A Federal High Court, Abuja on Friday ordered a lawyer, Mr. Orji Nwafor-Orizu, to produce a certificate of mental fitness confirming he is fit to appear in court.
Nwafor-Orizu had at previous sittings announced himself as counsel representing Mr Osita Izunaso, the third defendant in the ongoing Certificate of Return suit filed by Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha.
Justice Okon Abang made the order following what he described as Nwafor-Orizu displaying conduct not befitting of a senior counsel.
“On account of Nwafor-Orizu’s conduct, not being counsel on record, and displaying such conduct not worthy of a senior counsel, he shall not be allowed to appear as a counsel in this matter, or any other court, unless and until he furnishes the court with a medical report from a government psychiatric hospital certifying him to be mentally fit.
”He shall also sign an undertaking and serve on all counsel that he shall henceforth be of good conduct and until then, S.M Anichebe shall appear as counsel to the third defendant, ” the judge said.
At the resumed hearing of the matter, counsel to all parties announced their appearance following which the judge called on Okorocha’s counsel, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiji, SAN,to complete his submission which he started on Thursday.
Nwafor-Orizu then came into the court at this point and insisted that he must be heard since he had a process from the Court of Appeal stopping proceedings in the matter.
The judge asked him to sit and allow Okorocha’s counsel to continue his argument but the lawyer insisted saying; “the court will not proceed until my motion is heard”.
The judge warned that he was frustrating his proceedings and should desist from any further antics.
Following the warning, the judge rose for about five minutes and when he resumed, he asked the security personnel in the court to watch Nwafor-Orizu closely, saying he didn’t feel safe with him in court.
The judge said he felt unsafe because he was not sure of the mental state of the lawyer, adding that no sane lawyer would act in the manner he did since he had not announced himself on record and yet was insisting to be heard.
He asked the security personnel to be ready to remove him from the court should he display such conduct again, and where he resisted, he should be arrested.
Justice Abang also sent for court’s doctor and informed her to be on standby as he might need to send a lawyer to her to ascertain the lawyer’s mental fitness.
In spite of pleas from Mr. N.A Nwawuche (SAN), counsel to the second defendant that the court should pardon Nwafor-Orizu’s behaviour, the judge said he would only acknowledge him after he presented a certificate of mental fitness.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged the court to dismiss the suit filed by Okorocha, challenging the commission’s refusal to issue him a Certificate of Return.
Okorocha is in court asking for an order, compelling the commission to issue him a certificate of return as the senator-elect for Imo West Senatorial District.
At the resumed hearing, Counsel to INEC, Mrs. Wendy Kuku, urged the court to dismiss the suit for being incompetent, just as the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
She attacked the jurisdiction of the court on grounds that being a post-election matter; it was only the National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal that had jurisdiction to hear it.
Kuku submitted that the non-issuance of the certificate of return, which bordered on the executive and administrative act of INEC being challenged in the suit was election-related.
She argued that the cause of action, having arisen out of an election that had been conducted; the suit was not a matter within the jurisdiction of the court but that of the tribunal.
The counsel prayed the court to dismiss and or strike out the suit for lacking in merit and want of jurisdiction.
On his part, Nnawuche challenged the mode of the commencement of the suit.
Nnawuchi argued that commencing the suit by an originating summons, when the facts were in dispute rendered the suit incompetent.
He posited that the proper mode of bringing the action ought to have been by a writ of summons, where oral evidence could be called to resolve the dispute.
Nnawuchi urged the court to dismiss the suit or in the alternative, order pleadings where oral evidence could be called.
Earlier, Ogunwumiju, in his submission, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought by his client.
Ogunwumiju argued that the issue of duress was the only defence raised by the defendants before the court and that INEC did not say anything about duress.
According to him, the 2nd to 8th defendants do not have any relationship with INEC or the returning officer to raise the issue of duress.
He submitted that the word duress was a state of mind of a person and that only a person upon whom duress was exerted could feel it.
“In this case, the returning officer alleged to have been put under duress is an agent of INEC and he has given no evidence whatsoever.
”INEC his principal has not raised any issue about duress. There is a conflict of evidence between the plaintiff and 2nd to 8th defendants.
“The law is that the court will rely on documentary evidence to resolve the issue.”
The lawyer said that the only documentary evidence before the court was the certified true copy of the police report on the collation of election result.
Ogunwumiju noted that the court would find that there was no issue of violence, threat or duress, urging the court to grant the reliefs sought by his client.
Justice Abang adjourned the matter until May 20 for continuation of hearing.