Lawyers protest online court sitting


*By Ngozi Ikpeama

Lawyers in Enugu North Senatorial District, on Tuesday, protested the continuing online sitting by High Court judges in the district for the past two years.

The lawyers had gathered at Nsukka and Obollo-Afor High Courts as early as 7:30am in their numbers, blocked the road leading to the courts with their vehicles, while chanting solidarity songs.

Addressing newsmen during the protest, Mr. Sonny Okoro, Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Nsukka Branch, flanked by Mr Desmond Ezema, NBA Chairman of Obollo-Afor branch and other lawyers, said that they resorted to a peaceful protest to let the Enugu State Government and the general public know that normal court system had not been working in Enugu North Senatorial District for over two years.

Okoro explained that, for the past two years, high Court judges in the district have claimed that insecurity has not allowed them to appear physically in courts.

“For the past two years, high Court judges have not been appearing physically in courts in Nsukka zone. They resort to visual sitting from Enugu, the State capital.

“We have no problem with visual proceedings of the court because it is recognised by law, but our problem is that High Courts in the district have no facilities for visual proceedings.

“That is why most times the judges use the court clerk’s mobile phone or one old computer system as visual facility to connect Nsukka court and the judge who is staying in Enugu.

The NBA Chairman noted that the same judges who are scared of insecurity along the Enugu-Ugwogonike-Opi Nsukka Road, now direct lawyers to bring their litigants and witnesses to Enugu to appear at apartments rented to serve as courts.

“Are lawyers, litigants and witnesses immune from insecurity on the Enugu-Nsukka road which the judges are avoiding?

“This present situation has prolonged cases and denied people access to justice as well as made litigants to incur additional costs in traveling from Nsukka to Enugu in order to have their cases heard.

“We are surprised that judges are citing insecurity when other residents of Enugu State use the same road on daily basis.

“We know that Governor Peter Mbah has beefed up security on that road by deploying armoured tanks and many security check points on that road,” he said.

Speaking further, Okoro explained that the NBA had written several letters to some judiciary stakeholders in the state, especially the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Hon Justice Raymond Ozoemena, to restore normalcy in High Courts in the district but all to no avail.

“NBA has written so many letters to this effect to the Enugu Chief Judge, and in our last latter to him on December 2023, we stated that lawyers will resort to a protest if by January 2024 the situation did not improve.

“We urge Enugu State government to intervene by ensuring that normal court proceedings should resume in High Courts in Enugu North Senatorial District.

“If after this protest, judges do not resume physical court sitting, lawyers in the district will start boycotting court proceedings,” he said.

Also speaking, Mr. Desmond Ezema, Chairman, NBA Obollo-Afor branch, confirmed that lawyers and litigants in the district have been facing difficulties for the past two years due to the non-physical appearance of High Court judges

Ezema appealed to judiciary stakeholders and the Enugu State Government to intervene so as to restore normal court activities in the district.

The protests are happening simultaneously in High Courts at Nsukka and Obollo-Afor.


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