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UNICAL: Court dismisses Prof Ndifon’s motion

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, dismissed a motion filed by Prof. Cyril Ndifon challenging the qualification of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC’s lawyer, Osuobeni Akponimisingha to practice.

Justice James Omotosho, in a ruling, held that the application and counter affidavit filed by parties in the controversy over the legal qualifications of Akponimisingha and defence counsel, Joe Agi, SAN, was not for the court to determine.

According to Justice Omotosho, the Legal Practitioners’ Privilege Committee is the appropriate body to determine whether a lawyer is on its roll call.

“It is clear that the committee can investigate such allegations upon a petition by any of the parties,” the judge said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ndifon, the suspended Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Calabar (UNICAL), and his co-defendant, Sunny Anyanwu, had alleged that Akponimisingha was not qualified to practice as a lawyer.

The duo, through their lawyer, Mr Agi, insisted that Akponimisingha’s name was allegedly not on the roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria pursuant to Section 2 of the Legal Practitioners Act.

They argued that the four-count amended charge preferred against them by ICPC was incompetent as a result of the disputed identity of the anti-graft agency’s lawyer.

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They said the development had robbed the court of its jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

They, therefore, prayed the court to quash the charge against them.

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’s Practicing License 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.”

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 practice 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 by reason 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. (NAN)

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