CONSTRUCTION ARBITRATION: AWODEIN READS RIOT ACT TO LAWYERS

The President and Chairman of Council of the Institute of Construction Industry Arbitrators (ICIArb), Mr. Kola Awodein SAN has warned lawyers against engaging in unethical conduct in the practice of arbitration.

Speaking at the investiture of Fellows and induction of new members of the Institute of Construction Industry Arbitrators held at Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos, Awodein noted that there are “numerous reports of Arbitrators, especially legal practitioners, making a seeming mockery of the Arbitral process by demonstrating obvious bias and partisanship and blatantly refusing to do justice to the parties and in most cases, without appropriate sanctions being meted out to them.”

Warning that the Institute would no longer condone such malpractice, Awodein, who was represented by the Institute’s President-elect, Mr. Felix Okereke-Onyeri (FNIQS, FICIArb), said: “It is important to sound it loud and clear that this is a practice and conduct that we do not welcome or tolerate in our Institute especially now that there is increasing interest in joining the Institute.”

He urged the new fellows and members to “comply faithfully with the ethics of the Body as we are determined to enforce the ethics especially in the light of the damage that is being done to the practice of Arbitration by Arbitral panels.”

In his address, the Secretary General of the Institute, Bar. Emmanuel Dike (FICIArb) noted the confidence reposed in the body by the inductees “and trust that you will be ambassadors of the Institute as far as construction industry arbitration is concerned.”

Noting that construction involves immense multidisciplinary and inter-disciplinary activity “governed by layers of simultaneous contractual relationships,” the Secretary General stated that “An understanding of the technical principles for the purpose of dispute resolution provides an edge to the professional equipped with the relevant skillset. Admission to this prestigious body is therefore an opportunity to join the league of successful sought-after arbitrators.”

According to Dike, “Given the ongoing need for continuous professional development within the Institute, our members who belong to the primary institutions governing their professions, such as the Nigerian Institute of Architects, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigeria Society of Engineers, the Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors – to mention but a few – are encouraged to attend courses by other certified professional bodies to enhance their skills and competence.”

Among those inducted as fellows are former Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, Mr. Bayo Ojo SAN; leading arbitrator, Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN; Mr. Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN; Mrs. Funke Agbor SAN; Mr. Godwin Omoaka SAN and Mrs. Obosa Akpata. Also honoured posthumously was Arc. Umaru Aliyu, the Institute’s past Vice President and former president of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA). Others are Chief Eboh Andrew Otokhina, Mr. Adedapo Osariuyime Tunde-Olowu (SAN), Mr. Okey Akobundu and Mr. Emeka Onyeka.

The Institute of Construction Industry Arbitrators was inaugurated on the October 15, 1993 as a multi–disciplinary institution with members drawn from the professions related to the construction industry and has become the leading arbitral institution in the construction industry in Nigeria. As a specialized alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body, in the construction industry, the Institute provides a one-stop shop for the resolution of disputes arising from construction contracts in order to free the construction industry from protracted litigation and the uncertainties inherent in construction related disputes.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. To ADVERTISE in CITY LAWYER, please email citylawyermag@gmail.com or call 08138380083. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

 

GADZAMA TO CHAIR BENCHERS’ MENTORSHIP C’TE, SEEKS TO PARTNER NBA

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate and Bar Leader, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN has been appointed Chairman of the Mentorship Committee of the Body of Benchers (BOB).

Disclosing this in a letter to the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, Gadzama noted that the appointment was made on March 25, 2021 by the highest policy-making body in the legal profession.

In the letter made available to CITY LAWYER, the Bar Leader noted that “this is an interest that the BOB shares with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which, under your leadership, has demonstrated a clear commitment to raising both ethical and professional standards at the Bar. The NBA has made laudable strides on its own, and I am convinced that even more spectacular achievements will follow if it collaborates with the Committee – and by extension, BOB – in discharging this mandate.”

Below is the full text of the statement.

J-K/ABJ/NBA/APP/04/21

Wednesday, 7th April, 2021.

Mr. Olumide Akpata,
President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA),
National Secretariat, NBA House,
Plot 1101 Mohammadu Buhari Way,
Central Business District,
Abuja.

