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ICPC lawyer’s qualification: Court dismisses suspended UNICAL professor’s motion



A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday dismissed a motion filed by Prof. Cyril Ndifon challenging the qualification of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC)’s lawyer, Osuobeni Akponimisingha.

Justice James Omotosho, in a ruling, held that the application and counter affidavit filed by parties in the controversy over the legal qualifications of Akponimisingha and defence counsel, Joe Agi, SAN, was not for the court to determine.

According to Justice Omotosho, the Legal Practitioners’ Privilege Committee is the appropriate body to determine whether a lawyer is on its roll call.

“it is clear that the committee can investigate such allegations upon a petition by any of the party,” the judge said.

NEWSVERGE reports that Ndifon, the suspended Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Calabar (UNICAL), and his co-defendant, Sunny Anyanwu, had alleged that Akponimisingha was not qualified to practise as lawyer.

The duo, through their lawyer, Mr Agi, insisted that Akponimisingha’s name was allegedly not on the roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria pursuant to Section 2 of the Legal Practitioners Act.

They argued that the four-count amended charge preferred against them by ICPC was incompetent as a result of the disputed identity of the anti-graft agency’s lawyer.

They said the development had robbed the court of its jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

They, therefore, prayed the court to quashed the charge against them.

Akponimisingha, in his counter affidavit dated March 20, accused the suspended dean and his legal team of being jealous of his academic qualifications.

The lawyer, who attached his Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)’s Practising Licence document dated 2016 with the counter affidavit, said he graduated from law school.

He said contrary to the defence argument, the appellation “Dr” added to his name was as a result of an additional academic qualification acquired by him after he had been called to the Bar as a legal practitioner.

He equally alleged that the names of the lead counsel to the defendants, Joe Agi, SAN and other senior advocates appearing with him in the criminal case, were not on roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria with the appendage of “SAN.”

He argued that the fact that the appellation “Dr” was added to his name did not make the amended charge liable to be struck out.

Akponimisingha said he was duly called to the Nigerian Bar and had been licensed to practise law in the country.

“That I know as a fact that justices presiding over cases in courts in Nigeria were called to the Bar only with their given names without the appellation ‘Hon. Justice.’

“Therefore, the appellation ‘Hon. Justice’ added to their names by reason of their appointment as judges does not render their judgments invalid because their names do not appear on the roll call of Legal Practitioners as ‘Hon. Justices.’

“The name Joe odey Agi, SAN is not on the roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria. What exists on the roll is Agi Joseph Odey, year of call, 1985,” he said

Akponimisingha told the court that the present application by the defence was a delay tactics deployed to stall the smooth trial of the charge.

He urged the court to discountenance their plea.

Delivering the ruling on Thursday, Justice Omotosho held that the court would not embark on voyage of discovery on the accusation and counter accusation.

“This court will not embark on a voyage of discovery.

“This application is here by dismissed,” he said.

On the defence argument that the prosecution counsel failed to obtain a fiat from the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) before prosecuting the matter, the judge said the court would not embark on inquiries because even the AGF had not complained.

Besides, he held that the private prosecution lawyer to Akponimisingha was not the lead counsel in the matter and as such, he needs no fiat from the AGF to be part of the case.

“It is clear that the suit filed by the ICPC is proper before him,” Justice Omotosho held.

The judge, who expressed concern over the delay in the trial as a result of actions of the parties, said he would no longer entertain any objection during trial until the final written address.

“You are at liberty to raise any objection but it must be at the end,” he said.

The judge consequently adjourned the matter until June 19 and June 20 for defence.

NEWSVERGE reports that Ndifon was, on Jan. 25, re-arraigned alongside Anyanwu on an amended four-count charge bordering on alleged sexual harassment and attempt to perverse the cause of justice.

Taiye Agbaje

NEWSVERGE, published by The Verge Communications is an online community of international news portal and social advocates dedicated to bringing you commentaries, features, news reports from a Nigerian-African perspective. A unique organization, founded in the spirit of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, comprising of ordinary people with an overriding commitment to seeking the truth and publishing it without fear or favour. The Verge Communications is fully registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a corporate organization.



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