A Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja has dismissed a suit filed by a lawyer, Mr Beluolisa Nwofor challenging the withdrawal from him the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC).
Nwofor was the lawyer that represented Ali Modu Sheriff in a suit at the Court of Appeal, seeking the declaration of Jimoh Ibrahim as the authentic PDP candidate in the Ondo state governorship election of November 2016.
He accused the panel of Justices led by Justice Ibrahim Saulawa, which was presiding over the case, of bribery and bias, and he asked it to withdraw from the matter. Following the allegations, the court suspended its hearing until the Supreme Court gave it the go-ahead to do so. The appeal court eventually declared Eyitayo Jegede as the authentic PDP candidate for the election.
Based on the conduct of the lawyer at the Court of Appeal, the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal had petitioned the Chairman of LPPC, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen. The CJN set up a three man committee to investigate the allegation and make recommendations. Members of the committee inlcuded Justice Aloy Nwankwo, Chief Judge of Ebonyi State, Justice G.M Nabaruma, the Chief Judge of Yobe State, and Mr Awa Kalu SAN. The committee, after investigations recommended the withdrawal of the prestigious rank of SAN from him.
Not satisfied, Nwofor had approached the Abuja High Court seeking the order of court to nullify the decision of the LPPC on the basis that his fundamental rights as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution and the African Charter of Human Rights was infringed upon. He also asked the court to nullify the withdrawal of the rank of SAN from him as contained in the LPPC letter of June 23, 2017 and sort for damages in the sum of N5 billion, and public apology to be published by major newspapers in Nigeria.
The Respondent represented by Noh Abdul and Emmanuel Onoja filed a counter affidavit wherein issues were joined with the Plaintiff on the claims for infringement of his fundamental human rights.
In his judgement delivered on November 9, 2017, the judge, Justice O.A Musa said he was satisfied that the plaintiff accorded the respondent fair hearing. “The basic ingredient of fair hearing is that the court or tribunal or any other body must hear both sides on the material issues before it. The tribunal or any panel must give equal opportunity, treatment, and consideration to each party”, Justice Musa said, adding that the applicant’s right to fair hearing was not breached based on the facts and evidence before the court.
The judge concluded: “In view of the foregoing, the applicant has not established by any credible evidence that the respondent were biased against him. Consequently, the entire claim of the applicant lacks merit and is therefore dismissed”.