Dear Sir,

MY APPOINTMENT AS CHAIRMAN, MENTORSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE BODY OF BENCHERS (BOB)

On Thursday, 25th March, 2021, the undersigned had the privilege of being appointed Chairman of the Mentorship Committee of the Body of Benchers (BOB). The Mentorship Committee of the BOB is charged with the responsibility of promoting the values and skills that are crucial to excellence in the legal profession, and is committed to ensuring that these skills are transmitted to the coming generations of lawyers.

I understand that this is an interest that the BOB shares with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which, under your leadership, has demonstrated a clear commitment to raising both ethical and professional standards at the Bar. The NBA has made laudable strides on its own, and I am convinced that even more spectacular achievements will follow if it collaborates with the Committee – and by extension, BOB – in discharging this mandate.

I look forward to working together with the NBA under your leadership, along with the Young Lawyers Forum, in the effort to raise ever higher the professional standards of our noble profession.

Thank you for your kind cooperation, and please accept the assurances of my highest esteem.

Yours faithfully,

__________________________
Joe-Kyari Gadzama, OFR, MFR, SAN.
JOM/SJA

CC:

Mr. Tobi Adebowale,
The Chairman,
Young Lawyers Forum
National Secretariat, NBA House,
Plot 1101 Mohammadu Buhari Way,
Central Business District,
Abuja.

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EDITORIAL: THE JURIST AS A PUGILIST: WHY DANLADI UMAR MUST GO

On March 29, 2021 the public was treated to a bizarre tragi-comedy through a viral video clip where a high-ranking jurist and Chairman of the influential Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr. Danladi Yakubu Umar unleashed a slap on a hapless security guard at the popular Banex Plaza in Wuse, Abuja.

The victim, one Clement Sargwak, a 22-year-old employee of Jul Reliable Guards Services Limited posted as a security guard to the plaza, recounts the vicious and inglorious assault thus: “After I informed him (Mr. Umar) about his wrong parking, he came out and slapped me, when he slapped me the driver also came down and slapped me and they tore my uniform and they stepped over me severally.

“…. When the man arrived with the security men, the Oga (Mr. Umar) slapped me again in front of the police and ordered a police officer to also slap me, which he did and thereafter ordered me to kneel down and I obeyed. As I went on my knees, the Oga (Mr. Umar) also kicked me in my face and hit my mouth.” Mr. Sargwak has a clearly bruised lip to show for the physical assault on him by Mr. Umar.

Mr. Samuel Ihensekhien, a solicitor for BANEX Plaza, alleges that “It was brought to my attention that on March 29, Mr. Sargwak was assaulted and harmed and was on the verge of almost being killed by Mr. Danladi Umar. And he was subsequently taken to the Maitama Police Station….

”They (the police) were very surprised, and the DPO saw the footage and immediately ordered he (Sargwak) be released on bail forthwith. He was then handed to the Banex manager and from there he was taken for medication.”

The unprecedented spectacle has expectedly caught the attention of a global audience and especially the legal community.

In a feeble and ill-advised attempt to exonerate himself from the macabre incident, Mr. Umar states that he “was accosted by the Plaza guard in a very rude manner on arriving there (plaza),” adding that he “was drawn into an unnecessary altercation and subsequently assaulted, with this degenerating into an attack and injury by a mob that was chanting secessionist and sectional slogans.”

Instructively, the much lampooned press statement by CCT’s Head, Press & Public Relations, Mr. Ibraheem Al-Hassan, also made reference to the alleged “mob” which he described as “consisting of BIAFRAN boys.” Mr. Al-Hassan would later admit that it was Mr. Umar who directed him to weave the “BIAFRAN boys” spin into the macabre tale. What is more, the statement went ahead to conclude that sympathy in such circumstances usually goes to the “low personalities.” Yet in a fleeting sombre moment, the CCT admits that the incident “ought not to have happened.”

Mr. Umar claims he has reflected on the incident, adding that “the entire incident was avoidable” and that “I regret being drawn into responding to the situation.” However, perhaps torn between ego and genuine remorse, Mr. Umar curiously feels “upset” and even “highly disappointed” that his action has been “misconstrued” in the narrative trending on social media!

The “Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers 2016” as issued by the National Judicial Council (NJC) states in Rule 1 (1.1) that “Propriety and the appearance of propriety, both professional and personal, are essential elements of a Judge’s life,” noting that “members of the public expect a high standard of conduct from a Judge.” When in doubt, a judge should ask the question: “How might this look in the eyes of the public?” The National Judicial Council directs in Rule Four 4(ii)(b) directs that “bad behaviour, whether in or out of Court” is a necessary disqualifying factor.

