Ebonyi Judiciary Under Siege, As Magistrate Faces Secret Trial For Granting PDP Youths’ Leader Bail

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*allegation that I’m behind the ordeal unfounded – Attorney General


By NWOGHA NDUBUISI ANDY, Abakaliki


A Chief Magistrate in Ebonyi State judiciary, Chinedu Agama is currently under trial for granting a suspect bail in the leadership crisis of the state chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
There have been supremacy battle between two factions of the state PDP led by Chief Onyekachi Nwebonyi and Chief Fred Udeogu.
The Udeogu faction had gone to takeover the party secretariat along Abakaliki/Enugu highway claiming that it has court order to do so leading to the arrest of its Youth Leader, Obinna Iteshi, a Lawyer.
The youth leader, Barr.Iteshi, two boys; Ngamgbo Chukwunonso and Nwakpa Chibuzor who were also arrested by the police who stormed the secretariat to disperse the supporters of the two factions that clashed at the secretariat were  immediately arraigned  before the  State Magistrate Court, sitting in Abakaliki presided over by Chinedu Agama.  
While Iteshi was  arrested within the party Secretariat, the second and third accused persons, were said to be  returning from exams, when they were picked by the police. 
They were arraigned  on four counts charge  bothering on felony, conspiracy, breaking  and entry, among others. 
The Police Prosecutor, ASP Ayeni, told  the court that the offences were punishable under sections 516A(a), 411(b), 451(1) and 12 of the Criminal Code Cap. 33, Vol. 1, Laws of Ebonyi State of Nigeria, 2009 and Enonyi State Internal Security Enforcement and Related Matters Law, Cap. 55, Vol. 2, Laws of Ebonyi State of Nigeria, 2009.
The Presiding  Magistrate,  Chinedu Agama, granted the suspects bail in the sum of N50,000.00 each, with one surety, in like sum using section 224 of Administrative Criminal Justice Law of Ebonyi State 2019 and  adjourned the matter till February 15, 2021, for report of compliance.
But Agama was allegedly queried and transferred out of the state judicial headquarters in Abakaliki to Onueke, Ezza South local government area of the state by the state judicial management over the bail of the suspects.
After the transfer, the  state Judicial Service Commission(JSC) set up panel to probe him. The panel has Magistrate U.N.O Nweze as Chairman, Magistrate Job Orude Secretary, Bar. Fidelis Amaechi Iteshi and two females as members.
The panel commenced sitting yesterday with Chinedu Agama facing them. Journalists and Lawyers were barred from witnessing the panel’s proceeding.
The Panel Chairman told  while explaining the reason for barring journalists and the Lawyers from the proceeding, said the matter was an in house matter.
“What we are doing here is a very small Administrative Panel to look into complaints against one of us and of course, you know in organization like this there are  some inbuilt mechanism to look into complaints against supposedly erring staff.
“So, not everything that requires to be made public in court at a stage. If it were judicial panel, probably we allow journalists to come in and cover the proceedings but this one is an in house something.
“We are a committee set up by the judicial service commission. So, we are going to report back to them. It is them that will now look at what we have done, look into it critically and take a decision”, he said.
The state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Cletus Ofoke said he not behind the ordeal of Agama contrary to speculation by the PDP.
Ofoke said “the allegation that I am the one behind what is going on is unfounded. I want to inform you maybe, you didn’t know before now that I am a member of Judicial Service Commission. We received a report on the abuse of office in respect of the man and that does not amount to Attorney General masterminding everything, not at all. And for your information, I am not a member of PDP and you know the matter, they said that someone broke into PDP secretariat or whatever.  So, what is my business with PDP.
“My own is that we have the Judicial Commission and we have rules and Magistrate and other court staff are the employees of the Ebonyi state  Judicial Service Commission. I am not even the Chairman of the commission. So, the allegation is unfounded and a useless one. I am a member of APC, a card carrying member of APC. So, they should leave me out of their trouble, I am not in PDP. So, they should sort themselves out”.

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