Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
An Attempt by the Port Harcourt branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to enforce the decision of the national executive council of the association to boycott sessions at the Court of Appeal ended in fiasco as suspected litigants pounced on the NBA officials, beating them up in Rivers State.
The Court of Appeal had adjourned last Monday sitting to yesterday to hear the motion of Stay of Execution on the judgment of a Federal High Court, which barred the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the sstate from fielding candidates for the 2019 elections.
The adjourned date had coincided with the two-day boycott of court proceedings declared by NBA national executive council over the Justice Walter Onnoghen saga.
When the Court resumed wednesday to commence hearing, NBA members in the state led by its Chairman, Sylvester Adaka, arrived at the court premises in the company of some lawyers, with placards.
THISDAY gathered that the presiding Justice, Justice Ali Gumel, had agreed with the protesters to only take appearances and adjourn sitting.
The NBA officials were however taken aback when the court went ahead with the matter, leading to Adaka ordering lawyers to leave the court in compliance with the decision of the NBA NEC.
While the lawyers were about to leave the court, people suspected to be interested in the matter being handled by the court pounced on the NBA officials, especially the Chairman, Adaka, beating them up.
The angry litigants chased the protesting NBA team out of the court room, causing fear among the judges and some big wigs of the APC who were in court.
The court hurriedly adjourned the matter to today for hearing of pending motions and for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be served the hearing notice.
Reacting to the incident Justice Gumel said it is unethical for the Bar to attempt to disrupt the sitting of the Bench, adding that courts ought to be respected.
According to Gumel, “You have seen people barge into our proceeding. This is incivility. We will not be intimidated. We will do our work. We are here to do a solemn job and we will give justice.
“The Bar is entitled to respect the Bench and the Bench should carry the Bar along. If the ethical behaviour handed to us by our fathers are maintained we will make headway.
“It is about all the courts and Administration of Justice and not just the Appeal Court in Rivers State.”
Also, Justice Isaiah Akeju, also in the panel, noted that the panel was not officially notified of the boycott order by the NBA, adding that notice ought to have been served on the Bench to that regards.
Akeju said: “Advise your colleagues that it is not in their best interest to disrupt the sitting of the Bench. We are not aware because they did not inform us. What stops them from doing a small notice to us on the issue?”
The third member of the panel, Justice Mustafa, said the act displayed in court would remain in the mind of the court.
Mustafa: “This will remain in our memory. It is important for the Bar to respect the Bench. No lawyer is expected to misbehave. We are happy that the pandemonium did not extend to the Bench.
Addressing journalists later, the NBA Chairman, Adaka, said: “Today we were continuing our peaceful boycott of courts as directed by our national secretariat and national executive committee in our meeting of January 28, 2019.
“While we were at the Court of Appeal, I peacefully addressed the justices of the court to rise in continuation of our peaceful boycott of the court and also appealed to lawyers to leave the court premises.
“But while we were there in court, a couple of thugs in the court premises attacked the lawyers there; the thugs personally attacked me and a couple of lawyers.
“If not for the intervention of my colleagues around, I don’t know what would have happened.
“The court was sitting and continued sitting even after the attack on us and we felt that in an atmosphere that was charged like that, the court should have at least reasoned to allow tempers cool.”