to show that the order has been discharged. He said he was detained by the court because after he finished his matter he had to remain in court till after the court finished all matters that day.
“detention doesn’t mean if I stay there for hundred (100) hours. At least after I finished my matter I stayed for about more than two hours or so.” he said
When asked whether his stay was under the directive of the court, he responded: “the court made an order na, did you expect me to leave when the court made an order that I should remain in police custody? I started obeying the court order immediately.” he said that was what he was supposed to do as a lawyer.
He added, “don’t you know that if I had attempted to make a move, even to go out and ease myself, that even the Magistrate would have said that I attempted to run?”
He further explained that he had to keep quiet till after lawyers pleaded. According to him, lawyers continued begging the Magistrate even after she finished hearing all matters slated for that day.
“if they say the order is fake, are they saying that the order was not made or that the one in circulation is fake? I want to know the fakeness of the order.” Okeke said
He added, “If they are saying that the order was not made at all, some lawyers were there on that day. The prosecutor is still alive. Even if they are lying, they cannot get it correct. If they say the content of the order is fake, they should bring the correct one made by the court.”
CALL TO ENUGU CHAIRMAN
Several calls put across to the branch chairman NBA Enugu, Ezegwui Jude, for some questioning proved abortive as the man declined with the reason that he was in a meeting
ACCOUNT OF THE REGISTRAR
TheNigeriaLawyer also reached out to the Registrar of the court, Egwu Augustin. The Registrae said what Okeke collected was record of proceedings, not court order.
“He (Okeke) applied for record of proceedings, not court order and that’s what he collected from me.” the Registrar said
When asked whether the record proceedings contained the court order, he said “the judge gave order that he (Okeke) will be remanded in police station. I didn’t confirm that as a court order.”
The Registrar confirmed that lawyers pleaded with the Magistrate and at the end of the day the Magistrate allowed Okeke to go.
“What I know is that after the pleading, he said OK, he allowed him to go. He did not go to police that day. But he told him (Okeke) to produce his client at the next adjourned date.”
He said the next adjourned date of the case is 27th April.
Attempt to reach the Magistrate was not successful as all calls to him by our correspondent was not picked. The Chief Registrar of the Enugu State Judiciary, Eze Kingsley, also declined to speak on the matter.
The position is it is now, based on what we gathered from the Registrar and Okeke, is that the Magistrate actually granted an order for Okeke to be remanded in police custody. However, what we are not sure of is whether the said order has been vacated.