Okey Udah: Community jubilates as Body of Benchers disrobes lawyer earlier disrobed in UK for fraud, later accused & sacked by Village for land-grabbing, now terrorising & bullying the Community
Indigenes of Ire Village in Umuoji, Anambra State, activated their celebration mode after the Body of Benchers sitting at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) in Abuja disrobed Chief Vincent Okey Udah, who they accused and removed as Ichie Abosi of the Village over issues related to land-grabbing, criminal intimidation and conversion of public funds, as well as terrorising the Community with his ill-gotten wealth and power.
The Body of Benchers disrobed the embattled Chief on September 4, 2023, following a petition by one Chief Francis Maduabuchi Okafor and Mr. Chimee Nnaemeka, who had dragged him before the Body of Benchers over allegations of legal malpractices.
Chief Udahs’ woes, however, dates way back in 2009 when he was disrobed as a lawyer in the United Kingdom over fraud-related matters.
He was arraigned as a solicitor practising as Okey Udah & Co before England and Wales High Court (Chancery Division) in a case “The Law Society of England and Wales v Habitable Concepts Ltd & Anor” in 2010, where it was proved that between 6 November 2007 and 27 November 2007, he committed “large-scale mortgage fraud” to the tune of £5,779,166, after which he fled the United Kingdom.
The court judgement, wherein it was held that one Mr. Onyekechi Onuiri dishonestly assisted in a breach of trust by Okey Udah’s law firm, Okey Udah & Co, signed by Mr. Justice Norris, dated 21 June 2010, was sighted by News Band.
An investigation into the career of “Vincent Okey Udah” at the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in the United Kingdom revealed that he had been earlier struck off from 22nd September, 2009.
The result of the investigation at SRA was captured in the attached screenshot of the search result below:
Regardless of this humiliation, however, Okey Udah, who fled home to Nigeria, soon muscled his way into the legal practice and will later also super-impose himself upon his Village, which soon appointed him as a Member of Igwe Umuoji’s Cabinet to serve as Ichie Abosi of Ire Village.
It didn’t take long before the Villagers realized that they were courting a green snake in the green grass and, in a sudden turn of events, removed him as Ichie Abosi of the Village as well as Member of Igwe’s Cabinet.
This was contained in a letter signed by the President General of Umuoji Improvement Union of Nigeria, Mr. Victor Okechukwu Anyaegbuna, dated November 02, 2019, addressed to the Chairman, Council of Ndichie/Igwe in Council, Umuoji, and copied to the SPAD, Chieftaincy and Community Matters, all Members of IIC, all Village Chairmen, all UIUN Branch Presidents and all Umuoji Major Stakeholders.
They alleged that the respondent started selling portions of land belonging collectively to the Community and converting the proceeds of the sale to personal use.
The letter entitled “RE: Chief Okey Udah’s removal as Ichie Abosi of Ire Village and Member of Igwe’s Cabinet Umuoji“, was made available to News Band as evidence.
The letter reads in part:
“With reference to a letter to the President General, dated 09/10/2019 from IREH ABOSIUGO COMMUNITY UNION, Chief Okey Udah hereby ceases to be the Representative Ichie of Ireh Village and also ceases to be a member of the Council of Ndichie/Igwe’s Cabinet in any capacity whatsoever, effective from the date he was sacked by this Village Ireh.
“Constitutionally, it is the UIU that ratifies any Igwe or member of the Council of Ndichie (CON) commonly known as Igwe in Council (IIC) in Umuoji… made up strictly of representative Ichie of 23 Villages.
“The Village Representative Ichie are constitutionally nominated and… reserves the inalienable and exclusive rights to remove or depose their representative Ichie if found wanting in conduct or in any material particular.”
The letter concluded by warning all locals to quit dealing with Chief Udah in an official capacity as anyone doing so “does so at his or her own risk”.
See a copy of the letter attached below:
Yet, despite suffering a second debilitating humiliating defeat, Udah remained adamant and continued to constitute a threat and nuisance to the community.
Chief Okafor, one of the petitioners who dragged him before the Body of Benchers, told this medium that he wouldn’t stop selling the land belonging collectively to the Village and when confronted, boasted that the village cannot do anything to him.
