A judge presiding over a case in a Lagos State High Court has ordered all journalists to leave the courtroom in the middle of the hearing.
The incident happened during the proceedings of a case involving the Incorporated Trustees Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, and the Lagos State government and five others.
In the course of proceedings, Justice Taofiquat Oyekan-Abdullahi, who sits at the Tafawa Balewa Square Division of the Lagos State High Court, brusquely interjected; “Are there journalists here?”
Justice Oyekan-Abdullahi then proceeded to warn all the media personnel to identify themselves or risk being fished out and embarrassed by the policeman attached to the court. To avoid the threatened embarrassment, the media personnel quietly filed out of the courtroom.
The judge’s directive followed a complaint by Mr. S.A. Quadri, counsel for the State, that journalists were always in court to cover proceedings in the case and that they are being sponsored and used by the Incorporated Trustees Association of Waste Managers to fight the government.
The MFWA is worried about growing incidents of judges walking journalists out of courts during proceedings.
A similar incident happened in Ghana on June 15, 2017 when a judge of a Magistrates’ court, Justice Arit Nnsamoh asked all journalists waiting to hear the trial of a suspected murderers of a Member of Parliament, to leave the courtroom or be hounded out by the police.
The MFWA condemns Justice Oyekan-Abdullahi’s disrespectful treatment of the journalists at her court. We call on the judicial authorities in West Africa to give prior notice to journalists to stay away from hearings that are not open to the media to prevent the arbitrary decisions of judges to sack and disgrace journalists covering the courts.