Posted by By Nwabueze Okonkwo, Onitsha on
Mr. Donatus Ndubuisi Uzoigwe, a patent medicine dealer based at Nkpor, near Onitsha, Anambra State and a student of School of Health Technology, Obosi, also in Anambra State, has petitioned the Chief Magistrate Court, Ogidi, in Idemili Magisterial District, alleging that his household property, some articles of his trade and N121,000 were allegedly stolen by some court bailiffs and other court officials.
In a three-page petition to the Chief Magistrate dated August 6, 2006 and signed by his counsel, Mr. Obi Ibeh, the ex-tenant alleged that the said items were allegedly stolen by court officials after he and others were evicted and their property evacuated to the court premises for safe keeping on August 2, 2006. This was in discordance of a court judgment delivered on September 13, 2005.
In the petition entitled: "Stealing of attached goods by bailiffs and court officials in Re-suit No. MID/501/05: Benedict Ndubuisi versus Uzoigwe Donatus Ndubuisi, the petitioner contended that he discovered the missing items and cash after sorting out the amount of rent due to his former landlord (Plaintiff/respondent) and was allowed by the principal registrar of the court to collect his goods on the order of the court.
He noted that he had earlier, on August 4, 2006, filed a motion to set aside the judgment of the court, dated September 13, 2005 in which the court was alleged to have ordered that his property be evacuated to the court premises, adding that the N121,000 cash was concealed in various items, like travelling bags, table drawers and exercise books which were all brought to the court.
He further contended that on getting his goods released to him on August 15, 2006, he approached the Principal Registrar and one of the courtís officials who went for the execution and who was in custody of the drawer keys, while he checked for the various sums of money earlier mentioned, adding that he opened the drawers in their presence and did not find the money. Also, he revealed that a travelling bag containing the money was taken away.
He alleged that the chief bailiff brought out only N4,800 which he claimed was the only money he recovered from the house. He said that this was not in the inventory which his younger brother was forced to sign on his behalf on the day the eviction was carried out.
He further stated that the principal registrar took N4,000 out of the N4,800 and claimed it was for demurrage, in spite of his protests, adding that when he checked for other items removed from his flat during the execution, some of which were not included in the inventory prepared by the bailiff before forcing his younger brother to sign on his behalf, the said items were not seen.
He mentioned the missing items to include 12 rolls of supradyn capsules (Roche), 11 tins of Chumovand tablets (Voudhman), 13 tins of sulphatriad tabs (M&B), eight tins of mepacrine tab (Daniel), 12 boxes of Amalar tab (Brown & Burk), 10 boxes of Ampicilin caps (Mechirach), Seven dozen of HB12 Syrup (Pinewood), three boxes of cotecxin tab (Cotec Nouvelle Tech.), one handset phone (Bird), one Carnival radio/lantern (red colour), one standby lantern (red colour), one 20 bands world receiver radio, a pair of size 44 brown shoes and a paid of size 42 Italian shoes.
Others are one 4 x 6 size vita foam, one 18 volts stabilizer, one kerosine lamp, one family size flowered umbrella, kitchen utensils, like pots, stoves, cupboards, tubers of yams, half bag of garri, rice, maggi cubes, electric fuse cutouts, eletric fuses, spanners screw drivers, hammer, engine oil, muters and pestles.
He therefore prayed the chief magistrate to intervene and cause the deputy sheriff of the court and his officials to release the said money and the missing items.
The court, presided over by the former Chief Magistrate, Mrs. Ngozi Okoye, had, on September 13, 2005, allegedly ordered the tenant to vacate the three-bed room flat apartment and pay arrears of rent he owed from January, 2005 to June, 2006.
The court also granted the landlord, Mr. Benedict Ndubuisi his request to levy execution which he carried out with court officials on Wednesday, August 2, this year, by forcefully evacuating Uziogwe's house-hold property to the court premises.
But one of Uzoigwe's counsel, Patrick Okolo Esq. quickly rushed to court now presided over by Chief Magistrate Ibeziako last Tuesday, August 15 and obtained the court order to release the property with immediate effect.
While Uzoigwe and his relations were packing the property into a Dyna truck, he discovered that the cash he allegedly had in his flat when his house hold effect were being evacuated to the court, in his absence on August 2, were missing.
Giving a breakdown of the missing N121,000 in an affidavit he sworn to on August 4, this year, and tendered before the court, through his counsel, Okolo, Uzoigwe said that N58,000, which he withdrew from bank for his younger brother who is warming up for his Law school was missing , adding that N61,000 belonging to the association his younger brother belongs to N28,000 and another N4,800 block rosary money kept by his younger sister were all missing in the hands of the court officials.
The Assistant Court Registrar (ACR), in his own comments, admitted seeing N4,800 and the six-inch foam which he said was mistakenly given to another person whose house-hold property was released recently, adding that the N4,000, out of the N4,800, had been written off as demurrage for the number of days his property was in the court premises (August 2 to 15).
The ACR, who denied ever seeing other missing items and cash being claimed by the tenant, however, promised to recover the foam from the person it was wrongfully given to. He said that he would equally refund N800 only to Uzoigwe out of the N4,800.
The defence counsel, Okolo, raised an alarm saying that he would not sign for the collection of the items until they are complete. the chief magistrate advised Uzoigwe's counsel to either sign and collect the ones available and then bring up a fresh charge on the alleged missing items or leave the property with the court till they are all complete.
Uzoigwe, after considering the implications reluctantly signed and collected them.
Earlier, the court had, before granting the order to release the property, ordered the tenant to deposit a total sum of N42,500 covering the rentage of six months (January to June, 2006) with the court for onward transmission to the landlord as the amount owed him by the tenant, which Uzoigwe deposited before the court instantly.
The chief magistrate therefore, adjourned further hearing on the matter because the defence counsel had prayed the court to set aside the earlier judgement granted by the former Chief Magistrate, Mrs. Okoye, to evacuate Uzoigwe's property.
Counsel to the landlord, Daddy Amechi Okeke Esq., had drawn the attention of the court to the effect that he had filed a motion informing the court that the landlord had already rented Uzoigwe's flat to another tenant, insisting that Uzoigwe was served all the necessary notices before the judgment was entered against him.
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