Proceedings at a Magistrates Court sitting in Okpoko, Ogbaru Local Government Area, Anambra State, was forced to a halt, yesterday, as an Onitsha-based lawyer, Ogbachalu Abuchi Goshen, appeared dressed in Christian clerical robes.
The court presided by Her Worship, C. B. Mbaegbu, was progressing smoothly until a matter was called up and Abuchi announced appearance as defence counsel kitted as a priest with a long cruxifix, Roman collar and a stole round his neck .
When the Magistrate objected to him appearing and addressing the court in such a regalia, Abuchi objected citing the recent Supreme Court judgement that gave female students the backing to wear hijab, a Muslim head cover, to public schools as his authority.
As the Magistrate stood her ground that he cannot appear in her court dressed as a priest, Abuchi also insisted that the objection by the Magistrate was an infringement on his fundamental rights as enshrined in section 38 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As the argument continued with both the Magistrate and the lawyer refusing to shift grounds, the atmosphere in the court became charged and the Magistrate rose abruptly from her seat forcing the court to dismiss for the day. Other lawyers and people who came for different matters filed outside as the Magistrate entered her car and drove off.
Residents and landlords of Okpoko, who had converged on the court for hearing over a case of assault and conduct likely to cause a breach of peace and malicious damage slammed against them by the police at the instance of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), were disappointed as the matter was next in schedule before the disruption.
Lawyer to the Okpoko residents, Emmanuel Nzekwe, said Abuchi’s action was unnecessary as the Supreme Court ruling was on Hijab for ladies and not an invitation for lawyers to appear in court in their religious or denominational robes.