Lawyer Slams N1 Billion Suit On Nigeria Gas Company

Senior Lawyer Of 41 Years In Practice In A Mess

Senior Lawyer Of 41 Years In Practice In A Mess

OpenLife Nigeria reproduces an article about a lawyer who is currently in a mess. The report was earlier published in City Lawyer

The Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) of the Body of Benchers has come down heavily on a senior lawyer of 41 years post-call for using derogatory language against an Anambra Chief Magistrate.

In a February 20, 2024 direction obtained by CITY LAWYER, the Committee ordered “That the Respondent CYPRIAN OBIORA IFEANYI AGWUNA, ESQ. be and is hereby suspended from the Roll of Legal Practitioners and from engaging in the business of practicing law for a period of 24 months from the date of this DIRECTION.”

The Committee also ordered that “The Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court is hereby DIRECTED to effect the above Order and to make a notation of this DIRECTION against the name CYPRIAN OBIORA IFEANYI AGWUNA, ESQ. on the Roll of Legal Practitioners.”

CITY LAWYER gathered that the direction is sequel to an October 2, 2020 complaint by one Peter Okoye Nwankwo to the LPDC against the embattled lawyer.

The applicant is a nominal complainant in a criminal matter, Charge No. MNJ/33C/2014 Commissioner of Police v Nwabueze Nwankwo & Ors pending before His Worship, Chief Magistrate Sumi Anagbogu, then sitting at Abagana, Anambra State.

Sitting as a Senior Magistrate, the court had delivered a ruling in 2018 declining a “No Case Submission” made by Agwuna. Apparently dissatisfied with the decision, the senior lawyer wrote an “Application for Transfer of Suit” to then Chief Judge of Anambra State as well as an “Application for Adjournment” dated 10th August, 2020.
The applicant had sought the following reliefs from the LPDC:

(a) That the Committee applies appropriate remedies in penalizing the Respondent for his wayward allegation against the Applicant;

(b) Appropriate penalties for one Peter Onwuakpa Esq. whom the Respondent often procures to endorse documents or processes whenever there is need to affix legal seals, and

(c) The Applicant prayerfully desires that the Committee uses its offices to redeem the image of the law profession from undesirable practitioners and to render some sense of belonging to the society whose only hope is on the judiciary.”

Dismissing the two issues formulated by the applicant, the Committee formulated its own issue for determination as follows: “Whether from the entirety of the facts presented before this Committee and the evidence adduced, the Applicant has established a case of professional misconduct against the Respondent.”

The committee dismissed the allegation of dilatory tactics against the respondent in handling the criminal case, stating that “Counsel engaged to handle a matter is at liberty to handle the matter in the best interest of his client, to whom he owes a duty, albeit professionally.”

It also declined to sanction one Peter Onwuakpa Esq., saying that he was not joined as a party. “We cannot make Orders against a party who has not been duly brought before us, nor given an opportunity to defend the allegation against him,” the committee held, adding that only the courts can award damages for defamation.

The committee however noted that “the other arm of unethical and unprofessional conduct allegation against the Respondent can be gleaned from the contents of the accompanying documents to the Originating Application.”

Turning squarely to the alleged abuse heaped on then Senior Magistrate, the committee held that “We have carefully gone through Attach A and are alarmed at the effrontery of Counsel in describing a sitting Magistrate in the manner that the Respondent did in that Application.

The Application did not only contain allegation of financial inducement by the Applicant herein on the magistrate, but equally accused the Magistrate of shamelessly telling lies, ranting and shouting at Counsel, and, not being able to appreciate legal issued before the court.”

Noting that the respondent did not deny being the author of the attached documents, the committee stated that the respondent’s statements “are to say the least demeaning of the person of the presiding Magistrate. These words were intended and actually did cajole and ridicule the presiding Magistrate.”

The committee held that “It is regrettable, and we condemn in very strong terms the language employed by the Respondent in his Application to the Chief Judge. A lawyer called to the Bar in 1983, as contained in the Respondent’s averments, is expected to conduct himself more responsibly no matter how dissatisfied and disappointed he may feel with the judex.”

In conclusion, the five-member committee held as follows: “In all, we find the Respondent guilty of breaching the provisions Rule 31 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007, in that he did not treat the presiding Magistrate with respect, as per the contents of ‘Attach A’ which he authored.”

Aside from ordering the suspension of Agwuna’s from the roll, the committee ordered that the direction should be brought to the notice of the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President and the General Council of the Bar as well as published in THE PUNCH newspaper.

It also ordered that the direction should be served on all heads of courts, the Attorney-General of the Federal and State Attorneys-General as well as the Inspector General of Police and all State Commissioners of Police.

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