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DO To Face Criminal Charges For Detaining Lawyers 

By Sarah Nduma Ekema

Lawyers in Fako Division have resolved that the Divisional Officer, DO, for Tiko, Patrick Che Ngwashi, must face criminal charges for illegally detaining their colleagues, Barristers Samuel Ashu Besong and Eric Forsack for flouting the ‘Keep Tiko Clean’ programme.

The over 100 Lawyers under the banner of the Fako Lawyers Association, FAKLA, took the decision on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 in Tiko, when they stormed the DO’s Office at about 8:00 am and asked the DO to apologise to their colleagues.
The DOwas also accused of forced imprisonment and violation of human rights.

The Lawyers headed by Barrister Charles Njualem, Representative of the President of the Bar for the Southwest, Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho, President of FAKLA and others came out to protest against what they termed gross disrespect of the law.

The men in black carried placards which read: Know ye Mr. DO that, the President of the Republic of Cameroon, Mr. Paul Biya is the number one Lawyer of Cameroon; Lawyers are Ministers of Justice and the Law, Stop Infringing on our Rights Mr. DO.

According to Barrister Samuel Ashu, one of the detained Lawyers, “It was about 11:20am on Monday May 18.I was in my chamber discussing with a client when I heard an unusual noise at the reception. When I went out, I discovered it was the Commissioner of Police. What is the problem, I asked him. The Commissioner asked me why my office was open. ‘Don’t you know today is community labour?It must be closed’.

I reminded him that this is a law chamber and that he cannot just close the office of a Lawyer without going through procedure. He said the surrounding, where we have close to 10 offices was not clean.Itold him that the surrounding he was talking of was that of Orange Cameroun, but that if he wanted the surrounding clean, I will get somebody to do the job.I immediately called my secretary to effect the clean up, even the client I was talking to joined my Secretary.

“The DO said he was still going to close my office because he met it open and that the order is that since it is Community labour, everywhere must be closed. My collaborator told him he can’t close the office because as a DO, he doesn’t have the powers to close the office. In order to exercise his powers, he called in the Mayor and ordered that the office be closed.

“That was my office I could not go on the streets, so I went in and sat down.He closed me inside with my Secretary and collaborator. We were locked up till about 12:24pm. With the help of the social media, I communicated with my colleagues who came and opened the door,” Barrister Ashu recounted.
After a crisis meetingwith members of the Bar, the DO and traditional rulers, the DO was asked to apologise to the lawyers, but he vehemently refused to do so.

The Southwest Representative of the Bar President, Barrister Charles Njualem said;
“Lawyers are those who protect human rights. If the DO can do this to a Lawyer, imagine what he would do elsewhere.I can’t say there was a meeting because the DO did not conduct himself the way people conduct themselves in meetings. He hasn’t apologised, so there was no meeting.The DO said nothing serious.He thinks that when he puts on that piece of cloth; he can do anything he desires.”

From the DO’s Office, the lawyers moved to the Magistrates’ Court, where members of the Judiciary were appreciated for their efforts in calling the DO to order. “He would never stand on our rights; lawyers have decided to take the bull by the horns.Our number alone speaks volume,” FAKLA President declared.
He equally advised his peers to respect the law so that, they would not be pointed with accusing fingers by oppositions when fighting a just cause.

“Don’t touch the lawyer because everyone will be affected.No power is above the other,” Justice Ebah Ntoko said.
From Tiko, the Lawyers moved to Limbe and reported the matter to the Fako SDO, Zang III.
The SDO immediately held a meeting with the Lawyers and the DO for Tiko.

“We thought it proper to come and see the SDO for him to be aware of what had transpired between us and the DO. The SDO was very accommodating; we had a fruitful dialogue, and he said he would have a meeting with the DO,his collaborators and come up with a reasonable judgement and will inform us on time.
“We told him time is essential in taking legal action and we hope his reasonable time would be reasonable and not unreasonable,” Agbor Balla averred.

“This action shows, lawyers have spoken.They are speaking and will continue to speak as one man. It took us a short time to get at least 200 lawyers on an issue that concerned and touches us. We already created a legal team headed by Barrister Benjamin Enoh, who will put the bill on the legal team. We can assure you that as early as Monday May 25, legal actions will commence against the DO.

“The SDO said it is May 20 and we should calm the situation,but we are not the ones who created the incident. If the DO had not overzealously acted by closing down the office of a lawyer and locking him up, we would not be having this issue.He should be aware of the realities on the ground.

If he was listening to news, and not living in his own cocoon, he would have been aware not to trample on the rights of the Lawyers.This is just a battle we are winning, and we have other battles to fight.” Agbor Balla noted.

On behalf of traditional rulers, the President of the Tiko Sub Divisional Chiefs Conference, Chief Kombe Ndike said, there was a complaint by lawyers in which the administrators responded as one, and the Chiefs were there as peacemakers. “The DO is our son and the Lawyers our children. We want that they should come together and understand themselves. We are Cameroonians; we believe in dialogue.”

When members of the press approached the DO to get his own side of the story, he thundered:
“Am I the one who brought you here? Make news from the Lawyers”, and ordered for his door to be shut.”

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