Diary of a Lagos Rookie Lawyer (10): Falsely Accused (II)

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The atmosphere that greeted my entrance to the office was beyond description. For the first time since after joining the firm, I felt like a stranger. My heart was racing, my mind was running in so many directions. It was a situation where, “Cece we do not require your services anymore” would be celebrated. How do I get out of this? Who would bear me witness? How did I get into this in the first place? I remembered God and all I could mutter to him as I climbed the stairs was; “Father, but I prayed about this day and committed it into your hands!”

“Cece, please try to recall, try please, try. This would destroy me, it would destroy everything I have worked for all these years.”

My lines Manager, SO, spoke in such desperation I have never seen before. I felt a heavy lump on my chest, like a big stone. I was finding it difficult to breath. IOD came out and began to speak like the mother hen she is.

“SO calm down please, let her think, give her time, she needs to settle down and try to remember all that happened after the meeting”

“I don’t have the time to wait for her to settle down, don’t you get it? Those documents have to be filed in the next 30 minutes! Do you realize what this means? SO roared!

I stood at one spot! The tears came and I soaked them! No you can’t cry Cecelia Eyisi. You cannot. I muttered.  I couldn’t utter a word! I mean where do I start from? IOD practically bundled me into her corner. For about 5 minutes she was talking to me and trying to get me to play back all that happened the day before. While we were on it, SAN walked in!

“SO, Terms filed?” I saw IOD hold her mouth and I just concluded that ‘my own is literally ‘finished.’ SO went in with him and in less than 2 minutes hell was let loose. SAN threw a major tantrum. The greatest I have ever witnessed in my life. SAN said unprintable things.

“Do you realize the magnitude of what has happened? These guys came in from all over the world SO, and you of all the people in the world know it! How could you? SEGUN!  how could you do this?”

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SO tried to speak what we actually did not hear from the place we all stood and SAN roared again!

“Do not speak one more word of passing this blame! NEVER! Who exactly are you telling me had the document?” “Its my integrity, your integrity, the reputation of a firm we have all labored to build! How do I go to these guys (referring to the Claimant’s lawyers) and what do I say? That in my law firm, a document of this magnitude got misplaced by a youth corper and this office should still function? Segun tell me, please tell me why this firm should not be shut down immediately and all of us go our separate ways like the losers we have all become?” And it went on and on!

SO came out of SAN’s office looking so hopeless and miserable. I was standing close to my desk scared of attempting to even lean on the wall when he walked aggressively towards me and then spoke. “Cece, I have done nothing but support you since you came into this office and what did you pay me back with? You have ruined my entire career and I curse the day I set my eyes on you!” Those words cut through my soul. Everybody in the office was shocked. I guess no one saw that coming. No one expected him to lose all his guards in that manner. In the midst of all that, I felt pity for him but the words nevertheless hurt. So I decided, I must right this and when I do, I will seek my leave from a place where people are not allowed to make mistakes. Well, don’t blame me for whatever I decide to think.

 The silence in the office was deafening. I could not just stand it, I sat on my desk, my mind blank. Then I remembered MO. I need to talk to him. I need him to say something to me. I need to find out what can be done. I rushed down the stairs like a flash of light. As I opened the door, everyone had this “eyaa” look. Meaning the news had spread. Tears again circled, again I soaked it. MO got up and met me mid-way with arms spread, I ran into his arms and remembered I had been holding my breath for so long. I felt safe. I whispered;  “I am very sure I gave the file to him.”  If he believed me, he didn’t say. He only said; “Cece, I know you are not careless.” Well I managed to ask what can be done. MO explained that there could be a way out. Go to court and take further date, then courier the document to the parties with the help of their lawyers. He however said SAN would never bring himself to begging anyone and making himself look cluttered. I understood.

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As I made to return to my desk, the office Accountant walked in. He is the only one that is not called by initial. He is simply Shiny. Shiny is a name coined from Shina. He is a very lively and jovial soul. He belong to the “the life of the party” category, the comedian of the office. Generally liked by all including SAN.

“Hello people of God, this atmosphere is wicked o, wetin happen? What did I miss? Person die? Which kind mood be this one for Friday afternoon na? He kept talking and asking all the question without the usual response. Then he turned to me while I was almost out of the door; “Baby! Corper of the Universe, you no look happy o, you been they cry? MO, I no say na your matter they do this girl, he said trying to strike a play with me while holding my hands and not letting me pass.

MO quickly summarized and Shiny’s face froze! He then said to me in some kind of command tone; “wait here!” Shiny reappeared seconds later with the pink file containing the signed Terms of Settlement. In some kind of reflex, I sunk into a chair next to me! Then the tears came flooding. The jubilation in that office was something else. Two other persons joined us, then everyone wanted to know how the document landed with Shiny of all people in the office. Shina then explained.

Towards close of work, SO came down with the file looking for the Litigation Manager who was supposed to file the papers in court first thing in the morning. The LM was not on his desk and on his way back to his desk, he branched to chat with Shiny. Being his usual self, Shiny staged him with so many stories. They even argued about football and fuji and he only left when he checked time and needed to go home. He forgot the file. Minutes later Shiny saw the file and started calling his extension but he was gone. Shiny looked at the document in the file and saw Terms of Settlement and thought to himself, “This ones are tired of fighting and now want to settle”, to a character like Shiny, that automatically is an indication that it was not urgent so, he kept it on his table hoping to give it to him in the morning. While Shina was dressing up to come to work in the morning, SAN called that he needed Shina to do some FOREX transactions. Shina sets out to BDC and then the Banks and was delayed until noon when he returned to the office.

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I grabbed the file from Shina and ran as fast as my legs could carry me. Up the stairs I found SAN standing with the team. Obviously calmed and asking relevant questions. All eyes were on me. I went straight to SO, placed the file on his desk and said in a voice audible enough. “I TOLD YOU I GAVE THIS FILE TO YOU.” I turned, ignoring all of them including SAN, and went straight to my desk and began to pack my stuffs. Shiny came upstairs and told the story once more. SO was looking into space, his face betraying embarrassment and joy at the same time. SAN went into his office, Shiny followed. KDK stood up for the first time in all these and was walking towards me but IOD “the mother hen” stopped him. I finished packing my stuff and was just about to stand when IOD my intercom buzzed. It was IOD.

“Cece, SAN calls!”

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