Notwithstanding the controversies that have trailed the recent recruitment of Court of Appeal judges, it is safe to conclude that the NJC would not have recommended a street-brawling jurist-turned-pugilist for appointment as a judge of the all-important Code of Conduct Tribunal. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that Mr. Umar superintends an entity that stands as a sentinel for good conduct among public officers. And to think that Mr. Umar has been the Acting Chairman or Chairman of CCT for more than 14 years!

It was in this exalted role that he sat in judgement on former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen. He was unsparing, at all times projecting himself as an epitome of good conduct and morality. Perhaps with hindsight, he was rather combative in dealing with the counsel that appeared before the tribunal.

What is more, in finding Justice Onnoghen guilty of non-declaration of assets, Mr. Umar based the tribunal’s judgement on the “admission by the defendant in his own handwriting ….,” adjudging same as “a partial confession.” He further held that “hard facts” had been adduced by the prosecution to establish its case. There is no gainsaying that aside from Mr. Umar’s admission of “being drawn into responding to the situation,” the “hard facts” in the public domain compel a guilty verdict against him.

It is recalled that Mr. Umar was on February 2, 2018 slammed with a two-count charge of corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged receipt of N10,000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira) bribe from one Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo, a former Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service sometime in 2012 for a favour to be afterwards shown to him in relation to a pending Charge (No. CCT/ABJ/03/12) and contrary to Section 12(1)(a) & (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003. The charges were however dropped.

We strongly deprecate the ethnic slurs prevalent in the statement authorized by Mr. Umar which border on xenophobia, contrary to section 26 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015 and punishable with 5 years imprisonment and/or a minimum N10 million fine. Also, to classify some Nigerians as “low personalities” is just as appalling and unacceptable. It raises the poser whether these categories of persons can ever obtain justice in Mr. Umar’s court.

It is apparent that the only ‘offence’ committed by the security guard is that, in the words of Mr. Umar, “I was accosted by the Plaza guard in a very rude manner on arriving there.” For a jurist who was acclaimed in the CCT’s statement to have frequented the Plaza for about 18 years, he must be aware of the presence of police operatives on the premises. That he opted to literally take matters into his own hands instead of order the arrest of the security guard to answer to any misfeasance is highly inappropriate and condemnable. It does grave injustice to the NJC’s Code of Conduct which especially admonishes propriety in all circumstances. Clearly, Mr. Umar performs adjudicatory and quasi-judicial functions. It is therefore immaterial that Mr. Umar is answerable to Nigeria’s President, and may only be removed by him upon endorsement by the National Assembly.

Mr. Umar has brought palpable odium to his high office. We call on Mr. Umar to immediately resign from office. It is the only path of honour to redeem whatever is left of his honour. In the event that he fails or refuses to do so, President Muhammadu Buhari should promptly activate the process for his removal by transmitting a letter to that effect to the National Assembly.

We commend the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for its resolve to prosecute Mr. Umar at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) if a prima facie case is established against him, and urge the lawyers’ association not to relent in this regard.

Finally, we urge the Nigeria Police to thoroughly investigate the incident – including the xenophobic slurs – with a view to bring any culprit to justice and ensure closure especially for Citizen Sargwak.

 

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EX NBA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, ARTHUR OBI-OKAFOR LOSES MUM

A former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) presidential candidate, Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor SAN has lost his mother, Iyom Roseline Chika Ijenwa Okafor (DMA).

Iyom Okafor reportedly died on March 24, 2021. A native of Enu Ogbu, Ogbu Abatete in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, Iyom Okafor was until her death a prominent community leader who also held several positions in the church.

A recipient of the “Diocesan Merit Award” of the Anglican Church of the Niger Diocese, Iyom Okafor was a member of the Niger Diocesan Board of the Niger Diocese of the Anglican Church. She also served as the Treasurer of St. Christopher’s Church, Onitsha and President of Abatete Anglican Church Women (home and abroad) among other positions.

She will be buried on May 21, 2021 at Abatete, Anambra State. She is survived by children, grand-children, sister, cousins, brother-in-law, sister-in-laws and other relations among whom is her eldest Son, Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor (SAN, FCIArb).

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. To ADVERTISE in CITY LAWYER, please email citylawyermag@gmail.com or call 08138380083. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

UNILAG ELECTS ATSENUWA, FOREMOST LEGAL SCHOLAR, AS NEW DVC

Professor Ayodele Atsenuwa of the Department of Public Law is the newly elected Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development Services) of the University of Lagos.

