Okey Udah appeals to Supreme Court over his disrobement by Body of Benchers
Writes Regent and Igwe-in-Council of Umuoji and asks not to be compelled to leave the meeting of Igwe-in-Council
Chief Vincent Okey Udah has filed an appeal at the Supreme Court of Nigeria against the judgment of the Body of Benchers sitting in Abuja at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) that saw him disrobed.
Chief Okey Udah filed the appeal against the Body of Benchers’ with the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), Chief Mmaduabuchi Okafor and Mr. Chimee Nnaemeka as Respondents.
In the Notice of Appeal filed on his behalf by Sir Mike Ezenwa, the Principal Attorney/Head of Practice of the Law Firm of Sir Mike Ezenwa, he expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of the five-man Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committe which has Justice Ishaq Bello, Hon. Justice Aisha Bashir Aliyu, Ahmed Mustapha Goniri Esq., Ebenezer Obeya Esq., and Obafemi Adewale Esq., SAN, as members.
The Committe had, on the 4th day of September 2023, in complaint no. BB/LPDC/389/2020: between Chief Mmaduabuchi Okafor & 1 Or v disrobed him after he was disrobed by the Solicitors Regulators Association (SRA) in the United Kingdom.
Okey Udah appealed to the Supreme Court on four grounds.
He challenged competence of the petition for non-compliance with the mode of commencement of petition under the Legal Practitioner Disciplinary Committee Rules 2020.
He also challenged the jurisdiction of the Committee to entertain and determine the petition for want of compliance with prescribed mode by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee Rules for commencing a petition.
Udah accused the Committee of non-compliance with the prescribed mode of commencing a proceeding, which he said affected the competence of the petition and the jurisdiction of the Committee to hear and determine the matter.
He further alleged that the Applicant did not join issues with him, contending that the petition did not comply with the prescribed mode of commencement.
According to him, the Committee was in obvious error when it reviewed the continued suitability of the Respondent to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
He also faulted the affidavit of fact in support of the Supplementary Statement of the Applicant sworn to on 28th September 2021 which, he noted, is a direct print-out from the SRA website that raised a credible alert for him to personally access and confirm the veracity or otherwise of the order.
He insisted that his traducers had the legal onus of proving that it was him that was indeed struck off the list of practitioners in the United Kingdom and not him as the Defendant, hence, challenged the mode and sufficiency of the evidence relied upon in proof.
Through his counsel, Sir Ejike Ezenwa, SAN, he stated: “The Committee erred in law when it held that the Appellant had the onus of rebutting whether he was the one struck off the roll of solicitors in the UK or not when the Respondent had argued that the Applicants had enough opportunity and time to have obtained certified true copies of relevant documents since 2020.”
On its part, the Committee had held: “We are equally of the firm opinion that these issues are serious enough to warrant the Respondent to have taken steps to clear his name since the Applicants petition was served on him. His failure to take such steps raise a presumption of culpability which only the Respondent can rebut. This he has failed to do in this case.”
In response, Udah noted further: “The Committee, having joined the conflict, did not state the particulars or details of the reasons why the person it determined was same as the Appellant was struck of the rolls of solicitors in the UK.
In the reliefs sought from the appeal, he urged the Supreme Court to allow the appeal and set aside the directions of the Body of Benchers with the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee.
Reacting to Okey Uda’s appeal, however, a concerned citizen of Umuoji, Chief Timothy Ojemba said:
“This legal document is quite instructing in challenging common sense. I am assuming that an armed robber attacked a bank and took a large sum of money from the banking Hall. The case goes to court and the judge convicted the armed robber for robbery.
“My question is: can the armed robber be allowed by law to continue in his business as usual while he appeals the case to a higher court? His appeal should have started in London, or does he think that Nigeria is heaven for criminals? Too bad.”
Going further, Chief Ojemba noted:
“Law practice in Nigeria and the dispensation of justice is fast assuming a licensed criminal enterprise.
“A lawyer and SAN in Nigeria takes brief from another lawyer derobbed in Britain for conviction as a felon without evidence of paying restitution or serving time. Is the SAN ignorant of the criminal history and antecedents of his client or are they fraternal criminal brothers?”
Meanwhile, in a related development, the Counsel to Okey Udah, the Law Firm of Sir Mike Ezenwa, in a letter dated 20 September 2023, addressed to “The Regent and Igwe-in-Council of Umuoji in Idemili North LGA Anambra State, entitled “Striking off name of a legal practitioner from the Roll of Legal Practitioners by the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court“, faulted the action of Chief Maduabuchi Okafor.
Chief Okafor had written a letter to the Igwe-in-Council through the Regent to the effect that Udah’s name has been struck out from the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria and asked him to leave the meeting of the Igwe-in-Council.
The Counsel noted that Chief Okey Udah is entitled to challenge/appeal the direction at the Supreme Court and once an appeal is filed/lodged, every action on the direction is suspended or stayed until the conclusion of the appeal.
The Counsel stated: “Chief Udah has been advised about the process that resulted in the said direction and he has activated and lodged an appeal.
“Until the appeal is disposed of and determined one way or the other, he is entitled to all the privileges and rights of a legal practitioner on the Ron of Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“It is instructive to draw your kind attention to Section 12 (8) of the Legal Practitioners Act (as amended) 2014 which provides as follows: “A direction of the Disciplinary Committee under subsection (1) or (2) of this section shall take effect -(a) Where no appeal under this section is brought against the direction within the time limited for the appeal, on expiration of that time.”