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Suspended UniCal dean seeks end to sexual harassment charge against him

The suspended dean's lawyer stated that the ICPC’s counsel is not qualified to practise as a lawyer.

Prof. Cyril Ndifon  [Daily Post]

Ndifon, who told Justice James Omotosho in a further affidavit filed by his lawyer, Joe Agi, SAN, insisted that Osuobeni Akponimisingha, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC)’s counsel handling the case, was not qualified to practise as a lawyer.

He restated that Akponimisingha’s name is allegedly not on the roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria under Section 2 of the Legal Practitioners Act.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the further affidavit, deposed to by Ndifon’s co-defendant, Sunny Anyanwu, was in response to the ICPC lawyer’s counter affidavit filed against their motion on notice.

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The suspended dean, in the earlier motion dated and filed March 15, had told the court that the amended charge was incompetent as a result of the disputed identity of the anti-graft agency’s lawyer.

He said the development had robbed the court of its jurisdiction to entertain the matter. He, therefore, prayed the court to quash the four-count charge against him and his co-defendant, Sunny Anyanwu.

Akponimisingha, in his counter affidavit dated March 20, accused the suspended dean and his legal team of being jealous of his academic qualifications. The lawyer, who attached his Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Practising Licence document dated 2016 with the counter affidavit, said he graduated from law school.

He said contrary to the defence argument, the appellation “Dr” added to his name was a result of an additional academic qualification acquired by him after he had been called to the Bar as a legal practitioner.

He equally alleged that the names of the lead counsel to the defendants, Joe Agi, SAN and other senior advocates appearing with him in the criminal case, were not on the roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria with the appendage of “SAN.”

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He argued that the fact that the appellation “Dr” was added to his name did not make the amended charge liable to be struck out. Akponimisingha said he was duly called to the Nigerian Bar and had been licensed to practise law in the country.

“That I know as a fact that justices presiding over cases in courts in Nigeria were called to the Bar only with their given names without the appellation ‘Hon. Justice.’

“Therefore, the appellation ‘Hon. Justice’ added to their names because of their appointment as judges does not render their judgments invalid because their names do not appear on the roll call of Legal Practitioners as ‘Hon. Justices.’

“The name Joe odey Agi, SAN is not on the roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria. What exists on the roll is Agi Joseph Odey, year of call, 1985,” he said.

Akponimisingha told the court that the present application by the defence was a delay tactic deployed to stall the smooth trial of the charge. He urged the court to discount their plea.

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But Ndifon, in a further affidavit deposed to by Anyanwu, a co-defendant, stated that contrary to Akponimisingha’s argument, the defence was not challenging the appellation “Dr” added to his name.

Rather, he said they contended that the name “Osuobeni Ekoi Akponimisingha" is not on the roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria and that a search conducted on the roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria revealed that one Ekoi A. Osuobeni was called to the Bar in Nigeria in the year 2012.

“A copy of the computer print-out of the name of the said Ekoi A. Osuobeni from the Nigerian Bar Association Portal showing the names of’ Legal Practitioners on the roll in Nigeria as well as the certificate of compliance is attached as Exhibits B and C.”

The suspended dean contended that there was a word difference between “Osuobeni Ekoi Akponimisingha” and “Ekoi A. Osuobeni.”

According to him, both names are not the same person for a professional register sanctioned by law under the Legal Practitioners Act. He urged the court to strike out the suit in the interest of justice.

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When the matter was called on Monday, the ICPC lawyer told Justice Omotosho that the defendant brought a letter stating that the learned silk in the matter was having another matter at the Supreme Court. Fisong Fidelis, who appeared for the defence, confirmed filing the letter before the court.

Justice Omotosho, who expressed his displeasure about the way the matter had degenerated, said parties had left the main issue “and are now attacking their academic qualifications.”

“I owe a duty to this court to protect the integrity of the legal profession. I don’t like the way this matter is going,” the judge held.

The judge, therefore, directed the lawyers of the parties, including representatives of the Federation of International Women Lawyers and NBA, to meet with him in his chambers on Wednesday so they could take a position on the development.

Justice Omotosho consequently fixed April 19 to rule on Ndifon’s motion seeking an order allowing the defendants to have an independent forensic examiner to look at some of the exhibits tendered by the ICPC.

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NAN reports that Ndifon was, on January 25, re-arraigned alongside Anyanwu on an amended four-count charge bordering on alleged sexual harassment and an attempt to perverse the cause of justice.

Anyanwu, who is one of the lawyers in the defence, was joined in the amended charge filed on January 22 by the ICPC on the allegation that he called TKJ, the star witness, on her mobile telephone during the pendency of the charge against Ndifon to threatened her.

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