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`Charge and bail’ staining Nigeria’s legal practice – lawyers cry out




Lagos, March 12, 2019 Worried by dwindling ethical conduct in the legal profession, some lawyers have called for sanctions against those who `chase briefs’ in the guise of rendering legal assistance.

The lawyers told the News Agency of Nigeria that the integrity of the legal profession would be best preserved, if penalties could be imposed on those breaching ethical standards.

They stressed the need for continuous and diligent observance of the rules of professional conduct for lawyers.

NNN reports that “chasing of briefs” is a practice where lawyers beg for legal representation of clients for a fee; it is also described as “ambulance chasing” or “charge and bail”.

Some lawyers on Tuesday condemned the practice and spoke on the required ethics for lawyers.

A constitutional lawyer, Mr Samuel Esoga said: “I do not encourage ambulance chasing by legal practitioners.

“The emphasis should be on professionalism which, most of the time, is lacking in service delivery by lawyers or law firms.

“Once professionalism is embraced, the problem is half solved.”

According to Esoga, poor remuneration of lawyers contributes to unethical practice.

“Very low remuneration makes some lawyers to adopt this ingenious and unprofessional way of making money,” he said.

He, therefore, called for improved remuneration for lawyers as a strategy to eliminate `charge and bail’.

A commercial law expert, Mr Godwin Adelemoni, expressed sadness that `charge and bail’ had characterised much of legal practice in Nigeria.

“It is generally frowned at, but not enough is done to curb it; it is unethical and unprofessional particularly bearing in mind the way many of these lawyers jostle for clients in open court.

“Many have been seen to engage in verbal confrontations in the process; to curb this disgraceful act, the NBA must take the first step by working to sanitise the profession.

“As a result of the activities of these lawyers, many in the public now see the legal profession through the prism of unprofessional acts.

“In my opinion, it is for the NBA, being the professional body, to take the first step of weeding out the bad act,” he said.

A rights activist, Chief Malcolm Onirhobo, told NNN that `ambulance chasing’ or `charge and bail’ lawyers ran fowl of the provisions of the rules of professional conduct.

“It is degrading, dehumanising and disgraceful for a legal practitioner to engage in such a practice; the argument that young lawyers are facing economic hardship which makes them to engage in such a practice for survival seems to be weighty in a country like Nigeria.

“In view of this argument, it is imperative for the NBA and other statutory bodies to intervene and alleviate the plights of these young lawyers through establishment of a regime of adequate pay for lawyers,” he said.

According to Omirhobo, lawyers should consider partnerships also as a strategy to address the situation.


Benue Governorship: Appeal court reserves judgment in appeal challenging Ortom’s re-election G



The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Thursday reserved judgment in an appeal challenging the re- election of Samuel Ortom’ s as Benue governor.

Emmanuel Jime of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had challenged the return of Mr Ortom of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the grounds of substantial noncompliance with the provisions of Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.

Also joined in the petition were the PDP and INEC.

The five- man panel of the appellate court presided over by Justice A.A Begore after listening to the brief of arguments by the counsel in the matter reserved judgment to a date that  would be communicated to parties.

Mr Yusuf Ali, SAN, counsel for the appellants in his brief of argument urged the panel to find merit in the appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower tribunal.

All the counsel for the respondents,  Mr Offiong Offiong , SAN for INEC,  Mr Sabestine  Hon, SAN for Ortom and Mr Chris Uche, SAN for PDP in their various brief of argument urged the panel to dismiss the appeal with substantial cost. The petitioners alleged in their petition that Ortom was not dully elected by majority of lawful votes cast and there were issues of over voting.

The APC governorship candidate also challenged the results declared in Buruku, Gboko, Guma, Gwer East, Gwer West, Konshisha, Kwande, Logo, Ukum, Ushongo and Vandeikya.

He therefore asked the tribunal to either declare him winner of the March 2019 governorship election in Benue or nullify Ortom’s election and order the conduct of a fresh election in the state.

NAN reports that at Benue Election Petition Tribunal, the petitioners called 59 witnesses who testified that they witnessed irregularities, over voting and other electoral malpractices perpetrated by the PDP and INEC during the election.

 The respondents stated that the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act 2010 as amended, adding that non-substantial compliance did not affect the result of the election.

During the hearing of the petition Ortom called only one witness while the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC did not call any witness.

 The Governorship election sitting in Makurdi on Oct. 7 dismissed the petition of Jime.

The Tribunal presided over by Justice Henry Olusiyi, in its judgment held that the  Petitioner’s witness statements were contradictory, unreliable and not credible.

