Political Appointee Can Appear as Counsel in Court – Court Rules

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The Presiding Judge of the Makurdi Judicial division of the National Industrial Court, Hon. Justice Isaac Essien has dismissed the objection raised by the counsel to David Achika and 2 others suing themselves and on behalf of 116 other unpaid staff of N.K.S.T Hospital, Mkar against the hospital and its registered trustee challenging the appearance of E.Z. Agbakor Esq. allegedly a political appointee as a counsel for the hospital for being misconceived and lacking in merit.

Justice Essien held that there is nothing in the Rules of professional conduct that prevents E.Z. Agbakor Esq from appearing as counsel for the hospital and its registered trustee which is a church organization and not the Governor of Benue State his alleged appointor.

The Court further held that the provisions of part 1 of the 5th schedule of the 1999 Constitution cannot be invoked to prevent him from appearing for the defendants in the case.

Justice Isaac Essien held that the position of Special Adviser to the Governor is not mentioned as one of the categories of persons who qualify as a public officer by virtue of the 1999 constitution as amended.

From facts, the counsel to the claimants had raised an objection to the right of appearance and audience of counsel to the defendants on the grounds that the defendants counsel is a Special Adviser to the Governor of Benue State on legal matters and cannot appear before the honourable court or any other court or participate in any Judicial proceeding.

Counsel maintained that a legal practitioner who is a public officer on full time shall not engage or participate in the management or running of any private business and such legal practitioner shall not put himself in a position where he may have a conflict between personal and his official duties and responsibilities.

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In argument, the defendant’s counsel, E.Z. Agbakor Esq argued the rules of Professional Conduct in the legal profession do not in any way prohibit or prevent a legal practitioner in salaried employment from appearing or representing himself his family, and any association to which he belongs.

He submitted further that he did not announce appearance for the Governor or Government of Benue State but for the hospital and its registered trustee to which he belongs, urged the court to dismiss the objection.

Delivering the ruling, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Isaac Essien held that the Mr. E. Z. Agbakor who is alleged to be a Special Adviser to the Governor of Benue State on Legal Matters is not a public officer and can be described as a political appointee and the provisions of part 1 of the 5th schedule to the Constitution cannot be invoked to prevent him from appearing for the defendants in this case.

Justice Essien held that the political appointees are not prevented from engaging or participating in the management or running of any private business, profession, or trade.

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