Lagos chief magistrate orders journalists out of court


Chief Magistrate Folashade Botoku of a Lagos Magistrate Court in Igbosere ordered three journalists out of her courtroom.
The affected journalists were; Onozure Dania from Vanguard Newspaper, Yetunde Ayobami Ojo, from The Guardian and Ayodele Olalere of Take a Break Media.
The journalists had gotten to the court very early inspite of the heavy downpour and took their seats in the section reserved for litigants.
They were there even before lawyers arrived the court, as well as the magistrate who came two hours behind the regular time of sitting.
The event that culminated in the sending out of the journalists started when the court’s registrar asked them to vacate their seats to allow lawyers who came very late to court to sit.
When the journalists queried why they should vacate their seats since they were not occupying the section reserved for lawyers, the registrar then called the court’s orderly identified as Rose Onafu, to bundle them out of the courtroom.
The registrar said, “Where is the police, come and bundle them out.” Onafu inturn said, “Leave the courtroom right now, this is not your office.”
The situation later degenerated into a shouting match when a lawyer from the Ministry of Justice intervened and queried the registrar on why he ordered the journalists out of the court since they were not sitting at the Bar.
At this point, Magistrate Botoku came out of her chambers and asked the registrar to chase the three journalists out of the courtroom.
When the registrar got to where the journalists were seated, she said: “Get out of this court, we have told you, this is not your office. This court is meant for lawyers and not litigants.”
The journalists had gone to the court to cover a matter involving a businessman, Paul Ojoje and Princely Court, owners of Protea Hotel Kuramo Waters, over a debt of N7 million. The money was said to be the cost of 60,000 litres of diesel allegedly supplied to the hotel by Ojoje’s oil firm in 2011.
The businessman had earlier petitioned the former Chief Judge of Lagos State Olufunmilayo Atilade, following several adjournments the suit had suffered since it was filed in 2011. This led to the transfer of the case from Magistrate I.O Ogunade, who was hitherto presiding over the matter to Magistrate Botoku.
The attention of the incumbent Chief Judge of Lagos state, Justice Opeyemi Oke, was drawn to the bad treatment of journalists by some magistrates and judges upon her assumption of office at a meeting she held with judiciary correspondents.
The CJ had then promised to address the issue by reaching out to the judges and magistrates concerned not to prevent journalists from reporting court proceedings.
The latest incident has shown that not much has been done in this regard.