Chiemeka ADINDU, Calabar
Following the debarring of the former attorney general of Cross River State, Joseph Abang as a legal practitioners in Nigeria, some lawyers have described the incidence as unfortunate.
They reminded their colleagues to always abide by the ethics of the law profession as it was their duty to ensure that the rule of law is upheld at all times.
Speaking with TNN on the implications of the discipline, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mba Ukweni expressed displeasure at the act which led to the sanction.
He said people should always be careful to abide by the ethics guiding whichever profession they belonged, as they would be held them responsible for any action they take. “There are categories of offences but his own; talking of striking his name means he’s no more a lawyer. But he has the freedom to appeal and he has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.
“This is for people to be careful and abide by the ethics of the profession. Lawyers should start knowing that litigants are not the robot illiterates of yesterday.
“They should know that litigants are very enlightened people now who know their rights; so if they infringe on the rights of the litigants and conduct their matters unprofessionally or bridge the rules of professional conduct; the litigants can take them on.
“Most journalists also go against the ethics of journalism; you also have rules to follow. Also we have people who preach but they go against the rules even the dictates of the Bible which they preach everyday and swore to uphold. What makes people to do that? It is just bad manners and wrong attitude”, Ukweni frowned.
On his part, Mr Paul Eko, a lawyer, explained that before someone would be sanctioned, he must have been found wanting of one thing or the other. He said the disciplinary committee of lawyers is saddled with the responsibility of checkmating the activities of lawyers in the country so as to maintain sanctity in the profession.
He added that Abang still had the opportunity to appeal if he was not satisfied by the judgment. He said: “The implication is that if his name has been struck out of the roll of legal practitioners, it must have been that the disciplinary committee sitting in Abuja that had declared him wanting in his activities as a lawyer and a court of law must have entered judgment against him that he was guilty of a particular act; misappropriation of a certain money or misbehavior with his client’s account or has misconducted himself as a legal practitioner, so that was why his name was struck off the roll call. But if he appeals to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court upturns that judgment of the court of appeal he will still be a member of the NBA.
“The Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, LPDC has found him wanting and if he has been found wanting that body has the right to discipline him. The committee is vested with the power to discipline any lawyer who has misconduct himself by portraying an attitude unprofessional to the legal profession in Nigeria.”
Recall that the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, LPDC, had ordered the removal of former Attorney General of Cross River, Joseph Abang, from the roll of legal practitioners in the country.
The legal body gave the order after it found that the former AG engaged in an “infamous conduct”. It ordered that the Respondent should no longer enjoy the status of a legal practitioner or accorded audience in that capacity.
The decision against him followed a complaint that was lodged by the Incorporated Trustees of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA. The NBA, in the complaint it entered before the LPDC on June 26, 2020, noted that Unity Bank Plc had engaged Abang as a lawyer to help it recover a debt that was owed it by Bilwadams Construction Company Nigeria Limited.
The construction firm which was a customer of the bank was said to have been indebted to the defunct Bank of the North and Intercity Bank Plc.
According to the NBA, despite the instruction of the bank to the effect that recovered sums should be paid directly into its accounts, Abang diverted the sum of N6, 666, 666.66 million he recovered on October 29, 2010, into his own personal account and never remitted same to the bank.
It alleged that the Abang also received another N66, 666, 666. 71 million in 2012, but never remitted same to the bank as at August 2013.
The LPDC was told that upon intensified demand by the bank, the respondent, on September 23, 2013, remitted N45m with a promise to pay the outstanding sum of N23, 249, 620. 80.
Consequently, the NBA Disciplinary Panel found that the Respondents conduct constituted an infraction of the acceptable standard of behavior or ethics of the Legal Profession.
In its verdict, the Committee which was led by Chief Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, found him guilty. Other members of the Committee were Justice Hussein Mukhtar of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of Bauchi State, Justice Rabi Umar and two lawyers- Ebenezer Obeya and Boma Ayomide Alabi.
“We are satisfied that the appropriate order to make in the circumstance is to direct the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court to strike out Abang Joseph Oshie from the roll of legal practitioners in accordance with Rule 22(a) of the LPDC Rules 2020 and we so order.
“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 of the respondent on the roll of legal practitioners. This order shall forthwith be brought to the attention of the chief registrar of the Supreme Court”, the committee ruled.