Panic at Enugu High Court as lawyer petitions CJ over illegal suspension of execution of court judgment

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Justice N. Priscilla Emehelu: Urged to discipline Leticia Eze.

An Enugu-based lawyer, Afam Joseph, has urged the state Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Priscilla Emehelu, to mete out reasonable punishment against the Deputy Director/Sheriff, High Court Registry, Enugu, Mrs. Leticia N. Eze, over her alleged illegal suspension of execution of a valid court judgment.

In a letter to the state Chief Judge,  dated February 10, 2020, and titled “Re-illegal and baseless suspension of overdue execution of judgment in re-Ambrose  C. Obodoeze v. Ernest Anayo Ozoekwo & Ors. Suit No. E/780/2018: Request for your urgent intervention,” and made available to journalists in Enugu, Barrister Joseph alleged that on January 31, 2020, the deputy director/sheriff illegally ordered the Chief Bailiff of the Enugu High Court Registry, Mr. Boniface Onyia, to suspend the execution of a judgment of an Enugu High Court delivered by Hon. Justice Ani Comfort Chinyere, on March 26, 2019.

This development has elicited fear among staff of the Registry as many say that the CJ does not tolerate injustice and misuse of power.

According to Barrister Joseph, Mrs. Eze took the action even when there was neither an existing order of the court for stay of execution, nor a valid application for such duly filed and served on his client, Ambrose C. Obodoeze.

He said Mrs. Eze’s action was “not only despicable, but patently condemnable,” and maintained that “adequate and sufficient sanctions within the limit of law” should be meted out against her “to serve as deterrent to those who will try to confront a valid court order.”

Barrister Joseph argued that the writ of execution of the court judgment “is sacred, and an epitome or symbol of the power and authority of the High Court, and any insult against it in whatever guise deserves a just and commensurate sanction.”

The letter read in part:  “On the 26th March 2019 High Court No. 8 of Enugu state, presided over by Hon. Justice Ani Comfort Chinyere (PhD), rendered judgment to the tune of N4,250,000.00(Four million, two hundred and fifty naira only) in favour of the creditor against  the judgment debtors(called debtors) jointly and severally, being balance of the sum of N4,750,000.00 (Four million, seven hundred and fifty thousand naira) only which is the sum paid by the creditor to the third debtor introduced to him by the 1st and 2nd debtors for the purchase and supply of two Sienna cars, one Lexus Rx 330 car, and one Highlander car, which vehicles were never supplied neither was the money refunded to the creditor…  

“By Notice of Appeal dated 8th April 2019, and filed the following day, the 1st and 2nd debtors purported to have appealed this monetary judgment, and followed it up with application for stay of execution dated 10th April, 2019, and filed same day.    

“On the 18th day of November 2019, the Hon. Court after hearing this application for stay of execution dismissed same.  The same day, I presented a letter to the deputy director asking for execution of this judgment; this letter is duly received and acknowledged by the registry.

“Following the signing of the writ of execution dated December 2019 prepared by the deputy director/sheriff Mrs. L. N. Eze, and after being signed by the Presiding Judge on the 27th December 2019, the deputy director kick-started the process of this execution of judgment by her letter to the Commissioner of Police, Police state Headquarters, Enugu, dated 9th January, 2020, and titled “Suit No. E-780-2018: Application for Police Escort” by which she applied for two armed police men, according to her “to assist the bailiffs of the registry to execute the writ of Fifa/possession on the above mentioned suit on Wednesday, the 15th day of January 2020, at Abakpa Nike Enugu by 7 am.

Barrister Joseph informed the state Chief Judge that Mrs. Eze called off the execution of the court judgment from her residence in the morning of January 31, 2020, while the bailiffs, police men, and creditor (Ambrose C. Obodoeze), were already at the residence of Ernest Anayo Ozoekwe, to execute the court judgment.

“Our enquiries show that she (Mrs. Eze) claimed that the order to suspend the execution emanated from your exalted and honourable office, which we very much doubted, hence this petition,” said Barrister Joseph.

Meanwhile, Barrister Joseph has given Mrs. Eze a three-month pre-action notice, to commence legal action against her at the Enugu High Court.

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