The panel added that their statements were incompetent and their inability to identify documents and link them to the case which amounts to dumping the materials on the tribunal.

Olusiyi also held that the petitioners failed to prove the allegation of over voting, noting voters’ register and not the smart card reader remains the valid method to ascertain the number of registered voters in an elegant.

“Card reader can only be alternative and admissible if the National Assembly amends the Electoral Act to provide for it” the panel held.

He added that  witnesses failed to prove allegation of over voting to warrant the cancellation of votes in polling units. (NAN )

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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Alleged P&ID scam: EFCC files fresh charges against Briton



The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Thursday, filed fresh charges against James Nolan, a Briton, at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The EFCC’s Counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, had, at the resumed trial, told Justice Okon Abang that the anti-graft agency had filed an additional proof of evidence dated Nov. 20.

The lawyer said the EFCC brought up a fresh 32-count charge against the defendants in the case contrary to the initial 16-count charge bordering on money laundering.

Nigeria News Agency reports that EFCC had, on Oct. 21, arraigned Nolan and Adam Quinn (at large), both British nationals, over their alleged complicity in the 9.6 billion dollars judgment against Nigeria.

Process and Industrial Development (P&ID), an Irish engineering company, had secured the award against Nigeria following the non-execution of a 20-year gas and supply processing agreement (GSPA) the company had with the federal government.

The arraignment of the two British nationals is coming weeks after two P&ID directors were convicted over the deal.

The defendant are both directors of Goidel Resources Limited, a Designated Non-Financial Institution (DNFI) and ICIL Limited.

Paul Erokoro, SAN, counsel to Nolan, though acknowledged that the new count-charge was served on him, said he was served with not only the amended charge alone but an amended proof of evidence.

However, the EFCC lawyer Iheanacho, corrected that what was served was not an amended charge but an additional proof of evidence.

He urged the court to grant his prayer for the amended charges to be read to the defendant for his plea to be taken.

Erokoro did not raise any objection to Iheanacho’s prayer.

Nolan, however, pleaded not guilty to the 32-count charge.

Justice Abang, therefore, ordered Iheanacho to call his first prosecution witness for continuation of the trial.

NAN recalls that the EFCC’s lawyer had, on Wednesday, called his first prosecution witness, Mr Agunbiade Adewale Akinseye, an account officer with the Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB).

Erokoro at the Wednesday’s hearing demanded for the original of the witness’ statement to aid the cross-examination, but the EFCC’s lawyer, though said he was not with it in the court, he promised to make it available after the sitting.

The defendant counsel, at Thursday’s proceeding, told the court that the anti-graft lawyer had made the statement available to him.

However, the EFCC kicked against the admission of the witness’ statement in the trial of Mr Nolan.

Akinseye had made the statement in writing to EFCC in which he chronicled how about eight accounts linked to the controversial oil and gas supply contract was opened in 2006 and operated till date before the sponsors of the company were arrested in connection with the failed oil and gas deal.

The witness, who was led in evidence by Iheanacho, had told the court how huge amounts in dollars were transferred in batches from P&ID Ltd accounts overseas into its subsidiaries’ accounts in Nigeria (P&ID Nigeria Ltd) through GTB.

The witness also told the court how huge sums running into millions of Naira were also transferred from one of the subsidiaries to another, especially Goidel Resources Nigeria Limited and ICIL Nigeria Limited.

Disagreement however erupted during cross-examination by counsel to the defendants when the witness admitted that there was nothing unusual in foreign companies transferring money to their subsidiaries in Nigeria legally.

The witness further told the trial judge, Abang, that his bank, GTB, would not have accepted the transfer of the foreign currency from outside the country if it were not for legitimate purposes.

Erokoro, who cross examined the witness based on his written witness statement to EFCC, applied to tender it as exhibits to assist the court deliver a fair hearing in the case.

However, the request was vehemently opposed by EFCC’s counsel, who stated that the defence counsel did not lay foundation for admission of the statement.

Iheanacho insisted that the witness statement can only be tendered if it was for the purpose of discrediting the oral testimony of the witness.

But Erokoro expressed worry on why the EFCC objected to admitting its own statement, adding that the witness was accurate in the statement he made to the anti-graft agency.

Justice Abang however fixed December 6 for ruling on the admissibility or otherwise of the statement and for continuation of the trial.

