Lawyers in many states on Tuesday complied fully with the boycott courts order given by leadership of Nigerian Bar Association to protest suspension of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mr Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Consequently, judicial activities were paralysed in courts across many states including Taraba, Cross River, Edo, Ogun, Enugu, Benue, Rivers and Ekiti.
However, their colleagues in Oyo, Lagos, Yobe and Kano states disobeyed the NBA order, while it was partially obeyed in Federal Capital Territory and other states.
In Jalingo, Taraba State capital, investigations revealed that most cases were stalled as lawyers were not in courts.
Publicity Secretary of NBA, Jalingo Branch, Mr Boniface Iorkumbur, said the action was in compliance with the directive of NBA.
Total compliance in Edo
Also in Edo State, lawyers boycotted proceedings in all courts in the state. Chairman of NBA in Benin, Mr Collins Benson, said the boycott recorded 100 per cent compliance.
The boycott order affected Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, and Oredo Area Customary Court.
Other courts affected were Criminal High Court, Aiguobasimwin, the State High Courts and Magistrate courts.
A notice placed on a board of the high court in Benin, warned that sanctions awaited any lawyer who flouted NBA’s directive.
As early as 7am, compliance committee members, led by the branch Publicity Secretary, Mr Douglas Ogbankwa, were already on the premises of the high court, Benin to enforce the boycott order.
Lawyers defy rain, protest in Calabar
In Cross River, placard-carrying lawyers defied rain to protest against Onnoghen’s suspension.
Lawyers from the three branches of NBA in the state comprising Calabar, Ikom and Ogoja, converged on the state judiciary headquarters before proceeding to Governor’s Office to present a six-point demand to Governor Ben Ayade for onward transmission to President Muhammadu Buhari.
They were armed with placards with inscriptions such as ‘No to Tyranny, ‘Probe CCT Chairman, probe Tanko,’ ‘We are not in a military era, let rule of law prevail,’ ‘NBA Calabar says no to executive rascality,’ ‘Nigeria not a Banana Republic,’ and ‘Justice Onnoghen we know, who is Tanko?’
Vice-Chairman of NBA, Calabar Branch, Mr Julius Idiege, who read the communiqué, stated, “We condemn in the strongest terms, and wholly reject the unconstitutional suspension of Onnoghen by Buhari, vide a black market ex parte order issued by Code of Conduct Tribunal.”
Court proceedings stalled in Enugu
In Enugu, there was total compliance with the directive as judges and lawyers abstained from court proceedings.
One of our correspondents, who visited Enugu State High Court, observed that NBA’s directive was totally complied with as only few judicial staff and some litigants were seen discussing in clusters.
At Federal High Court, there were no court proceedings as judges and lawyers were not available. Only a few employees and security personnel were seen on the court premises. At Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, the story was the same.
Lawyers protest, block courts in Rivers
Lawyers in Port Harcourt embarked on a peaceful demonstration. They prevented courts from sitting.
Lawyers explained that by the protest, they were not encouraging corruption. They appealed to litigants to sacrifice Tuesday (yesterday) and Wednesday (today) in ensuring that due process was followed.
Chairman, NBA, Rivers State branch, Mr Sylvester Adaka, who spoke to newsmen after moving round the courts, said the move was aimed at sending a message to the executive to always embrace the rule of law in dealing with the judiciary.
Their colleagues in Ogun State also shunned courts in Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode, Ota, Sagamu and other parts of the state. The boycott paralysed judicial activities in the state.
Also, lawyers in Benue State particularly, Makurdi, the state capital, boycotted courts in solidarity with Onnoghen. There was compliance with the order also in Ekiti State.
Abuja records partial boycott, NBA expresses satisfaction
However, lawyers in Abuja on Tuesday partially complied with the boycott order as cases were heard at Supreme Court with Justice Mary Peter-Odili presiding.
Also a panel sat at Court of Appeal, Abuja, in an appeal filed by Uchechulwu Ogah against Ikechi Emenike, with two Senior Advocates of Nigeria appearing.
