A Lagos Chief Magistrate, Folashade Botoku of Igbosere Magistrate’s Court, yesterday ordered journalists out of the courtroom for no reason.
The journalists ordered out of the courtroom were Onozure Dania of Vanguard newspaper, Yetunde Ayobami Ojo from The Guardian and Ayodele Olalere of Take a Break Media.
Trouble started when the Registrar asked the journalists to leave the courtroom so that lawyers who came very late could sit, saying it was an order from the magistrate who was about sitting.
When the journalists queried why they should vacate their seat since they were not occupying the section reserved for lawyers, the registrar then called the court orderly, identified as Rose Onafu, to ‘bundle’ the journalists out of the courtroom.
“Where is the police, come and bundle them out,” the registrar said.
Onafu approached the journalists and said: “Leave the courtroom right now, this is not your office.”
As the situation degenerated into shouts, a lawyer from the Ministry of Justice had to intervene and queried the registrar why he ordered the journalists out of the courtroom since they were not sitting at the Bar.
The argument drew the magistrate’s attention who came out of her chambers to the courtroom and re-echoed the registrar’s words.
Immediately, she asked the registrar to send the journalists out of the courtroom.
The registrar, who approached the journalists, 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 the judgment to be delivered in a case involving a businessman, Paul Ojoje and Princely Court, owners of Protea Hotel, Kuramo Waters, over alleged refusal of the management of the hotel to pay N7 million as cost for the 60,000 litres of diesel supplied to the company in 2011.
Ojoje, an oil dealer of Rejoice Hope Company, had earlier petitioned the former Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade, following several adjournments the suit had suffered since it was filed in 2011.
The matter, which was earlier before Magistrate I. O. Oguntade, was later re-assigned to Botoku.
Meanwhile, the judgment proceedings could not go on as the magistrate later adjourned sitting.