Among the fresh charges brought against the Briton and the two companies by the EFCC include money laundering, tax evasion and failure to disclose their activities to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in line with the Money Laundering Act.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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I did not test my daughter’s virginity, man tells court



A 37-year-old commercial motorcyclist on Thursday told an Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court that he did not use fingers to check his  daughter’s virginity.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the driver is facing a charge of sexual assault by penetration, contrary to Section 261 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

The defendant, who testified solely for defence, denied the allegation, saying that the 12-year-old daughter (name withheld) was poorly behaved and kept bad company.

He was led in evidence by defence counsel, Mr Adeyemi Adepite.

“My daughter is following bad friends, my neighbours said all sorts of things about her. I did not believe it until I saw it myself.

“On Nov. 21, 2017, I saw my daughter with some boys while her brother was in the house watching television. When I called her name, the boys ran away and I asked her to tell me who her boyfriend was.

“When I tried to beat her, she tried to fight me like those friends of hers who beat up their parents. That was the reason I beat her that day,” he said.

He denied  seeing his daughter’s nakedness.

He added that he beat his daughter once in 2017,   saying that a report stating that she endured numerous physical and sexual assaults from him was false.

While being cross-examined by Ms Inumidun Solarin,  prosecution counsel, the defendant denied attacking his daughter in vengeance because she looked like her mother who allegedly abandoned him.

Athough, he previously denied seeing his daughter nude, the defendant said during cross-examination that her clothes tore when she was fighting with him and he saw her breasts.

Showing the  defendant his statement to the police, Solarin requested that he should read  a portion aloud.

The portion of the statement said, “I beat my daughter last two weeks. As she was dragging with me, her dress tore, she was naked and I saw her breasts.”

Reacting to the statement, he said:  “I did not put my fingers in her private part to test her virginity. I did not tear her clothes.

“I do not understand my statement, I was close to fainting when the statement was written.”

Hiwever, the prosecutor said, “I put it to you that you sexually assaulted your daughter by putting your finger in her private part, you tore up her clothes because she refused to tell you her boyfriend.”

Justice Sybil Nwaka adjourned the case to Jan. 23, 2020, for adoption of final written addresses.

NAN reports that while giving evidence on March. 5, a medical doctor, Dr Alagbe Oyedeji, of the Mirabel Center (a sexual assault referral centre) narrated how Idoko  allegedly sexually assaulted his daughter under the guise of testing her virginity.

He had said: “The client declared in her history that her father though not married to her mother, had her and her male sibling living with him. Her ordeal started in 2016, a year before she was referred to the Mirabel Center.

“She said her father came home and said that he heard from people that she was no longer a virgin and he needed to test her to see if it was true.

“He forced her to undress and said he would use his finger to test her; the client was reluctant; he scolded her and eventually did it with his fingers.

“He also said that he would use his penis to examine her but she refused; he beat her and  started torturing her in the home because she kept turning down his requests,” the doctor said.

Oyedeji had also said that he conducted physical and systemic findings on the child which revealed signs of physical and sexual abuse.

According to the prosecution, the defendant committed the offence of sexual assault by penetration between July and November 2017 at his residence in Oworoshoki, Lagos.

Edited by Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)

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Driver raped employer’s daughter, witness tells court



A medical doctor, Olusegun Bankole, on Thursday told an Ikeja Special Offences Court that a 33-year-old driver, Francis Apai, raped his employer’s teenage daughter.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that Bankole, who works at the Alimosho General Hospital in Lagos, testified at the trial of Apai for sexual assault.

Led in evidence by prosecution counsel, Ms M. I. Oshodi, Bankola said that on Nov. 19, 2014, the day of the alleged assault, the 18-year-old complainant (name withheld) was accompanied into the emergency ward of the hospital by a group of people.

“She was said to have been raped by an adult male who she later identified as her parent’s driver.

“The history we got is that the man forcefully dragged her into a room and choked her in the neck with his hands.

“He overpowered her while she was struggling with him, and penetrated her vagina with his penis,” he said.

The doctor said that he made the findings  when he examined the complainant.

” We found a young girl with multiple bruises around her neck and around her two hands.

“We did a vaginal examination in her and it revealed that she had normal female genitalia with multiple bruises around her vulva and a freshly broken hymen,” he said.

The witness said that the complainant underwent some medical examinations and treatments to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Bankole testified that on request, he issued a medical report on the alleged victim to the police.

While being cross-examined by defence counsel, Mr Qudus Mumuni, the doctor said that based on the complainant’s history and physical examination, her hymen was ruptured by a penis.

