The Forum of Chairmen of the Nigerian Bar Association Branches in Delta State has reacted to reports credited to Aderojor Ologhojoba James and Lucky Ayomike Okonedo of the Movement for the Protection of Iwere Homeland, Development and History in which they called for sanction of Chief Emmanuel Uti, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Warri Branch, over the statement issued on last week’s thugs invasion of a High Court in Warri, Delta State.
MPIHDH had in its statement called on the national leadership of NBA to sanction the Warri branch chairman over his account of the alleged invasion of the court.
In a petition to the NBA President, Akpata Olumide, the group described a statement by the NBA branch on the High Court invasion in Warri as “intentionally and wickedly laced with lies, hearsay, unsubstantiated claims, fake news, with a deliberate intent to mislead the general public, security agents, the Delta State government”.
But the Forum of Chairmen of Nigerian Bar Association Branches in Delta State in a statement on Tuesday said the MPIHDH publication was ostensibly a very feeble and futile attempt to misrepresent the facts of what happened at the High Court, Warri on June 17, 2021.
According to the NBA’s chairmen forum: “Available video-records of the incidence reveal an orchestrated and premeditated disruption of the Court’s proceedings in the matter aimed at truncating the course of justice administration and intimidation of the Lawyers handling the matter. The video evidence contains threats directed at Chief Efecha Leo Akpofure SAN, with ethnic coloration.”
The statement was signed by A.N. Eseagwu, Chairman, Asaba Branch; B.E. Isetin, Chairman, Agbor Branch; S.C. Odoh, Chairman, Sapele Branch; Anit Aniko, Chairman, Oleh Branch; F.O. Okolie, Chairman, Ogwashi-uku Branch; Patrick Mekako, Chairman, Udu Branch; Jonathan Ekperusi, Chairman, Effurun Branch; and Matthew E. Osume, Chairman, Ughelli Branch.
The statement reads in full: “The said publication appears to be a calculated attempt to launch an unprovoked attack on the person and office of Chief Emmanuel Uti, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Warri Branch over the the Press Statement issued by the NBA Wam Branch on the ugly incidence involving the desecration of the hollowed premises of the High Court, Warri and assault on Lawyers, especially on one of the Leaders of the Bar, Chief Efecha Leo Akpofure, SAN on 17th June 2021 by overzealous supporters of a faction of the Itsekiri people over the succession to the throne of the Olu of Warri.
“The said publication is ostensibly a very feeble and futile attempt to misrepresent the facts of what happened at the High Court, Warri on 17th June, 2021. Available video-records of the incidence reveal an orchestrated and premeditated disruption of the Court’s proceedings in the matter aimed at truncating the course of justice administration and intimidation of the Lawyers handling the matter. The video evidence contains threats directed at Chief Efecha Leo Akpofure SAN, with ethnic coloration.
“It is mind-boggling and very disturbing that the authors of the said publication would deign to claim that what transpired on 17th June 2021 at the premises of the Delta State High Court, Warri was a peaceful assembly by old men and women who came to attend to an open court proceedings. The events of that day are not only embarrassing but amount to an attack on the legal community, as the unruly and armed protesters occasioned a reasonable apprehension of physical harm, especially by those threatening to attack Chief Efecha Leo Akpofure SAN for accepting the brief to conduct the case.
“The ensuring melee degenerated to the extent that Hon. Justice V. Agboje, the Presiding Judge and Chief Efecha Leo Akpofure, SAN had to be securely taken away from harm by officers who were at the scene. The conduct of the attackers is not only despicable and morally reprehensible, it is an affront on the administration of justice, which should be roundly condemned by every well-meaning member of our society. We believe that the group parading itself as MPIHDH does not represent the Itsekiri ethnic nationality that is known to be lovers of justice, law, order, peace and security.
“The publication by the said group gives the impression that the group may have been a part of the said attack. To that extent, we call on all relevant security agencies to thoroughly and discretely investigate the matter with a view to punishing the perpetrators according to the fullest extent of the law.
“As a law-abiding organization that the MPIHDH claims to be, it ought to have first investigated what transpired at the High Court, Warri on the said date, apologize to the Delta State Judiciary and the NBA for the desecration of the hallowed temple of justice and the attack on members of the NBA, particularly the public embarrassment of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who is a leader of note in the legal community. Unfortunately, the MPIHDH decided to insult the legal community and to cast aspersions on the leadership of the NBA Warri Branch.
“The leadership of the NBA Branches in Delta State stands firmly with the press release by the NBA Warri Branch and takes serious exception to the events that transpired on 17th June 2021 within the premises of the Delta State High Court, Warri. We also totally condemn the brazen conduct of those who acted in such an unruly manner that led to the timeous evacuation of Hon. Justice V. Agboje, the Presiding Judge and Chief Efecha Leo Akpofure, SAN on that day. It is such perception of Lawyers that led to the cold-blooded murder of Horace Eguono Dafiaghor, Esq. and Sam Ekwuaghanju, two active members of the NBA Warri Branch not too long ago. Attacking Lawyers and the Courts for carrying out their duties stands civilization on its head. The only alternative to the settlement of disputes by the Courts is resort to self-help. Humans have long evolved beyond that approach.
“The legal community in Nigeria has become alarmed at the flagrant disregard for the sanctity of our courts and particularly, the reckless manner people have negatively perceived our courts to the extent that in less than a year, we have had cases of arson in jurisdictions like Asaba, Bwari, Abia, Owerri and Lagos. We believe that there are better ways of expressing whatever misgivings people may have about our Courts and Legal Practitioners.
“Attacking the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association, Warri Branch or any other NBA Branch in the way and manner the MPIHDH did in the publication under reference is completely unacceptable. Such conduct is capable of disrupting the peace and security in Warri and Delta State in general. The leadership of the NBA shall not take kindly to any further attack on our Judges, our courts, Leaders of the legal community and Legal Practitioners generally. Henceforth, the NBA Branches in Delta State shall deal with such discourteous and uncouth actions appropriately and even take disciplinary actions against members of our various Branches who contribute to such despicable and unbecoming behavior.
“It is equally very disturbing that the said attackers were able to gain entry into the fenced premises of the High Court Warri, despite the heavy presence of security agencies around the Court. Until this moment, no statement has been issued by the Police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security agencies, whose offices are adjoining the premises of the High Court Warri. We therefore call on the Police and DSS to immediately get to the root of this unprovoked and condemnable attack. Thank you.”