Before the hapless villagers could say “Jack”, Okey Udah had already filed two suits against them with file numbers: HOD/13/2020 and HOD/MISC/26/2020, both pending at Ogidi High Court, Idemili Judicial Division of Anambra State.
The criminal purpose of the two suits will be unveiled in the course of this publication.
When the poor villagers could hardly breath, they then summoned courage and took their complaint to the Body of Benchers at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) in Abuja, where Okey Udah was compelled to face disciplinary committee on July 13, 2023.
News Band reached out to Chief Okey Udah for his reaction, a balanced reportage and fair hearing to the weighty allegations against him but in his characteristic nature, he dismissed the allegations as merely baseless.
He said he never committed any of the allegations levelled against him but that the matter is before the Disciplinary Committee which will be adjudicated on July 13, 2023, and declined further comment, according to him, “to avoid prejudice” in the matter.
For some reasons, the Disciplinary Committee could not adjudicate on his matter on July 13, 2023, rather, shifted the D-Day to September 4, 2023.
Time flew by very fast and before long the judgment day was here.
Onyeka Nwokolo and Ifediora Osegbo stood for the Respondent, Okey Udah before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (Body of Benchers) holden at Abuja in complaint no: BB/LPDC/389/2020.
The five judges, Hon. Justice (Dr.) Ishaq Bello, Chairman, Hon. Justice Aisha Bashir Aliyu (C. J. Nasarawa), Ahmed Mustapha Goniri Esq., Ebenezer Obeya Esq. and S. Obafemi Adewale Esq, SAN, took their seats after some two hours delays and the process began.
Background Facts about Barrister Okey Udah
The Applicants filed their Originating Application on the 24th December, 2020. Attached to the application were:
- A Statement of Facts dated December 4, 2020, captioned “A humble petition against Barrister Okey Udah, a legal practitioner called to the Nigerian Bar Association”, signed by five persons.
- A verifying Affidavit sworn to on 18th December, 2020 before the Commissioner for Oaths at the Onitsha Judicial Division of the High Court of Anambra State. The Deponent was Francis Mmaduabuchi Okafor, one of the Five (5) signatories to the Statement of Facts.
The Respondent in his Statement of Defence on Oath dated 8th day of June, 2021, characteristically denied all the allegations against him, saying:
“This petition was brought against me in a (sic) bad faith by the authors of the same as most documents that form the subject matter in this petition are the same subject matter of the cases between the authors of this petition and myself in Suit Nos HOD/13/2020 and HOD/MISC/26/2020 now pending in the High Court of Justice, Ogidi in Idemili Judicial Division of Anambra State of Nigeria.”
He produced acknowledged receipts of two loans of N200,000.00 and N1,500,000.00 respectively that he gave to the lreh Community signed by one Mr. Edwin Ofoegbunam.
Mr. Ofoegbunam however, in an affidavit of fact, denied writing or signing any of the documents earlier exhibited by the Respondent in support of his claims that the Ireh Community took loans from him in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Ofoegbunam, asserted in his affidavit that the two documents were forged!
When interrogated over his reported disrobement in the United kingdom, the Respondent claimed ignorance of the document printed out from www.sra.org.uk and insisted that he had never been “summoned or invited by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or any other body in United Kingdom with respect to alleged misconduct not to talk of suspension by the said purported body.”
He contended that the Affidavit of Facts sworn to by Edwin Ofoegbunam was “predicated on falsehood”, adding that even though the lreh Community had agreed to pay him N1,500,000.00 for the purpose of obtaining the said enrolment order which he applied for and obtained, the community has failed to pay him the money.
Issues for determination
In his Final Written Address, Okey Udah insisted that there is no competent Petition before the Committee and that the Applicants have proved no case of professional misconduct against him.
The Applicants, on their part, asked the Committee to determine whether the allegation of professional misconduct against the Respondent are proved and enough to indict him as charged, having regards to the totality of the evidence before the Committee.
The judgement against Okey Udah
The Committee, after carefully considering the arguments canvassed by the Respondent held that the processes filed by the Applicants, when viewed holistically, satisfy the requirements of LPDC Rules 2020.
It noted that Chief Okafor testified under cross-examination that it was the community that filed the petition, hence the case is a representative action and discarded the objection to the jurisdiction thrown by Okey Udah as unmeritorious.
