COVID-19 Compliance: Lawyers, Litigants Frustrated At Anambra Magistrate Court

Kenechukwu Ofomah

Kenechukwu Ofomah

Awka – Legal practitioners and individuals interested in civil and criminal matters were, on Monday, disappointed as their matters could not come up at an Anambra Magistrate Court in the state capital city of Awka.

The development, TNC gathered, was as a result of compliance with COVID-19 preventive measures, especially the physical distancing, for which the Nigeria Correctional Services and Courts have reduced the number of people to be brought to the Court.

The issue of overcrowded courtrooms has been a major concern following the outbreak of the pandemic, and the matter was complicated by the long period in which the courts did not sit due to COVID.

A Magistrate presiding at Magistrate Court, Abagana, Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State, had at a session months back, directed people whose matters of interest would not be immediately entertained at the court, to leave the courtroom.

This was to ensure social distancing, even as wearing of facemasks was compulsory before entrance could be gained into the courtroom.

A Legal practitioner, Barrister Sullah Kpoo, who spoke today at the Awka Magistrate Court, regretted that he came all the way from Benue state for a matter in the Court, only to be informed on arrival, that the matter was not coming up.

He however expressed understanding that reasons adduced were in the interest of public health, but bemoaned the financial implication of the litigants and lawyers.

In his own reaction, a litigant, Mr. Chukwuka Ekwegbalu, urged the Court to find a way of sending timely information across to people who have matters of interest in the Court.

“I think this has become necessary to avoid undue spending by the citizens. To prosecute matters in court these days required money in logistics and most citizens are only coming to court because they feel that it is their last hope. If the court continues like this without recourse to the implication on the people, it may get to a point when people will start missing sessions,” he feared.

When contacted, sources at the Nigeria Correctional Services in the State, who warned not to be quoted, said aside observing COVID-19 protocols, bringing certain number of inmates to courts may constitute security challenges, due to manpower and logistics issues.

 

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