The percentage of Judges and Magisterates in Nigeria,who have the tendency to sacrifice their integrity and career on the altar of filthy lucre are increasing by the day.
Most Nigerians, have a tale or the other to tell of their experiences in the courtrooms, good or bad, with the latter case occupying the majority position.
Interim injunctions, rulings and delivered judgements from the court rooms in the country have always attracted comments,questions and debates among the people, who still view the Judiciary,as the last resort and only hope of the common man.
However,the common man still finds it difficult to come to terms with the fact that the financial position of an individual determines what he comes out with from the court room.
In 2004, Justice Stanley Nnaji of the Enugu state Judiciary was suspended from office by the National Judicial Council(NJC), for ordering the then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, to remove the then Anambra state Governor, Chris Ngige from office.
Also in the same year in Enugu state, Justice Anthony Onovo,ofthe Nsukka Judicial Division,was asked by the then Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman NJC to give reasons for delivering a controversial judgement.
Justice Onovo’s judgement had led to the demolition of a six bedroom bungalow,Nursery and Primary school and a poultry farm at No. 29 John Nwod close, Government Reservation Area,Enugu. The property belonged to a couple-Obed Chukwunedum and Linda Menakaya.
Following a petition written by to the Chief Justice by Menakaya,which alleged perversion of justice between Menakaya and one Dr.Harry Ezim-a United States of America based legal practitioner, the Chief Justice in a letter dated May 24, 2004,with reference No. NJC/873/1/185, requested Justice Onovo to respond ”urgently” to the petition.
Before this time Justice Onovo was transferred in 2002 from the Enugu Judicial Division toNsukka Judicial Division,but for undisclosed reasons, he continued to adjudicate on some cases, he was in charge in Enugu, before his transfer to Nsukka.
Of worry, is the fact that similar instances abound in several court rooms in the country,today.
Interestingly,the then state Chief Judge, never authorized Justice Onovo to conclude pending cases in his court before his transfer. This exposed his hidden interests in those cases.
The case between Dr. Ezim and Menakaya is one of such cases.
On 3, July, 2001, Dr. Ezim had instituted a suit in the state high court,against the 78year old retired Chief Agricultural Officer,in the old Anambra state, in a bid to claim ownership of No. 29 John Nwodo close.
In the suit No. E/18301,2001, Dr. Ezim prayed the court to declare that, he legitimatley acquired the property from the siblings of a deceased, Gabriel Okiyi, a close friend of Menakaya.
Indeed, court rooms are increasingly becoming waiting rooms of injustice.
But Menakaya through his counsel,Chief Anthony Mogboh, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN) countered Dr. Ezim’s claim. Chief Mogboh stated that his client bought the land from late Okiyi, when he was Director in the Ministry of Agriculture in the defunct East Central state and thereafter, proceeded to build a six bedroom bungalow, a poultry farm and a Nursery and Primary school. He maintained that his client,had lived there since 1981.
Surprisingly, on 19 March,2004, Justice Onovo delivered judgement against Menakaya. In his judgement,Justice Onovo declared Menakaya a tresspasser on the land,while also ruling that Dr. Ezim was the rightful owner of the disputed property.
Less than an hour after the judgement was delivered, Dr. Ezim mobilised 15 thugs,three anti riot policemen and 14 policemen from the Police Area Command, Enugu and one Ugwu, the then Chief Bailiff of the Enugu state High court to eject Menakaya and his family.
On Monday,March 22, armed with a ”warrant of possession”,which Dr. Ezim claimed originated from Justice Onovo, and a caterpillar,the entire buildings were demolished.
Menakaya’s case is just one out of several thousands that have gone unnoticed. Indeed,it is very odd for some questionable legal practitioners to relocate their chambers to beer parlours,in residential areas.
Their motives are reflected in a beer parlour operator’s words: “We always have our LLB, BL, beer parlour here for us,this is his chambers”.
Of interest,is the desperate attempts by individuals,who have acquired illegitimate wealth to invest same in landed properties in major cities in the country, of course,this can only be possible with the seal of the court rooms,and the footsteps of the law enforcement agents.
Are these attempts having the consent of the authorities that be ? Hopefully not !