On the contention that the Applicants have failed to prove their case, the Committee expressed conviction based on credible evidence that Udah was indicted for fraud and his name struck off the register/roll of Solicitors in the U.K.
It also agreed with the Applicants’ Counsel that the Respondent was not fit to continue to enjoy the privilege of practicing as a Legal practitioner in Nigeria, his name having been struck off the roll in the U.K. by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
In view of the uncontroverted evidence before the Committee that two issues are subject of pending litigation before the Anambra State High Court sitting in Ogidi, the Committee in line with established practice, declined to assume jurisdiction over this aspect of the complaint and directed the parties to abide the determination of Ogidi Court.
Respecting the submission of Ofoegbunam that Okey Udah forged the two documents, denying authorship of the documents thereof, the Committee admitted that it does not have the jurisdiction or facilities to conduct an investigation into the allegation of forgery neither does it engage handwriting experts.
The Body referred the matter involving the documents to the Anambra State High Court sitting in Ogidi and, therefore, refrained from any further comment on them.
Respecting the allegation that he is not fit to continue to practice as a legal Practitioner in Nigeria having been struck off the roll of Solicitors in the United Kingdom by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Body noted that the accused person had been prohibited from practicing as a Solicitor and struck off from the roll of Solicitors since 2009.
It also noted that Okey Udah, 49, disappeared after some U.K. financial institutions had been allegedly duped of cash in a financial Mortgage scam involving a Law firm where he was a partner, adding that the Law firm had been shut down as a result of the criminal act.
It stated: “We are satisfied that a computer print-out from a quoted and verified official website of the Solicitors Regulation Authority www.sra.org.uk is sufficient enough to raise serious concern on the part of the Respondent in this case for him to have personally verified the truth or otherwise of such a serious professionally indicting allegation since year 2009 or from when he became aware of the allegation.”
While agreeing that he who asserts must prove, the Body, however, said that “the burden of proof is not static”, especially in a situation as the given case where the assertion has been backed up with evidence, insisting that the burden of proving otherwise had shifted to the Respondent which he failed woefully to discharge.
The Committee stated further: “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 tailed to do in this case.
“In the light of the above, and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the Committee is of the opinion that the evidence given by the Applicants, in their processes filed in the registry of this Committee, backed by the Affidavit on oath filed on 20/09/2021, with the attached printout from the SRA website, to wit www.sra.org.uk coupled with evidence elicited under cross examination, is credible, believable and sufficient to found a prime facie case of misconduct, making the Respondent liable to be declared unfit to continue to practice as a Legal Practitioner in Nigeria.
“We are also of the opinion that the Respondent whether through the processes filed by him or under cross examination, has failed to refute, debunk or contradict such grave allegations.
“This is more so, particularly when the SRA was said to have struck off his name from the register for offenses bothering on fraud and dishonesty by way of his law practice, allegedly leading to his law firm being shut down in the UK.
“His claim of ignorance as we stated earlier, was not helpful to his case as it presented the picture of someone hiding behind one finger or an ostrich burying its head in the sand whilst its entire body is visible for the whole world to see.
“Nigeria must not be seen by the international community as a safe haven for fraudsters. More importantly, the Legal Profession in Nigeria cannot afford to be perceived as accommodating Legal practitioners of questionable character.”
In conclusion, the Committee affirmed that Okey Udah is unfit to continue to practice as a solicitor and advocate in Nigeria by reason of infamous conduct unbecoming of a lawyer and directed the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to strike off and remove his name from the Roll of Legal Practitioners domiciled in the apex court.
It also ordered him to desist from practicing or holding himself out as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria forthwith.
It further ordered that a notice of this Direction be immediately given and brought to the attention of the Respondent by publication in any edition of the PUNCH Newspaper and also by publication in the Federal Gazette which shall be deemed to be sufficient personal service on the Respondent.
The Order shall also be served on the Inspector General of the Police, the Commissioner of Police for Anambra State and the respective Commissioner of Police in the other States of the Federation.
With that pronouncement, the door to the criminal enterprise of Okey Udah was slammed shut right before his face, while the indigenes of Ire Village in Umuoji went home celebrating that their oppressor has been exposed and hamstrung judicially.
NEWS ALERT! All eyes on Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee as complainant raises alarm over the defendant, Barrister Vincent Okey Udah’s criminal antecedents as lawyer disrobed in UK over fraud