Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 12 December 2012 | 4,515 times
There was a mild drama at an Umuahia High Court yesterday when a bewildered Barrister Ugoji Eke laboured frantically to convince Justice A. U. Kalu that he was not aware that his clients had applied for a transfer of the case before the judge.
Eke, the third lawyer to appear for Messrs Anayo Okoli, Obinna Ibe and George Opara, three journalists who brought a case against the leadership of the Correspondents Chapel and the Abia Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), denied knowing that his clients wrote to the judge asking for a transfer of the case to another court.
When Justice Kalu brought the development to his notice, Eke said he was not aware, adding that his principal, Barrister I. U. Mba, whose brief he was holding, was not also aware.
Justice Kalu had informed the court that he received a letter from the claimants who are contesting the outcome of the May 2, 2012 Correspondents Chapel election, requesting him to transfer Suit Number HU/97/2012 to another court.
The judge took time off to educate the litigants, who had written directly to him, that such applications are channelled to the Registrar of the High Court who, in turn, would call his attention to it.
“I know that those who wrote the letter did it in ignorance. I will adjourn this case sine die and pass the letter to the Chief Judge for appropriate action,” Justice Kalu ruled.
The matter was originally assigned to Court 3 being presided over by Justice Lilian Abai. However, counsel to the Defendants, Chief ACB Agbazuere, had cause to apply for transfer of the matter from her court when she insisted that she would consolidate a motion for preliminary objection filed by the Defendants and another motion for joinder brought by one Emmanuel Acha of the News Agency of Nigeria. Agbazuere maintained that the issue of preliminary objection should be determined before the case proceeds further and had to apply for the transfer of the case.
The case was then reassigned to Justice Kalu, who said yesterday that when the matter was transferred to his court, he set the machinery for speedy dispensation of the case in motion.
The claimants went and obtained the date for hearing of the case in the new court without communicating the defendants, only for their lawyer to apologise in court that they had actually come to court that day to take a date and then communicate same to the defendants.
Even at that, the counsel to the claimants could not proceed with the matter that day because he claimed he was just appearing for them and was not yet properly briefed by their counsel who reassigned the case to him.
Justice Kalu made it clear that he would not entertain anything that would delay the matter and warned against applications for interlocutory injunctions.
In fact, Justice Kalu had set aside yesterday’s hearing for giving of evidence by the claimants’ witnesses while the defendants would have had their turn next week Tuesday, December 18. According to the schedule laid out by the judge, the counsel would have adopted their addresses in January while judgement was to be delivered on February 13.
He explained that he took the step to hasten the trial of the case because he saw journalists as “very busy people who do not need to waste their precious time in court.”
He said with the latest development, it seems that the claimants want the matter to linger in court.
•Photo: Defence counsel, Chief ACB Agbazuere.
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