➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Ojigho v. Nigerian Bar Association NBA & LPDC (2019) – SC
by “PipAr” B.C. Chima
Supreme Court – SC.295/2015
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Thursday, 21st February, 2019
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Infamous conduct of a lawyer;
Resting one’s case on prosecution case.
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Sidi Dauda Bage, J.S.C.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
M. Emeribe, Esq.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
A. Osigwe, Esq., for 1st Respondent.
A. Adedeji, for 2nd Respondent.
➥ CASE HISTORY
The 1st Respondent received a petition dated 14th day of June 2009 from the firm of Emeka Madiebo & Co against the Appellant for fraudulently increasing the price of a property which the Petitioner (Banjo Onanubi) paid the vendor through the Appellant. The Appellant added additional sum of N10 Million to the price of the property on the pretext that same would be paid over to the buyer. The Petitioner alleged that the Appellant failed to do so. It was alleged that the Appellant fraudulently induced the Petitioner into paying N40 Million for a property instead of N30 Million that was demanded by the vendor.
This is an appeal against the direction of the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) of the Body of Benchers contained in the Direction of the LPDC dated December 2nd, 2013 which found the Appellant guilty of infamous conduct in the course of discharging his professional duties as a legal practitioner contrary to Rules 1, 14 and 15 (3) of the Rules of Professional Ethics and punishable under Section 12 (1)(a) of the Legal Practitioners Act 2004 (as amended). Consequently, the Committee directed that the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria should strike out his name from the Roll of Legal Practitioners. Being dissatisfied with the Direction, the Appellant exercised his constitutional right of appeal to this Honourable Court vide a Notice of Appeal of five (5) grounds dated and filed 20th December, 2013.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether having regard to the evidence led before the LPDC (2nd Respondent) by the 1st Respondent, the 2nd Respondent was right in coming to the conclusion that the allegation of infamous conduct in discharging professional duties has been sufficiently proved to warrant the direction that the Appellant’s name be struck off the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. “By virtue of Rule 1 of the Rules of Professional Ethics, 2007, the general responsibility of a lawyer is to uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the course of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner. Clearly, the Appellant acted contrary to his oath as a legal practitioner when he misled the Petitioner to purchase the property at a price other than that which was fixed by the owner. Assuming the Appellant was beclouded’ by a sense of professional duty of maximising the benefit or gains for his client, he had clearly breached this by refusal to pay-over the N10 Million balance demanded and collected in excess of the price fixed for the property. The LPDC was justified in its finding of fact that in the circumstances of this case, the Appellant owed a fiduciary duty to both parties in respect of the transaction. This has been breached.”
B. “ There is further corroboration by the fact that the Appellant had admitted the wrong-doing and actually paid back the sum of N3 Million and issued a post-dated cheque for the balance of N7 Million to the PW-1 (the Petitioner) which cheque was countermanded and dishonoured on the instruction of the Appellant. Amidst this ocean of evidence, the Appellant still decided to take a plunge into selfdelusion by resting his case on that of the Respondents by refusal to call evidence in support of his defence. It is my humble view that being fully conscious of the fact of his conduct in the case, the Appellant took a big risk by resting his case on the Respondents. This has an implication.”
“I hold that this appeal lacks merit and fails in whole. The appeal is accordingly dismissed. The direction of the 2nd Respondent (the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) of the Body of Benchers) dated December 2, 2013 is hereby affirmed. There shall be no order as to cost.”
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)