At the Statutory Meeting of Senate held on Monday, March 29, 2021, she polled a resounding 81 votes (63.28%) via an electronic voting process to clinch the coveted seat.

According to a statement by the leading citadel of learning, Professor Atsenuwa is a Professor of Public Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos. Her teaching and research interests are wide and traverse Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, Human Rights Law, Gender and the Law, Law and Religion as well as Health and Migration Law.

Within the legal academia, she is widely respected for her initiatives aimed at bridging the gap between legal academics and legal practice, and is acknowledged for her efforts at evolving more development-oriented law degree programmes in terms of content and teaching methodologies.

Outside the university system, Professor Atsenuwa has done much to contribute to closing the gap between legal theory and practice and to the advancement of sustainable development in Africa through her leadership engagements. A member of the Institute of Directors (IOD), she has served on the boards of several institutions and organizations, including the Legal Research and Resource Development Centre, CLEEN Foundation, Orderly Society Trust, Partnership for Justice, Girls’ Power Initiative, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Council of Legal Education of Nigeria, Lagos State Office of the Public Defender, Lagos State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy, National Advisory Committee on APRM-NEPAD and the NBA Task Force on the North-East.

She has consulted for various international development organisations including the United Nations, European Union , UK-DFID/British Council, United States Agency for International Development, Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, among others.

Professor Ayodele Atsenuwa is the immediate past Dean of the Faculty of Law and comes into her new office with substantial administrative and community service experience.

Her appointment took effect from Monday, March 29, 2021.

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NBA MAY DRAG CCT CHAIR TO DISCIPLINARY C’TE OVER ALLEGED ASSAULT

  • VOWS TO INVESTIGATE THE MATTER

  • CCT CHAIR MAY BE DISBARRED

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) may drag the embattled Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr. Umar Yakubu Danladi to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) of the Body of Benchers for professional misconduct.

An indication to this is contained in a press statement by the NBA over the alleged assault by the CCT Chairman on a security guard which was caught on a video that has since gone viral.

Giving an indication that the lawyers’ body may have made up its mind on the controversy, the association said it “frowns at any display of naked power by a public officer especially one who, by virtue of his high office, is expected to exhibit a high standard of conduct,” adding that “The situation is all the more critical when it involves the head of an agency of government set up to ensure compliance, by public officers, with the code of conduct.”

Noting that Danladi “is expected, by the extant rules that regulate the conduct of legal practitioners in Nigeria, to maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and not to engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a member of the legal profession,” NBA stated that “Prima facie evidence available at the moment raise questions regarding whether such standards have been met.”

Signed by the NBA Publicity Secretary, Dr. Rapulu Nduka, the statement concluded that “In view of the foregoing, the NBA shall through its relevant Committee, investigate the circumstances leading to the altercation, and depending on its findings, will ensure that appropriate action is taken to address this occurrence.”

The 15-member NBA Disciplinary Committee is chaired by Mr. Yunus Ustaz Usman SAN and co-chaired by Funke Aboyade, SAN.

It is recalled that the CCT Chairman was caught on video camera together with his security detail allegedly assaulting a 22-year-old employee of Jul Reliable Guards Services Limited posted as a security guard to the Banex Plaza in Wuse, Abuja. The victim has reportedly been hospitalized and was quoted by an online newspaper as expressing worry over his safety.

A press statement by CCT’s Head of Press and Public Relations, Ibraheem Al-Hassan admitted that there were exchanges between the CCT Chairman and the security guard, adding that “An incident like this when it happened (sic), sympathy usually goes to the low personalities. Though is (sic) unfortunate as I said, it ought not to have happened.”

Also speaking on the matter, longstanding LPDC Prosecutor, Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN said: “From the press statement of the CCT which cannot be issued without the approval of the chairman and which press statement has not been denied by CCT HQ, it is my respectful view that the Chairman’s conduct in the circumstances in engaging in public altercations with security man was undignified of the office of Chairman of CCT. That conduct ought not to be celebrated by any right-thinking members of the society.

“As lawyer and chairman of CCT no reasonable person should celebrate the conduct of the chairman as corroborated by the press statement. The government must not allow this matter to be swept under the carpets. It is not one of those issues that should be treated with levity.

“The HAGF and FGN must not condone this conduct. It must take action.The Chairman cannot be allowed to be sitting over conduct of other public officers when his conduct is in public court.”