He also said that his name and signature was on the medical report and that he did not see the defendant when the complainant was brought to the hospital.

According to the prosecution, Apai committed the offence on Nov. 19, 2014, in the complainant’s home in Lagos.

“The alleged  offence contravenes Section 259 of the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2011,” Oshodi said.

Justice Sherifat Solebo adjourned the case to Jan. 7 for continuation of trial.

Edited by Olawunmi Ashafa/Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)

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Dealers docked for allegedly receiving stolen car worth N3.5m



Two car dealers, Chidiebere Chrysller and Nnamdi Ogbuehi, on Thursday appeared before an Ogudu Magistrates’ Court in Lagos for allegedly receiving a stolen vehicle worth N3.5 million.

Chrysler, 28, and Nnamdi, 36, both residents of Alapere, Ketu, Lagos, were arraigned on a three-count charge bordering on receiving stolen property.

They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The Prosecutor, Insp. Donjour Perezi, told the court that the defendants committed the offences in April at Alausa Close, Off Emmanuel Street, Alapere, Ketu, Lagos.

Perezi said that the defendants and an accomplice, Pascal Ogbuehi, still at large, fraudulently obtained a red Honda Accord from the complainant, Mr Chinedu Anukem.

“Chrysller received the said Honda Accord  valued at N3.5 million from Paschal Ogbuehi,” he said.

The prosecutor said that the car belonged to the complainant, Mr Chinedu Anukem, adding that the defendants knew that the car was stolen.

“The defendants were apprehended by the police while trying to sell the car,” he said.

The alleged offences contravene Sections 94, 328 and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that Section 328 provides for a seven-year jail term for receiving stolen property.

Magistrate Bukola Mogaji granted each of the defendants N300,000 bail with two sureties each in like sum.

She adjourned the case until Dec. 16, for mention.

Edited by Tayo Ikujuni/Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)

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Alleged N92m fraud: Don’t grant suspected fake colonel bail, SFU tells court



The Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police Force on Thursday prayed an Ikeja Special Offences Court to deny bail to an alleged fake Colonel, Paulson Ogbonnah, who allegedly defrauded a businessman of N92 million.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that SFU counsel,  Mr E.A. Jackson, made the request  while responding to Ogbonna’s  bail application.

The application was filed by defence counsel, Mr Aramide Adeogun.

Jackson said that the court should deny the  defendant bail because he allegedly threatened the complainant.

The prosecution counsel added that the defendant  posed a flight risk.

“My lord attached to the counter-affidavit opposing the bail application are two exhibits labelled A to B1.

“Exhibit A is a bench warrant issued by Justice A. A. Aneke of the Federal High Court against the defendant for his failure to be arraigned on a similar charge pending before that court.

“Exhibit B1 is a piece of electronic evidence wherein the nominal complainant in this case, Mr Obinna Onyekaokwu, cried to the police that the defendant issued threats to his life.

“There is also intelligence that the defendant will relocate to the United States of America where his wife and children are hibernating,” Jackson said.

Justice Sherifat Solebo adjourned the case until Jan. 7, 2020, for ruling on the bail application.

NAN reports that Ogbonnah, said to be a civilian staff of the Ministry of Defence, was on Oct. 15 remanded by Solebo after his  arraignment.

He pleaded not guilty to obtaining money by false pretences, stealing by fraudulent conversion and impersonation.

According to the SFU, the defendant induced Onyekaokwu and his company, Mujede Nigeria Ltd.,  to deliver to him, directly and indirectly, N92 million by falsely representing to him that he was an army colonel.

“He told the complainant that by virtue of his high rank,  contacts and connections in the Nigerian Army, he was capable of influencing his appointment and registration as a contractor with the Nigerian Army.

“Ogbonnah told Onyekaokwu that his appointment as a contractor will enable him to supply the Nigerian Army with assorted brands of wine and other products.

“He also falsely represented to the complainant that the 92 million represented his registration fees, charges, expenses and rewards to facilitate the said appointment and registration as an army contractor.

“The defendant, however, fraudulently converted the complainant’s money to his own use,” prosecution counsel,  had Jackson, said.

The SFU prosecutor also alleged that Ogbonnah extended the scam to members of his church in Lagos.

“He also falsely represented to members of Saint Timothy’s Catholic Church, Ojodu Berger, Lagos, which is his church, that he was a colonel in the Nigerian Army,” he said.

The alleged offences contravene Section 1(1)(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006, Sections 108, 383(1), 383(2)(f) and 390(9) of the Criminal Code, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

Edited by Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)

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