By Charles Nworie
It is no longer news that the PDP governorship candidate in Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah, dragged the APC deputy governorship candidate in Enugu State, Barr. George Ogara, and another lawyer, Mr. Ejike Obumneme, before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) for flagrant breach of the Legal Practitioners Rules of Professional Conducts 2007.
It is a well-known fact that many unscrupulous lawyers take advantage of a highly challenged system to file all manners of lawsuits and manipulate the judicial system to the advantage of their equally crooked clients.
It is against this backdrop that it becomes imperative to x-ray Mbah’s decision to seek actions by the LPDC to help rid the noble legal profession of bad eggs like Ogara and Obumneme, to preserve the sanctity of the profession and serve as deterrent to their likes.
Crux of the Matter: A Willful Misrepresentation of Facts to Mislead the Court and Destroy Another
On 7 December 2022, Ejike Obumneme Esq. filed a suit in the Federal High Court Abuja on behalf of Felix Ugwu, Jonathan Ndubuisi, Ikechukwu Eze, Agbachi Ude, Chris Ugwu and Emeka Aroh, in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2257/2022 seeking a declaration that by the express provisions of Section 182(1)(e) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the 1st defendant in the said suit (Dr. Peter Mbah) is ineligible to contest any election to the office of Governor of a State within a period of less than ten years from 7th day of July 2015. The suit alleged that Peter Mbah and the 2nd defendant (Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani) made a charge or plea-bargains and a plea of guilty was entered on behalf of them in Charge No. FHC/L/09C/2007 by the Federal High Court on July 7, 2015.
Consequently, they claimed that Peter Mbah became a convict as a result. The litigants further alleged that Justice M.N Yunusa of the Federal High Court found Peter Mbah guilty in the said Charge No. FHC/L/09C/2007 and imposed sentence of forfeiture of assets on him. The lawsuit equally alleged that the Federal High Court found Peter Mbah and the 2nd defendant guilty of money laundering offences in Charge Nos. FHC/L/09C/2007 and FHC/L/230C/2007.
However, the allegations against Peter Mbah as contained in the lawsuit filed by Ejike Obumneme Esq. on behalf of the plaintiffs were to Mr. Obumneme’s knowledge false and malicious, as Peter Mbah never entered into any charge or plea bargain howsoever in Charge No. FHC/L/09C/2007.
On the contrary, Mbah had been discharged from the said charge about two clear years before the alleged charge or plea bargain of July 7, 2015. Following an application by the EFCC through its counsel, Kevin Uzozie, in Charge No. FHC/L/09C/2007 (Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Nnamani Chimaroke & 11 Ors.), Justice M.N. Yunusa of the Federal High Court delivered a ruling on March 7, 2013 and discharged Mr. Peter Mbah and two other accused persons from the charge before the commencement of the trial.
So, clearly, the allegation as contained in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2257/2022 that a charge/plea bargain was made on behalf of Peter Mbah and a plea of guilty entered for him by Justice M.N Yunusa on July 7, 2015 was to Mr. Obumneme’s knowledge false, contrived and intended to mislead the court to disqualify Mr. Peter Mbah from the gubernatorial race, which he is running on the platform of the PDP. But as a lawyer, Mr. Obumneme undoubtedly knows or ought to reasonably know that Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2257/2022, which he filed on behalf of the litigants, is intended to maliciously injure and destroy Mr. Mbah’s political ambition and his reputation as a renowned entrepreneur because there is no way someone, whose name was struck out of a charge sheet at the instance of the prosecutor in 2013 would have become a party to any plea bargain two years later in 2015 as alleged.
Interestingly, the 1st Plaintiff in the controversial lawsuit (Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2257/2022), Mr. Felix Ugwu deposed at paragraph 13(c) of the affidavit in support of the originating summons, that George Ogara, who is a legal practitioner and deputy governorship candidate of APC in Enugu gave him the false facts at the latter’s office in Enugu on October 10, 2022. Yet, those facts were to Ogara’s knowledge false and malicious since Peter Mbah had been discharged from the said suit two years before the alleged plea bargain.
Since George Ogara is the deputy gubernatorial candidate of the APC party in Enugu State for the 2023 election, does anyone need the gift of clairvoyance to know that he deliberately and deviously cooked up the stories against the person of Peter Mbah in furtherance of his political ambitions?
SPECIFIC RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT 2007 VIOLATED
Every trade has its rules of professional conduct to protect the society from any abuse and also preserve the reputation of the profession, and the legal profession is not left out. In fact, it is one of the professions that have strictly applied their rules. Some lawyers have been disbarred, while some Senior Advocates of Nigeria have been stripped of that privilege. In this instance, Obumneme, who relied on the “facts” Ogara provided has clearly breached Rules 1, 15, 24, and 32 of the Rules of Professional Conduct 2007 as hereunder abridged. Ogara, on his part, urinated on Rule 1 of “The Rules of Professional Conduct 2007”.
*General Responsibility of a Lawyer:*
Rule 1: A Lawyer shall uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the cause of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner.
*Representing Client within the Bounds of Law:*
15(2) In his representation of his client, a lawyer shall-
(a) Keep strictly within the law notwithstanding any contrary instruction by his client and, if the client insists on a breach of the law, the lawyer shall withdraw his service;
(b) not file a suit, assert a position, conduct a defence, delay a trial, or take over action on behalf of his client when he or ought reasonably to know that such action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another;
(c) not knowingly advance a claim or defence that is unwarranted under existing law, but he may advance such claim or defence if it can be supported by argument in good faith for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law;
(g) not knowingly make a false statement of law or fact;
(h) not counsel or assist his client in conduct that the Lawyer knows to be illegal or fraudulent.
*Responsibility for Litigation:*
24(3) A lawyer shall not conduct a civil case or make defence in a civil case when he knows or ought reasonably to know that it is intended merely to harass or to injure the opposite party or to work oppression or wrong.
*Candid and Fair Dealing:*
32(1) In appearing in his professional capacity before a Court or Tribunal, a lawyer shall not deal with the Court otherwise than candidly and fairly; or
(j) promote a case which to his knowledge is false; or
22(k) in any other way do or perform any act which may obviously amount to an abuse of the process of the court or which is dishonourable and unworthy of an officer of the law charged, as a lawyer, with the duty of aiding in the administration of justice.
So, clearly, by filing a lawsuit, which he knew its intent is anything other than pursuit of justice; by joining in the creation and use of a palpably false evidence as contained in the affidavit in support of the originating summons in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/2257/2022; by filing a lawsuit fraught with malicious, false and misleading information in a desperate move to mislead the court and destroy Peter Mbah’s political ambition and his standing as an entrepreneur, it is correct to conclude that Ejike Obumneme, a lawyer called to serve in the temple of justice, has desecrated that hallowed temple and also acted in a most malicious, dishonorable and devious manner unworthy of an officer of the law charged with the duty of aiding the administration of justice? Likewise, Ogara has behaved in a manner that shames his age and the noble legal profession.
According to the Holy Scriptures, unless judgment against an evil work is executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men will be fully set in them to do evil. The LPDC should therefore act expeditiously on these petitions to save the nation’s democracy and the legal profession. Let the hammer fall, and let it fall hard too.
Nworie writes from Enugu.