If NBA files a petition at the LPDC and Danladi is found guilty, he may have his name struck off the roll of legal practitioners. It is recalled that the CCT Chairman headed the tribunal’s panel which gave an unprecedented order removing former Chief Justice of Nigeria, retired Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen from office.

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ENUGU MAGISTRACY SAGA: ‘MY STORY,’ BY ‘REMANDED’ LAWYER

MR. FIDELIS OKEKE is the lawyer in the eye of the storm. He was reportedly remanded by His Worship, Ezeobi Ngozi Anidi (Mrs.), a Chief Magistrate sitting at Agbogugu Magistrates Court in Enugu State, in lieu of his client. In this no-holds-barred interview with CITY LAWYER, he chronicles the eventful proceedings that have caught the attention of the nation’s legal community

Please briefly introduce yourself
I’m Okeke Chinweze Fidelis Esq., also known as F. C. Okeke Esq. I am a legal practitioner of No. 33 Ogui Road, Enugu. I wish to state my ugly experience at the Magistrate Court, Agbogugu on 16th March, 2021 where I was detained by the magistrate for inexplicable reasons.

We understand you were remanded by a magistrate due to the absence of your client. How true is this?
On 15th March, 2021, the Registrar of the Court by name Austin called me and informed me that the Magistrate told him to fix Charge No. CMA/12C/2017 for 16th March, 2021.

Immediately, I called my client who informed me that he was in Lagos. My client pleaded that I should represent him. On 16th March, 2021, the matter was called and both the Prosecutor and myself announced our appearances. I told the Learned Magistrate that the Registrar just informed me about the matter the previous day, that I called my client immediately but he was not around.

The Prosecutor did not object. As we were about to take date, the Learned Magistrate said, ‘Oh, I remember this case! This is the case I made an order and the accused is disobeying.’ The Magistrate started writing, after which she read what she wrote.
In her Ruling, she read that “the Court should be acknowledged and now justice and not a play house. In the regard the Counsel for the accused will remain in Police custody upon the production of his client.”

However, lawyers like Onwe Vincent Esq. (0803772xxxx), Gladys Ani and C. C. Agu (0803435xxxx) were in court, including the Prosecutor, Innocent Egbuaba (ASP).

The trending order has been cited as fake. How true is this?
Those who regard the order in circulation as fake are enemies of justice. On 16th March the order was made. I applied for the Record of Proceedings. If I go to MTN, I can get (call record) evidence that from that 16th March, 2021 the Registrar continued delaying to issue me the record and the ruling until 25th March, 2021.

I paid for the record of proceedings and a receipt was issued to me in regards to that. I have the receipt as evidence that I processed the Proceedings and the Ruling. Whatever that makes any person(s) to classify a genuine Order of Court as fake is strange to me. The person(s) can produce another one to contradict the one I have.
Again, those who regard the Order as fake ought to have verified if the signature in the Proceedings is that of a staff of Magistrate Court Agbogugu designated to sign such processes. I deem the allegation that the Order is “FAKE ” as laughable.

Tell us briefly about the facts of the case
The fact is that the Complainant is the step-sister of the accused (my client). The Complainant reported at Agbogugu Police that the accused person demolished her (complainant’s) father’s house and built a Duplex. The complainant claimed that her property inside was valued about N7 million. The accused was charged to court. Upon the accused’s arraignment, he was granted bail and the condition fulfilled by the accused person’s surety (not myself). Subsequently, trial commenced. PW1 testified and was cross examined.

On the day the matter was adjourned for PW2 to testify, the Prosecutor made an application for the accused person to give the Complainant one room in his (accused) house. The application was granted. Dissatisfied with the Order, the accused filed an action for judicial review, challenging the Order for Possession made by the Magistrate in a criminal matter.

The High Court, Awgu delivered Judgment against the accused person. Dissatisfied again, the accused filed a Notice of Appeal and Stay of Execution. The Stay of Execution is still pending at the High Court, Awgu in Suit No. HAW/2019.

On 8th December, 2020 the Magistrate – without any application before her – remanded the accused for contempt of court. Dissatisfied, the accused approached High Court, Awgu and was granted bail.

