By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
Imo State Senator, Osita Izunaso on Monday petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Acting Chief Justice of Nogetia (CJN) and the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court over the conduct of Justice Okon Abang, in the case between Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) concerning Okorocha’s withheld certificate of return.
In the said petition titled, “Re: Suit No:. FHC/ABJ/CS/296/2019- Rocha’s Okorocha vs Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and others, petition against Hon Justice O. E Abang”, Izunoso, who is the third respondent in the said matter sought the intervention of the NJC, Acting CJN and the Chief Justice of the Federal High Court over what he termed, “unacceptable conduct” of the presiding judge, Justice Abang.
Specifically, the petitioner, Izunoso predicated his petition on the ground that Justice Abang denied him the counsel of his choice and imposed another counsel on him, whom he did not brief, adding that the judge’s refusal to recognise his request to stay proceedings filed at the Court of Appeal amounted to an infringement on his right to fair hearing.
According to the petitioner, “Other prejudicial act to frustrate the proceedings in this case, the detail facts in respect of the above complaints are contained in my affidavit attached to this petition and I rely on the affidavit as a ground for this petition”.
The court ordered an Abuja based lawyer, Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu to produce a medical report from a recognized government psychiatric hospital confirming that he is mentally stable to appear before the court.
It would recalled that, at the last adjourned date, Justice Abang ordered counsel to Izunoso, Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu, to undergo a medical evaluation at a government approved psychiatric hospital to ascertain his mental stability.
In addition, the court also held that Orizu must equally enter an undertaken to be of good conduct throughout the hearing and conclusion of the matter, not just before the Federal High Court in Abuja, but before any other superior court of record.
Abang had ruled at the said proceedings that, “As at 3pm when this matter was called, I asked the plaintiff counsel to conclude his argument. The plaintiff counsel was about to commence the concluding part of his argument when I noticed that Mr. Orji Nwafor-Orizu who had appeared for the 3rd Defendant at the last adjourned date, has entered the court room.
“Without announcing his appearance, he started disturbing the proceedings. He made so much noise and raises his voice and shouted on top of his voice that the case cannot ho on because he has an order from the court of appeal stopping the proceedings.
“He disturbed the proceeding of the court and I kept quiet and waited to see if he will behave like a normal person.
“When he failed to conduct himself and behave like a normal person, I stood the matter down for five minutes and told him that if I come back and his still behaved unruly in the face of the court, I will take action that will make him to know that I did not put myself here.
“I am not sure if Mr. Nwafor-Orizu is mentally stable. I will watch him in the course of the proceeding to see if he will continue with the conduct.
“I have directed armed security personnel to also watch him closely. If he behaves same way then I will have no option than to take the appropriate step to ascertain his mental state.
“This is because I must ensure that everyone is safe in this court. To that effect, he will be taken to the medical center of the Federal High Court to establish his mental capacity and will be kept in protective custody at the medical center until a medical report is issued.
“A normal person cannot behave this way. I told the security personnel to watch over him closely. If he misbehaves again he should be gently taken into custody and if he resists, he will be arrested.
” I am not sure of his mental stability”, Justice Abang held.
When the matter came up today, Izunoso was in court without a legal representation as Nwafor-Orizu failed to show up and Izunoso applied for an adjournment to enable him engage a another counsel to represent him in court, pending when Nwafor-Orizu will return.
In his affidavit of facts deposed by him, Izunoso told the court that he just returned to Nigeria from the Republic of Rwuanda on May 19, 2019, only to be told by his counsel that the court had made the above order against his counsel.
However, the trial judge ordered that the matter continues in the absence of a counsel representing Izunaso and adjourned till today for further hearing.