Damian Duruiheoma, Owerri
A major tragedy was averted by providence as the roof of a Customary Court in Itu, Ezinihitte Mbaise Local Government Area of the state suddenly collapsed on the Magistrate in charge of the court, His Worship, Nnaemeka Ugboma, lawyers and the entire people during court session.
However, the incident left no casualties. This is just as the Imo State Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Barr. Stanley Chidozie Imo has called for financial independence for the judiciary.
The incident, according to an eyewitness account, occurred on Tuesday morning when the clerk of the court was calling out cases to be heard by the court when suddenly the building caved in and the roof collapsed on the people inside the court.
The incident brought normal court proceedings to an abrupt end even as the magistrate was immediately whisked away to safety, while lawyers, and the other people inside the court crawled on their knees out of the court to avoid being hit on the head by the falling roofs, while the dusty looking magistrate was too angry to speak as his orderly was busy cleaning him up.
Speaking to The UNION, one of the lawyers in court, Chief Gerald Aririguzo described the incident as “the height of a spectacular embarrassment”, saying “most of my documents were affected because the ceiling fell on a pool of water and splashed filthy water all over the court room. It was a total mess to behold”.
NBA chairman in Imo State, Barrister Stanley Imo in his reaction condemned the development saying “it is an unfortunate development in a 21st century, that such a thing is still happening. We have dilapidated courts because the Executive does not see it as a priority. This is what we are fighting for, total financial autonomy for the judiciary to manage its affairs but in Imo State, what obtains is a misnomer, the Executive has refused to abide by constitutional provisions and allow financial autonomy”, he lamented.
It was gathered that the rain the previous night, affected the office of the chairman of the customary court at Itu, His Worship Nnaemeka C. Ugboma, causing lawyers, complainants, complainants, respondents as well as staff of the court to complain, a development that led to the roof falling incident.
It was further learnt that in the midst of the confusion and rowdiness, some lawyers contacted the Chief Registrar of customary Court of Appeal who said they were facing similar situation at Owerri, the state capital and requested that the situation at Itu be put into writing for onward delivery to the state government.
Reacting on the incident, the secretary of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mbaise branch, Barr Judex Nwawudu explained that NBA in Mbaise would notify the President customary Court of Appeal who was expected to take action on the matter adding that plans are in place to get a temporary court for Ezinihitte division, pending the renovation of the collapsed court building