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Tension in Enugu court as magistrate refuses to hands off trial of LP candidate – From Ijeoma Eke-Ojim/Enugu

 

The Enugu State House of Assembly candidate of Labour Party (LP) for Enugu South Urban 1 constituency in the 2023 general elections Barr Bright Ngene, has accused the Chief Magistrate, E.D Onwu  Enugu South Magisterial Division, Enugu State, of having made up his mind to imprison him ahead of the re-run election in the constituency ordered by the Court of Appeal.
In the Charge No. MES/225 C 2017. brought by the Commissioner of Police before Enugu South Magisterial Division, Ngene and two others are accused of committing felony and stealing of fifteen million, seven hundred and fifty thousand Naira, property of Akwuke/Akwuke Uwani communities in Enugu South Local Government Area of the state
When the matter came up on Thursday, June 27 before the Chief Magistrate His Worship E. D. Onwu, counsel to Ngene, C. A. Okereke, informed the court that Akwuke/Akwuke Uwsni communities had earlier informed the court in writing about their decision to discontinue/withdraw the case, and pleaded for few days adjournment for out of court settlement.
However, prosecution counsel Onaga opposed the request for adjournment, saying the case should continue in earnest.
In his short ruling, the Chief Magistrate adjourned the matter for the next day eliciting a shouting match between the lawyers representing the defendants and the Magistrate.

Meanwhile, scores of policemen allegedly brought in by the Chief Magistrate had taken strategic positions inside the court premises apparently to forestall breakdown of law and order .
Speaking with journalists, Okereke counsel to Ngene said: “This court is biased. We have an application that this court relinquish this matter, and hand it over to another court. We have several courts in Enugu South, so let another court see the justice of this matter because this court has compromised.”
“There is an order of transfer of this matter to another court precisely by I. M. Mama. I. M. Mama heard this matter and saw the reason to transfer it to multi-door court house. The matter was retransferred to His Worship E. D. Onwu, again for him to start hearing the matter.
“When the disposition of Onwu became unbearable, we saw orders and counter orders, and we wrote a letter to the, Hon The Chief Judge of Enugu state for direction as to which court do we now go to hear this matter, but there was no reply.
” We wrote again to the CJ of lawlessness in the trial, yet there was no reply. We were constrained to go to the highest disciplinary body of the Bench. and reported this matter on 7th day of June to the National Judicial Council (NJC).
“We have received a letter of acknowledgement from NJC that ur letter is being looked into.
” I wonder why this court should continue hearing the matters. It is completely prejudicial to the findings of NJC, and we are not finding it funny to appear before a court that is already pending before a disciplinary body that has not made any pronouncement on it.
“We have to say that this trial is politically motivated. The first defendant (Ngene), is a politician who contested House of Assembly Enugu South Urban 1 state constituency in Enugu state in the last House of Assembly election and won, but based on the court ruling that there was inconclusive election in eight polling booths, a rerun was ordered by the court.”
“The first rerun was unsuccessful. The second rerun was unsuccessful. There only hope for the third rerun is to put the first defendant (Ngene) in prison so that his PDP counterpart will not have anybody to oppose him. That is what we are finding here. Without politics, this trial would have gone on smoothly.’
Speaking also to journalists, B. C. Nwobodo, counsel to the second defendant aligned himself with the comments of counsel to the first defendant.
” What is the interest of the Chief Magistrate in this matter. Why should the case continue when the two communities have written to the court asking to discontinue/withdraw the case,” he asked repeatedly.
Meanwhile, about two hundred Placards carrying members of the two communities staged a peaceful protest outside the court ruling room, and demanded that justice be done in the case.
Some of the placards read: “His Worship E. D. Onwu should be removed,” “Onwu has compromised the law to satisfy his personal interest,” “Judiciary must be saved in Enugu state.”

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