At Awgu High Court, the accused applied for the Order to be quashed based on INEC and Ejike Oguebego where the Supreme Court (coram Nweze JSC) held that where a defendant in a cause challenges the validity of an Order directed against him, either by way of an appeal or other application, he cannot be proceeded against for contempt of that order unless and until the issue of its legality is settled. Nweze JSC further held that for contempt exfacia curiae, a charge and plea are necessary and the accused is entitled to fair hearing.

Sadly, as if the Learned Magistrate had the intention to remand the defendant’s Counsel, at the bottom of the Order I secured, surprisingly the Magistrate wrote: “defendant council (sic) is to be put in Oji custody until he complies.”

In fact, one of the Judges at High Court, Awgu saw the order and started laughing and jokingly asked, ‘Counsel, why are you here instead of Oji Prison.’ Other lawyers started laughing.
The application the accused made was first ex parte and for stay of all actions; this was granted. After service of the processes, including hearing notice, the respondents didn’t oppose; in short, the lawyer to the Complainant at the lower court said that he was not opposed to the application. The High Court Awgu presided over by His Lordship N. Orji delivered judgment in favour of the accused on 25/3/21.

In the judgment, the remand of the accused without any contempt proceedings was quashed and the charge was transferred to Awgu Magistrates’ Court. The High Court Registrar said that the CTC of the Judgment will be ready this week.

Is it true that the remand order was discharged by the magistrate?
The lawyers I mentioned earlier pleaded for the Magistrate to discharge the Order but she refused initially. However, when the Magistrate finished all her matters, the lawyers continued begging until she read again that the Order was discharged. One of the lawyers had pleaded that instead of detaining a lawyer, a Bench Warrant be issued against the accused. The Magistrate then issued a Bench Warrant against the accused.

Surprisingly, when I got the Order from the Registrar, there was no discharge or Warrant of Arrest Order contained therein. Immediately, I asked the Registrar of the Court if that was the only thing on record and he said yes. I tried to find if he omitted some pages but he was firm that there was nothing more on the record of the Court for that day.

We understand the accused had a contempt order hanging on his head which had not been discharged. Could that be a reason the court was aggravated by his absence?
It is very interesting to point out that there is no contempt proceeding/charge against the accused person. The accused was always in court except that day that I was given a short notice. I immediately called the accused but he told me that he was not in town.

Could your attitude to the court have compelled the remand order on you?
I had never exhibited any unusual conduct in the Court, including the day the incident occurred. Ask lawyers that are always in the court. I had never behaved in any way that could have led to such incident. I never behaved in any reprehensible manner. My conducts have been that of a diligent lawyer.

We understand the order was promptly discharged by the magistrate, and that you suffered no hardship ultimately. Is this correct?
I maintain that I am still surprised that the Learned Magistrate purportedly feigned to have discharged the Order when she was about to rise because when she made the Order, lawyers in the court pleaded for her to discharge the Order but she refused. I had no option than to sit in the court hall because I was aware that an Order was made against me. When she finished all matters in the cause list, lawyers continued begging the Learned Magistrate; then she purportedly read that the Order was discharged and I was able to leave the court.

What is in circulation was the document the Registrar issued to me and nothing less or more. The document is genuine and I paid for it. In fact, the Order made by the Learned Magistrate is worse than the one in issue. I am also ready to produce all the documents I mentioned in connection with this case.

We understand that the matter has been transferred to another court. How does that make you feel?
From all indications, even the High Court Awgu saw reasons to transfer the matter; but all in all, I suffered because after the Order, I would have gone because I was supposed to go for check-up at the 82 Division Hospital due to my illness but I stayed until the court rose and read that I was discharged.

Given that the remand order was discharged by the court and that the matter is no longer before the magistrate, some may accuse you of seeking cheap publicity or sensationalizing the issue. What is your reaction to that?
Despite that the discharge order is not contained in paper circulating, I was purportedly discharged in the presence of the lawyers that pleaded. If I wasn’t discharged, will it be said that I disobeyed the Court or why did the police in Court not arrest me? Even the Complainant whom the Prosecutor said was in Lagos later appeared and was jubilating. I feel that some information can on interrogation come from the Complainant.

Before the paper even started circulating, I told many lawyers about my ugly experience in the court and how I was remanded. Also on the 25th of March, 2021, I informed my Lord N. Orji about how I was detained by the Learned Magistrate. On the same day, I applied for CTC of the proceedings, yet till date the Registrar has been telling me to come today, come tomorrow; though that can’t be a much barrier to me. I posted this issue in my ESUT LAW CLASS 05 WhatsApp group on 24/3/21 while we were discussing about the remand of an Abuja lawyer by the group.