Defending their appearance before the court of appeal panel, MC Paul Erokoro and Mr Ndukwe Nnawuchi, said the appeal would expire on Tuesday so it was necessary for them to adopt their written addresses.
Erokoro said, “This is about who is the authentic governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress in Abia State, so the people must know their candidate.”
At the Federal High Court, proceedings were partially suspended in compliance with the boycott order.
When one of our correspondents visited the Federal High Court in Maitama, Abuja, courtrooms were empty.
However, activities at Process Unit of the court went on as usual as a long queue of people seeking affidavits and other court documents were being attended to.
At Federal High Court, lawyers appeared before Mrs Binta Nyako, while at Federal Capital Territory High Court, Maitama, lawyers were seen in court waiting for cases.
But NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, expressed satisfaction at the level of compliance.
He said, “As soon as there is a substantial level of compliance; that is good. Don’t forget we say we are going on a symbolic boycott of courts. So, if some people have gone to court and the majority have not gone, that is a good result.”
Usoro said a comprehensive assessment would be made on Thursday at the expiration of the two-day warning strike.
Lawyers, judges shun NBA’s order in Lagos, Oyo
But in Lagos and Oyo states, judges and lawyers held proceedings contrary to directive of NBA.
One of our correspondents, who was at the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere, observed that normal court activities were in full swing.
For example, the courtroom of Mr Adedayo Akintoye was brimming with accused persons who appeared for their trial.
It was a similar situation in the courtrooms of Mrs Lateefa Okunnu and Mrs Grace Onyeabo, where lawyers were conducting their cases without let or hindrance.
In Taofeekat Abdullahi-Oyekan’s court, a large number of lawyers were seated awaiting arrival of the senior judge at about 10.30am.
At Lagos State High Court in Ikeja, normal legal activities also went on unhindered.
But at Federal High Court in Lagos, there was partial compliance with the order as only two out of the 11 judges sat.
Normal court activities were also observed at National Industrial Court in Lagos.
At Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, Justices did not sit and lawyers did not appear.
A lawyer, Mr Olufemi Olabisi, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the premises of the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere, described the directive by NBA as useless, noting that judges were not carried along.
He explained that if he stayed away from the court, the judge could strike out his client’s case, wondering who would account for the cost.
Olabisi, who works in the law firm of Mr Festus Keyamo, said he was in court to defy the directive by NBA, stressing that he was even willing to take a case on pro bono just to defy NBA.
When contacted on the phone as to why his members shunned the directive of national NBA, Chairman, NBA Ikeja, Mr Dele Oloke, said he was still in Abuja, as the national NBA meeting finished late on Monday.
In Ibadan, Oyo State capital, lawyers were in courts despite the directive of NBA. Judges in High Court 17 Iyaganku Division sat until officials of Ibadan branch of NBA led by their Secretary General, Mr Akeem Okelola, came to the premises.
Lawyers, who spoke to one of our correspondents, complained that information from NBA was not well circulated and they could not act on uncertainty, hence they needed to confirm the news.
Also in Yobe and Kano states, lawyers did not boycott courts as directed by NBA.
Kano NBA in its statement, said, “We at the Kano bar have decided that we will not ask any member of our branch to boycott courts for two days, starting from tomorrow. We should be responsible enough to do the best for our only country Nigeria, our families, clients and the system as a whole.”
Ondo lawyers divided over court boycott
In Ondo State, some lawyers complied with the directive while some were against it.
However, some lawyers in the state were also seen on the Ondo State High Court premises in Akure, entering some courts to further kick against NBA order.
Akure Branch Chairman of NBA, Mr Ola Dan-Olawale, who led his executive officers to ensure strict compliance, said any lawyer who violated the directive would be sanctioned appropriately.
Also, in Ilorin, the order was partially obeyed. Chairman of the Ilorin NBA, Mr Muhammed Akande, attributed the partial success of the boycott to the fact that heads of courts had not been formally informed about the boycott order.