Saturday, 4 July 2015

War of Shame: APC Governorship Candidate Fights Own Lawyer in Court

The Enugu State High Court, the venue of the State Governorship Election Tribunal was on Friday thrown into military zone as supporters of the All Progressives Congress, APC, turned it into a battle-field. learnt that the APC governorship candidate, Chief Okey Ezea engaged one of his lawyers, Mr. George Ogara in a physical fight outside the court-room over who should represent him and the APC in the matter.

Ezea, recall, is challenging the election of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

His supporters engaged one of his lawyers, Mr. George Ogara in a free-for-all for refusing to surrender the documents and exhibits relating to the petition.

When the lawyer, Mr. Ogara refused to surrender the document and insisted on going ahead with the petition, he was arrested by a team of policemen who towed his car containing the documents packed in three Ghana-Must-Go bags to an unknown destination.

The Petitioners, Chief Barrister Okey Ezea and the APC filed petition number EPT/ENU/GOV/01/2015 against Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Peoples Democratic Party, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Resident Electoral Commissioner, Enugu State and Returning Officer for Enugu State Governorship Election, Professor Hillary Edeoga.

In the petition, Ezea claimed among other prayers for an order declaring him (Ezea) as validly elected and be returned as the winner of the gubernatorial election held in Enugu State on 11th April 2015.

In the alternative, the petitioners sought an order of the tribunal nullifying the election conducted in all the 17 local government areas of the state on grounds of corrupt practices and massive electoral fraud.

The petition was prepared by Chief A. O. Giwa, Phd, Harold Aboloje Esq, S. O. Olukwu, Zino Isaac-Akpoarebe, T. George,  Chijioke Emeka, B. Nebe and it was signed by T. George and Barrister Okey Ezea.

From the first day the petition came up in court on May 16, 2015, the Petitioner was represented by George Ogara and Peter Ugwu and they continued to appear for the petitioners on subsequent dates.

On June 15, 2015  the petition was called up and George Ogara announced appearance for the petitioners, Chief A. O. Giwa also announced appearance for the petitioners but in the confusion, the  tribunal enquired as to who was the actual counsel for the petitioners.

It was, however, suggested that George Ogara should allow Giwa to lead him, since A.O Giwa’s name appeared on the list of counsel but Ogara refused, saying he was the rightful counsel for the petitioners.

At this stage Giwa withdrew his appearance for the petitioner and excused himself from the proceedings. Ogara continued to appear for the petitioner on subsequent adjournments.

At the resumed hearing, when the petition was called up, the petitioner, Chief Ezea was present in court and his party, APC was also represented.

George Ogara appeared for the petitioners, Patrick Ikwueto, SAN with Tochuckwu Odo and Cyril Obika, appeared for the governor, Chief Mrs. A. J. Offia, SAN, PMB Onyia and Uche Onyekachi appeared for the PDP and Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, with Peter Eze, Onyinye Anumonye and E.S. Nri-Ezedi appeared for INEC.

The court gave its report on pre-hearing and scheduling for the hearing of the petition.

After that, B. N. Nebe Esq, who was among lawyers that prepared the petition stoop up and announced himself as the legal adviser of the APC informing the court that the petitioners had filed a notice of change of counsel and that the petitioners now wish to be represented by Solomon Akuma SAN.

He also applied for adjournment for five days to allow Akuma SAN to study the processes filed in the suit.

Ikwueto, SAN, PMB Onyia and Ikpeazu SAN, all opposed the application. They challenged the application on the ground that B, N. Nebe, who signed the notice of change of counsel is one of the lawyers whose names appeared on the petition as counsel already representing the petitioners.

The defence lawyers also argued that the name of  George Ogara who had been appearing all along for the petitioner was not even  contained in the petition as one of the counsels representing the petitioners, adding that all he had been doing all the while was holding brief for those whose names appeared on the petition including Nebe.

The defence lawyers further told the tribunal that the application for change of counsel was aimed at wasting time which the Electoral Act does not allow since under the Act election petitions are to be given expeditious hearing.

The defence lawyers finally argued that under the Electoral Act and Federal High Court rules, which also applies to Election Tribunals, “notice of change of counsel must be accompanied by an affidavit disclosing the reasons for the change but in this case there was no affidavit filed and no reason given.”

They therefore urged the court to discountenance the notice and go ahead with hearing of the case.

In response, George Ogara, said that Mr. Nebe did not obtain his consent before filing the notice of change of counsel and that it was not the practice for a junior counsel to debrief a senior counsel in the same matter.

He insisted that he was ready to go on with the petition.

In its ruling, the tribunal held that the application did not comply with the Electoral Act and High Court rules and therefore struck it out.

The tribunal adjourned to Monday July 6, 2015 to enable the petitioners sought out the issue of their representation.

But immediately the parties left the court room, counsel to the petitioners, George Ogara, the petitioner and members of APC were seen arguing fiercely at the booth of Ogara’s car expressing anger over the confusion created at the tribunal’s sitting earlier.

A little while later, the defence team and the APC members were seen dragging the three Ghana-must-go bags, with which George Ogara brought the documents relating to the case.

Ogara forcefully took the bags into his car, locked it and returned to the court room apparently to prevent the APC members from snatching them, but the atmosphere was charged as the petitioner and the APC members were bent on recovering the documents and exhibits from the lawyer.

One of the lawyers was seen hitting his car outside and as George Ogara came out of the court to challenge the APC members, fight ensued between them and the policemen invited by Ezea arrested the lawyer and took him away.

Lawyers that appeared before the tribunal, who watched the unfortunate development, condemned the invasion of the court premises by thugs.



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