The trending ruling does not show you were really discharged. Do you plan to take steps to remedy this?
As it stands now, it is obvious that the Order has not been discharged. My liberty is at stake because once it is an Order of a court, it is subsisting until discharged.

 

 

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NBA, JUDICIARY WADE INTO ENUGU MAGISTRACY REMAND SAGA

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Enugu State Judiciary have waded into the controversy trailing the alleged remand order on an Enugu-based lawyer by His Worship, Ezeobi Ngozi Anidi (Mrs.), a Chief Magistrate sitting at an Agbogugu Magistrates Court in Enugu State.

The social media was agog at the weekend following reports that a lawyer, Mr. Fidelis Okeke was ordered to be remanded in police custody following the absence of his client in court in Charge No. CMC/12c/2017, Commissioner of Police vs John Chidozie Igwe. Speculations were rife that the trending ruling was fake, prompting a frenzied debate among lawyers and jurists.

CITY LAWYER can authoritatively report that both the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Enugu State Judiciary have waded into the controversy with a view to unraveling the facts.

The first hint of NBA’s intervention was dropped by the National Welfare Secretary and Publicity Secretary Emeritus, Mr. Kunle Edun via an online post thus: “The NBA 1st Vice President is following up on the matter with the local branch. We are impatiently waiting for the report of the local branch intervention.”

When CITY LAWYER sought more clarification on the post, Edun, a human rights activist, said: “We want to get first-hand report from the branch first, which we are still awaiting.”

Confirming the interventions, Okeke told CITY LAWYER that both NBA Enugu Branch Chairman, Mr. Jude Ezegwui and the Chief Registrar of Enugu State Judiciary, Magistrate Kingsley Eze have got in touch with him.

While he had narrated his experience to the Chief Registrar, there are strong indications that the branch may have asked him to submit a written report on the debacle for onward transmission to the national body. “I plan to do so immediately I’m done with the two matters I have in court today,” he told CITY LAWYER.

Though Okeke claimed that the chief magistrate ordered his remand in police custody, some lawyers argued that the trending ruling was fake, as it was not signed by the magistrate. There were indications that the remand order was vacated by the court.

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ENUGU RULING: DIALECTICS OF CTC, REMAND AND LAWYER’S FREEDOM, BY PROF. RACE ACHARA

In this article, leading jurist and former Dean of Law, PROF. R. A. C. E. ACHARA tackles the claim that the certified copy of a trending ruling of an Agbogugu Magistrates Court presided over by His Worship, Ezeobi Ngozi Anidi (Mrs) which allegedly ordered a remand of one F. C. Okeke Esq, is fake and proffers a synthesis 

The beauty of law often consists in its long established rules for testing between opposed versions of a story.

Currently, there is a CTC of the court’s proceedings. A CTC is by our Evidence Act the equivalent of the manuscript record of the presiding magistrate. If it has been forged by the court’s registrar, we should all be alarmed and the felon should be prosecuted and dismissed from service. What was published is not an enrolled order where perhaps the registrar might, in the inevitable attempt at summarization, have lost the meaning intended by the adjudicator. But even here, the hoary legal principles provide an important safeguard. If it is an enrolled order drafted by the court’s clerk or registrar, the adjudicator himself must sign it. This affords such a magistrate the opportunity and duty to cross-check the draft. A CTC involves no summary. It is a direct capture ipsissima verba of the record made by the adjudicator on the record book. This is why there’s no legal necessity for the judge to sign it, having already signed the original record book from which it has been extracted by her own staff.

So, which of the two conflicting stories would lawyers accept under our age-old laws and practice procedures? The record book (extracted by the court’s registrar, at a fee, and under the judicial seal of Enugu State by the usual Evidence Act procedure of a CTC)? Or, a social media publication by a random lawyer (with no legal practitioner’s stamp and seal, no claim of representation for the Hon. Chief Magistrate, or any apparent nexus or employment with the Enugu State judiciary)?

Nota bene:

The two narratives conflict only on the matter of whether or not the learned magistrate made the order suggesting, as shown in the CTC of her own records, that learned counsel should be remanded in police custody until such a time as his contemptuous client is found to replace him in gaol.

The grammatical ambiguity might be good reason for the police not to detain the lawyer, but that is a different conversation altogether.

