Proceedings in the alleged forgery case of the businessman , Innocent Chukwuma, was fraught with drama on Friday as his lawyer, Prof . J. N. Mbadugha , accused the Judge of “encouraging lawlessness . ”
The lawyer’ s outburst followed an enquiry by the judge, Justice Mojisola Dada, about the whereabouts of Chukwuma, who was not in Court .
The lawyer had begun by saying he had several preliminary applications which must first be ironed out .
But the judge observed that Chukwuma and the first defendant were not in court , asking, “Where are your clients ?”
Hardly had the judge finished asking the question when Mbadugha flared up .
“ These proceedings are a clear abuse of court processes; the EFCC is a reckless arbiter. My Lord should not encourage lawlessness .
“ My Lord has refused to be bound by the rule of law and doesn ’t want to be bound by the doctrine of stare decisis; My Lord wants to override the decision of the Supreme Court , ” Mbadugha said angrily.
The judge , who was caught by surprise, remarked , “You are insulting the court ; this is a clear contempt in the face of the court ; you will go to prison from here. If you think the court is defenceless and powerless, you ’ d be surprised .”
“ If My Lord cites me for contempt, I will go for it, ” Mbudugba replied unrepentantly .
“ Are you aware that you can go to prison from here ?” The judge asked in a voice laced with threat .
Mbudugha was , however, sobered a little and began apologising.
“ My Lord, I apologise. I will never disrespect the court ,” he said .
“ But your whole comportment , conduct and countenance smack of disrespect for the court and the rule of law! I refuse to listen to you , Professor in what ? Go back to the classroom . No wonder the kind of students being churned out of our universities with the kind of professors we have in Nigeria now, ” the judge retorted .
“ I am very sorry , My Lord. To err is human, to forgive is divine. This will never repeat itself, ” Mbadugba said.
But the judge , who was not pacified , continued, “You were almost unstoppable ; saying the court was not abiding by the rule of law, that’ s a very serious one . I think I will report you to the NBA , ” Justice Dada said.
Mbadugha apologised again and resumed his attempt to introduce his applications , but the judge said , “I refuse to listen to you . Professor in what ? Disrespecting the court and encouraging your client to dishonour the court , an institution . ”
At this point , counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission , Mr. A .B. C . Ozioko , rose to his feet to address the court , but Mbadugba asked Ozioko to remain seated as “ I am still on my feet .”
The judge intervened by asking Ozioko to sit , noting that Mbadugha , being a professor, was Ozioko ’s teacher and senior but Ozioko swiftly replied , “ He’ s not a professor of Law. He shouldn ’t be coming to say he is a professor of Law. He is a professor of Animal Science!”
But Mbadugba protested, saying, “I am a professor of Law. I am a professor of International Arbitration .”
“ International Arbitration? Then you shouldn ’t be announcing yourself as a professor in court , ” the judge said .
Eventually, Ozioko took the floor , telling the court to hold that Chukwuma had disrespected the court on the encouragement of Mbadugha .
The EFCC lawyer noted that Chukwuma had earlier in the week dragged the anti -graft agency before the Senate , proceedings which he personally attended .
“ They had respect for the National Assembly but not the court . My friend is a lawyer; he wants to diminish the integrity of this court . There is no law that says because you are challenging the charges , you should not be in court ,” Ozioko said .
He urged the judge to issue a bench warrant , particularly against Chukwuma.
In a short ruling, Justice Dada issued a bench warrant against Chukwuma, holding that the businessman should be kept in the prison custody till March 14 .
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