By Sandra Umeh
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday awarded a cost of N20,000 against Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje, counsel to the suspected kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike a. k. a Evans.
Justice Abdulazeez Anka, who gave the ruling, however, warned Evan’s lawyer to desist from “practices unbecoming of a legal practitioner.”
The judge the order while adjourning a fundamental human rights suit filed on behalf of Evans by Ogungbeje over alleged illegal detention.
Joined as respondents in the suit are : The Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Police Command, the State Police Commissioner and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
Evans had sought a court’s order directing the respondents to immediately charge him to court in accordance with constitutional provisions, if there existed any case against him.
In the alternative, he had sought an order, compelling the respondents to immediately release him unconditionally in the absence of any charge.
The case which was scheduled for hearing on Thursday, could not proceed as Ogungbeje, was absent in court.
When the case was called, a litigation officer from Ogungbeje’s law firm, Mr Stephen Abunike, told the court that his principal was “indisposed” and had written a letter seeking an adjournment.
Abunike added that he had attempted to serve a copy of the letter on the Police counsel in court, but he declined service.
In response, counsel to the Police, Mr Emmanuel Eze, told the court that he had only sighted the letter in court, and noted that the letter was signed by one Saheed Sanni, a lawyer in Ogungbeje’s law firm.
Eze urged the court to reject the excuse and consider same as an affront to the court, adding that it showed that the law firm was not serious.
He urged the court to award a punitive cost of N100,000 against the applicant and his counsel.
In a short ruling, Justice Anka, awarded a punitive cost of N20,000 against Ogungbeje for what he described as unprofessional conduct.
The judge noted that while Ogungbeje had written a letter to the court, he did not send a copy of the letter to the counsel to the police.
According to the judge, it is unprofessional for a lawyer to communicate with a judge without carrying the other parties along.
The judge, who warned Ogungbeje to desist from such a conduct, said: “The court has noted the conduct of the counsel, who wrote to the court without copying other parties.
“This is unprofessional and the court hereby warns the counsel to desist from such a conduct; a punitive cost of N20,000 is hereby awarded for such conduct.”
Anka adjourned the case until July 20 for hearing.
In the suit marked, FHC/L/CS/1012/2017, Evans is contending that his continued detention by the respondents since
June 10, 2017, without being charged to court or released on bail is an infringement on his fundamental human rights.
He argued that the respondents ought to have charged him to court in accordance with the provisions of Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution.
It was further argued that the alleged offences committed by the applicant (Evans) are correspondingly intertwined with the constitutional safeguards as provided under Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution.
In a 27-paragraph affidavit in support of the motion deposed to by Evan’s father, Stephen Onwuamadike, he averred that the applicant has been subjected to media trial without any court’s order by the respondents.
Evans’ father averred that the media trial and news orchestrated by the respondents has continued to generate reactions in both print and electronic media without his son being afforded fair hearing and trial before a court of law.
The deponent also averred that since his son’s arrest, all his family members have been denied access to him while media professionals were granted unfettered access to him.
He is, therefore, claiming the sum of N300 million against the respondents as damages.