Posted by By Ise-Oluwa Ige on
LESS than three weeks after a young lawyer, Mr Ephraim Duru, accused the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Uwais, of corruption in the open court, a senior member of the inner bar, Chief Emmanuel Adeniyi Oshe (SAN), yesterday launched another attack on a High Court judge, Justice Hussein Murhktar and told him that he (judge) was not in control of proceedings in his court.
ABUJA—LESS than three weeks after a young lawyer, Mr Ephraim Duru, accused the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Uwais, of corruption in the open court, a senior member of the inner bar, Chief Emmanuel Adeniyi Oshe (SAN), yesterday launched another attack on a High Court judge, Justice Hussein Murhktar and told him that he (judge) was not in control of proceedings in his court.
Words of caution from the judge to Chief Oshe to watch his tongue and conduct himself as a learned gentleman or face contempt proceedings only succeeded in provoking the senior lawyer who sprang up, spitting venom: "I say your lordship is not in control of proceedings in your court. Your lordship can go to any extent you want to go. For almost 40 years that I have been in practice, I have never been threatened with contempt proceedings…."
Then pointing at the judge, he said: "You are threatening me with contempt? Is that the right thing to do? You are threatening me with contempt? In fact, you can do whatever you want to do. Who cares?"
A visibly shocked Justice Murhktar had to adjourn proceedings, saying he could not continue hearing the case under such circumstance.
Chief Oshe, had last Monday, also called his colleague and member of the inner bar, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), a thug, in the open court. But for the maturity and timely intervention of the trial judge, the matter would have degenerated.
The venue of the bizarre happenings was the Abuja High Court, Wuze Zone 5 where former Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara and five others are being tried by the ICPC for allegedly demanding and receiving N55 million bribe from sacked Education Minister, Prof. Fabian Osuji.
Counsel representing each of the accused persons in the case were replying to the submissions by the lead counsel to ICPC, Chief Oshe on the preliminary objections brought by them to stop their trial.
The reply on the point of law commenced Monday, with Chief Oshe interrupting them occasionally. The interruption became more pronounced when Chief Chris Uche (SAN), defending sacked Education Minister, was on his feet. Chief Oshe disrupted his line of argument, saying his submission was straying off points of law. Efforts by Chief Uche to explain that he was confining himself to points of law earned him an attack from Chief Oshe who called him a thug.
Chief Uche took exception to the language of Chief Oshe and warned him to mind his language, protesting loudly to the court that he (Chief Oshe) was not respecting himself and his age. Justice Hussein had to intervene to avoid the matter degenerating.
At yesterday’s sitting, Dr Izinyon, representing Senator John Azuta Mbata, and Senator Badamasi Maccido, listed 10 points on which he intended to address the court and proceeded to address each of the points. Addressing the third point which was whether or not his clients were public officers as envisaged by the ICPC Act, he said they could not be. According to him, by the intendment of the ICPC Act 2000 under which his clients were charged, a public officer was one that was engaged or employed, adding that nobody employed or engaged his clients and as such could not be regarded as public officers.
Dr Izinyon further contended that the claim by Chief Oshe in his submission that his clients were public officers was spurious and had no basis. Chief Oshe sprang up to object to the language of Dr Izinyon, saying it was an offensive and gutter language and that he would not accept it.
As the judge was trying to calm him down, saying: "I believe the submission of Dr Izinyon was to …," Chief Oshe stood up again to say that the court was not calling Dr Izinyon to order because it did not want to offend anybody.
He added: "But the way the trial is being conducted, you are giving room for wrong practices," to which Dr Izinyon replied: "My lord, with greatest respect, there is no basis for this objection. I merely said his submission was spurious and lacks force of law. He can’t object to that submission."
Chief Oshe stood up again and faced Dr Izinyon, saying: "You are not the court. Let the court conduct its proceedings. I have said it. I will not take that gutter language. I object to it and the court must conduct the trial properly. He can’t continue to use improper language. This court must show that it is in charge of its proceedings and stop allowing gutter language."
But as the judge was trying to calm him down again, Chief Oshe stood up, screaming: "This court must learn to take charge of its proceedings. I can’t just take this. This is a gutter language," to which Justice Hussein replied: "Don’t provoke me to charge you with contempt."
The caution did not go down well with Chief Oshe who told the judge: "Your lordship can go to any extent you want to go to. I don’t care. For almost 40 years that I have been in practice, I have never been threatened with contempt proceedings."
"You are threatening me with contempt? Is that the right thing to do? You are threatening me with contempt? In fact, you can do whatever you want to do. Who cares?"
It was at this juncture that another senior member of the inner bar, Mr Anthony Idigbe (SAN) apologised on behalf of the members of the inner bar over the altercation.
But the judge who was dazed sat to write a short ruling, saying: "In view of the unruly behaviour of the leading prosecution counsel, Chief Oshe, I am not ready to continue under this atmosphere. Please, agree on a date for continuation of reply on points of law."
While a possible date was being agreed on, Chief Uche who was the first victim of Chief Oshe said: "This is unprecedented. We, however, appreciate the patience and maturity of the court in handling this matter."
Oshe would not allow him to conclude when he interrupted him, saying: "I don’t appreciate anything. Not even the language of the court. But my lord, if I could be heard on date, I will urge the court not to grant a long adjournment because it will frustrate the trial. I urge the court to give a short adjournment. I am sure it is not the intention of the court to frustrate this trial," and left his seat and bag and sauntered out of the courtroom.
But while he was going out of the court, Chief Uche was appreciating the court again for its maturity in handling the matter while Mr Idigbe also said: "We don’t behave in this manner at the inner bar," a statement that drew back the angry Chief Oshe, saying: "Are you still talking about this case? I have been more than a decade at the inner bar, I have never been threatened with contempt," and walked out of the court.
Further hearing in the matter has been adjourned till September 26, this year.
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