By Adebisi Onanuga
The physically-challenged on Wednesday thronged the High Court of Lagos State, Ikeja to protest what they termed the refusal of the court to pay them a judgment sum of N8.9 million paid to the registry of the court by musicians P-Square.
They brought traffic along Oba Akinjobi Way, GRA, Ikeja to a standstill, as they refused to vacate the usually busy road.
Led by Patrick Arueze, the 25 physically-challenged men and women also blocked the main gate of the High Court and prevented vehicles from entering the premises.
Arueze, who was on crutches, told reporters that he organised a show in Benin City, the Edo State capital, featuring P-Square, but the musicians failed to show up.
He said the development made fans to go on the rampage, breaking everything within reach.
Arueze said he filed a suit before the Chief Judge, Justice Kazeem Alogba, then a judge of the High Court, who in a judgment delivered in 2016, ordered P-Square to pay him N8.9million as damages for breach of contract.
He said the money was deposited into the coffers of the Lagos State Judiciary, adding that since the judgment was pronounced and the money paid, the chief justice had refused to give him the money.
Arueze said the protest, therefore, was to press home their demand for the Chief Justice of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba, to give them the judgment sum deposited with the Lagos State Judiciary.
It took the intervention of the state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, whose officers succeeded in persuading the protesters to follow them to the command headquarters for a meeting, before sanity could be restored on the road.
But the Chief Registrar, Mrs. Taiwo Oladotun, disagreed with Arueze that they were holding back his money.
She insisted the money was not in the coffers of the state judiciary.
Oladotun accused Arueze of causing embarrassment to the judiciary and for not wanting to follow legal process despite that they wanted to assist him recover the judgment sum.
She said when Arueze wanted to execute the judgment, he went with the sheriffs of the court to the point of execution as instructed by her predecessor, now a judge of the Lagos judiciary.
She said Arueze hid somewhere to avoid possible attack by the people working for the musicians, while the sheriffs were attacked in an attempt to executive the judgment.
Oladotun said that eventually the sheriffs succeeded and that P-square offered to issue them a cheque, which was collected, contrary to regulations, but after Arueze gave them the go-ahead to collect it on his behalf.
She said unfortunately, the cheque could not be presented at the bank because apart from it not being a bank certified cheque, it also had alterations on it.
She said that for a very long time after the cheque was collected from P-Square four years ago, nobody saw Arueze, adding that their thinking was that he might have gone for medical treatment.
“He came a few times after four years and met the CJ, who assured him that the matter would be looked into.
“He later came to my office last Tuesday (about 10 days ago) and I called the ACR and he was made to understand that there were legal steps to be followed, but it appeared that he was not prepared to do that,” Oladotun said.
She said she called those concerned and that she was told he had been advised to get a lawyer to re-file the warrant and other papers for fresh execution of the judgment, but failed to do so.
Oladotun said they agreed on Tuesday, but Arueze failed to honour the appointment, but sent a text message that he would not be coming, that he fell down and would not be discharged until Sunday.
She said despite that the matter was a personal issue between him and the defunct P-Square, the judiciary wanted to assist him by seeking approval from the Chief Judge for special dispensation in his favour, knowing that he had no money to file the papers,
“This is a legal matter and it involves legal steps that must be followed, but at present the Chief Judge is out of Lagos on official assignment and there is nothing we can do until he comes back,” Oladotun said.