Drama as another judge backs off Evans’ case
Justice Abdulazeez Anka of the Lagos Federal High Court who was billed to hear the fundamental rights suit filed by suspected kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, alias Evans, on Wednesday declined to hear the case. Instead, the judge said that the case file would be returned to the Administrative Judge for further directive.
Evans had filed the suit against the police, seeking N300 million damages for his alleged illegal detention.
Earlier Anka had heard the case during the court’s long vacation and had adjourned until 29th August for judgment after the plaintiff and defendant argued their cases and adopted their addresses on 16th August.
Drama started when David Igbodo counsel to the Police said another lawyer, Henry Obiazi, who represented the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Nigeria Police when the case was heard did so without authorisation.
He further on behalf of the police prayed the court to set aside all arguments made by Obiazi and to set aside the ruling it delivered on 16th August in which the case was adjourned for judgment.
When the case came up before another judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor during the long vacation, he held that the case was no longer urgent. Obizor, then returned the file to the Chief Judge, Justice Adamu Kafarati for re-assignment to another judge.
Subsequently the case was re-assigned to Justice Babs Kuewemi. But Evans’ lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje wrote the chief judge informing him that Anka had already adjourned the case for judgment.
Based on the letter, the case was again returned to Anka. When the case came up before Anka on Wednesday, he expressed displeasure that the case was returned to him when the issue of judgment had been overtaken by events.
The judge said that since the police had filed other applications, the earlier adjournment for judgment had become void, adding that even if he had written the judgment earlier, it meant that a new one would be written.
A heated debate ensued with Counsel to the police, Chukwu Agwu accusing Ogungbeje of “smuggling” the case file back to Anka’s court.
“The case was re-assigned to Justice Kuewumi. How my learned colleague smuggled this case to this court is baffling.
“He did not avail us with a copy of his letter to the chief judge, otherwise we would have reacted,” he said.
But Ogungbeje said his letter was on the premise that since a judgment had already been fixed, it could be delivered by Anka after entertaining the late applications filed by the police. Meanwhile, Anka held that it was not factual to say that judgment had been reserved “when it’s not’’. He said that the court was obliged to hear the fresh applications by the police.
More drama and twist as the judge said the case was not adjourned for judgment but for hearing, adding that Ogungbeje’s claim that the case was for judgment was not the true position.
Subsequently he ruled: “the case was made for hearing of the motion of first and second respondents.
“The court shall therefore cause a letter to be written to the Administrative Judge to explain the true position of the case, which is for further hearing and not judgment.
“Parties shall therefore await the decision of the Admin Judge, either to re-assign the case or for this court to maintain the case in its cause list.”