Judge Walks Journalists Out Of Lagos Courtroom

Journalists were, on Friday, ordered out of the courtroom during a hearing of a suit filed against the Lagos State government and five others by the Incorporated Trustees Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, popularly called Private Sector Participation (PSP) operators.

The suit was filed by the PSP operators, who are seeking to stop the plan of the Lagos State government to relieve them of their job of managing domestic waste across the state. According to the waste managers, the state government has concluded plans to give their job to a foreign company, Visionscape Sanitation Solutions Limited.

Joined with the government as respondents in the suit are the Commissioner for the Environment and Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. Also joined are Visionscape Group, Visionscape Sanitation Solutions Limited and ABC Sanitation Solutions Limited.

At the hearing, Justice Taofiquat Oyekan-Abdullahi, the presiding judge who sits at the Tafawa Balewa Square Division of the Lagos State High Court, ordered reporters out her courtroom. She coarsely asked journalists to identify themselves among the crowd in the gallery and leave the courtroom or risk being fished out and embarrassed by the policeman attached to the court.

The judge’s directive coincided with the complaint of Mr. S.A. Quadri, the state counsel, that journalists were always in court to cover proceedings in the case. Quadri claimed that journalists covering the case are being sponsored by the PSP operators. He said after filing a suit against the government, the PSP operators continued to use the media to fight the government.

Before ending his complaint, Justice Oyekan-Abdullahi bellowed: “Are there journalists here?” She advised them to leave or get embarrassed. Journalists in attendance immediately exited the courtroom.

In an application for interlocutory injunction filed through their lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, the PSP operators are asking the court to restrain the state government and its agents from stopping them from collecting, disposing and managing domestic solid wastes across the state.

The operators also want the court to stop the state government from giving their job to Visionscape Group, which has a partnership with two Nigerian companies,  Visionscape Sanitation Solutions Limited and ABC Solutions Limited.
All the respondents urged the court to dismiss the suit.

Earlier, the presiding judge had called for calm among the lawyers, as tempers flared in the course of arguments. While standing down the matter to bring about the desired calm, the judge noted that the case is a highly sensitive one, as it touches on the livelihood of people.

“What we’re all trying to do is strike a balance and ensure that nobody has a problem in the course of this case. There’s effort on the part of the state to do justice. I don’t want you to think that it is only through legal means that we can solve this case,” said Justice Oyekan-Abdullahi.

Mr. David Fadile, counsel to the PSP operators,  and counsel for Visionscape Group, Mr. Francis Akinlotan, had engaged in impassioned arguments over the legality of filling a further counter-affidavit.

Mr. Akinlotan told the judge that he had an application seeking the leave of the court to file a further counter-affidavit to enable him to respond to new issues raised by the operators’ counsel in his further affidavit.

However, Mr. Fadile objected, branding the application as completely strange. “You cannot seek the leave of the court to do what does not exist in law,” Fadile argued. Mr. Akinlotan maintained that his application was not strange, saying there was a Court of Appeal authority to that effect which, however, he could not cite.

But he recalled that Justice Oyekan-Abdullahi had allowed such in the case of Olukoya Ogungbeje and the Registered Trustees of the Nigerian Bar Association. In her response, Justice Oyekan-Abdullahi said she remembered the case and directed the court registrars to look for the case file as she stood the matter down.

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SOURCE :sahara reporters (news)

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