Other than in this respect, the body of the new narrative does not conflict with the gist of the CTC. It talks of the conduct of the client, which if proven, could warrant his committal to prison for contempt. Apparently, the learned Chief Magistrate had already indeed committed him (ostensibly in absentia) to prison. It did not address the CTC evidence that as a result of the client’s assumed peccadilloes, the Hon. Chief Magistrate turned her ire on the client’s counsel. Indeed, the narrative tends to buttress this.

This is no instance to throw the safety of fellow counsel to the dogs merely for representation of their clients in court. Unless taken to its legal limits, the precedent would be dangerous and only encourage any out of control adjudicator to gamble on an abusive, infra dignitatem imprisonment of a legal practitioner, in the malicious understanding that before its reversal, the humiliated fellow lawyer would have unjustly, even if for a few hours, been incarcerated in shame.

Chief Theodore Ezeobi, SAN, God rest his soul, would never tolerate this sort of humiliation. His name need not be dragged into this fiasco.

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ALLEGED REMAND ORDER: IN DEFENCE OF ENUGU MAGISTRATE, BY LAWYER

Following a trending ruling of an Agbogugu Magistrates Court presided over by His Worship, Ezeobi Ngozi Anidi (Mrs) which allegedly ordered a remand of one F. C. Okeke Esq, counsel for the accused person, MARY BASSEY GODWIN, ESQ. x-rays the proceedings and concludes that the entire saga is designed to smear the hard working jurist, adding that no lawyer was remanded in custody or mistreated

THE TRUE FACTS OF THE FABRICATED ORDER TO ARREST A LAWYER PURPORTEDLY ISSUED BY AN ENUGU MAGISTRATE CIRCULATING (IN) THE SOCIAL MEDIA

The complainant who claimed to be an only child of her parents, told the court on giving evidence that her father made her promise not to forfiet (sic) her father’s name in order to secure the family name.

Upon the death of her father, her mother married a woman into the family to bear children. The accused is said to be the produce of the said marriage.

Upon hearing, the complainant told the court she received a call from Lagos that her step-brother had demolished the house she built and has demolished her father’s house. She rushed down to the east and saw it was true. She went to the police station and made a formal complaint and the matter was brought to court.

Upon the commencement of proceedings, the complainant prayed the court that she was stranded and had no place to sleep each time she came to the village praying the court to allow her have a room in her father’s house pending the determination of the suit that her brother would not allow her into her father’s house any more.

The court gave a ruling ordering the brother to open a room for the sister pending the determination of the suit.
The court’s ruling was based on the Supreme Court case of Ukeje v Ukeje, the judgement of Honourable Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour (which now grants women from the Eastern part of Nigeria a right to inheritance).

The accused’s counsel appealed the ruling to the High Court Agwu, Enugu State. The High court upheld the judgement of the lower court and sent the case back to the magistrate court.

The magistrate then gave an order for the accused to make a room available to the complainant. In December 2020, the matter came up again before the magistrate. The court was informed that the accused had not carried out the order of court.

The magistrate again instructed the accused to carry out the order of the court or face a contempt charge. Yet again, the Accused did not carry out the order of the court. The accused told the court he would not give up a room for his sister. The court then ordered for the arrest of the accused who was in contempt of court for disobeying the order of court.

The accused was remanded in prison custody. At the next adjourned date, the complainant informed the court that the accused was not in prison custody and had been going about town bragging that his money is speaking and remains untouchable.

The court issued a warrant of arrest repeatedly and was told by both counsel and the prosecutor that they were unable to locate the accused. The complainant at the following hearing informed the court that the Accused was in the village.

On the 16th of March the matter came up .The court yet again asked if the accused has been seen, the counsel for the accused said no. The court yet again asked the counsel for the accused if he was aware that the accused is at large. Counsel for the accused, after a short silence told the court that the accused was sick.

After this revelation, the court addressed the other lawyers in court who immediately rebuked the counsel for the accuses (sic) and asked him to apologise to the court. Counsel for the accused pleaded with the court and undertook that by the next adjourned date, he will work with the police to produce the accused. The magistrate then issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the accused.

After that hearing, the spurious and fabricated document emerged on social media in an attempt to intimidate the court.

Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Muhammad Aliyu and the officiating DPO, Mr. John Igele, have both confirmed that the order to arrest a lawyer circulating on social media is a fabrication. It never existed nor was any lawyer arrested.

Mary Bassey Godwin, Esq.

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