Sunday, 4 December 2016

National Open University, Their Lawyers And The Continuous Waste Of Public Funds By Okang Peter

have written previously on the conduct of the lawyers from Abdullahi Ibrahim & Co who are defending the National Open University of Nigeria in the fundamental human rights suit filed against the institution at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos in case number: FHC/L/CS/1883/2015.
The National Open University of Nigeria, which is well known for violating the fundamental rights of its students, was rightly sued by some of its students after the institution, under the sacked Professor Vincent Ado Tenebe, expelled two of its students, Elias Ozikpu and Abdulrazaq O Hamzatin, in the most draconian fashion for forming a Student Union Government to protect their affected interests.
On 27th October, 2016, the very day the University lawyers had planned to boycott proceedings in order to frustrate the suit, they were eventually in court after the plot had been punctured. But they further concocted another scheme in what was clearly another unethical conduct in the Nigerian legal practice: the University lawyers openly denied receiving the Applicants’ counter to their defective application to ‘arrest the judgement’ of the court which was filed after the suit had well been reserved for judgement. The presiding judge then ordered the Applicants’ counsel, Gabriel Orban, to re-serve the processes on the University lawyers all over again because Orban did not swear to an affidavit of service as required by law.
Right inside the courtroom, and before the presiding judge, the Applicants’ counsel served the processes on one of the University counsels, Nas Ogunsakin, but the processes were bluntly rejected.
Barrister Gabriel Orban, along with two of his clients, then visited the chambers of Abdullahi Ibrahim & Co after court sitting on the 27th of October, 2016 to serve the processes on them. But the Applicants’ counsel and his two clients were chased out of that chamber and out of the entire premises in the most embarrassing and humiliating fashion. How on earth can the highly revered legal practice be reduced to such utter disgrace and unprofessional conduct? But their misconduct is beyond chasing people out of their office and premises. Nas Ogunsakin and his senior colleague, Abiodun Olatunji, do not respond to greetings from the Applicants’ counsel. This is the most infantile conduct that any well-trained legal practitioner ought not to be found guilty of.
On the 28 of November, 2016 this writer was again in Court and witnessed the entire proceedings. Abiodun Olatunji addressed the Court on behalf of the National Open University of Nigeria and said that they had responded to the Applicants’ counter affidavit in opposition to the University’s bid to arrest the judgement of the Court. Abiodun Olatunji and his colleagues had waited till the 22nd of November, 2016 to respond to processes re-served on them on the 27th of October, 2016, approximately one month after they had been served!
But the University lawyers were not ignorant of the fact that they already were out of time in their response which should have been issued within seven days from the day the Applicants and their counsel served them. The delay was another deliberate machination to serve the Applicants late, thereby leaving them with no time to issue a counter response before the 28 of November, 2016 when the matter was slated to come up. The Judge described this conduct as ‘outright recklessness and gross indiscipline.’
In what got the presiding judge more incensed, Abiodun Olatunji boasted that he was 22 years at the Bar and proceeded to lie before the Court that their application to ‘arrest judgement’ was not moved on the last adjourned date, being 27th October, 2016. He asserted that his colleague, Nas Ogunsakin, was on the verge of moving the application but could not do so. When the Judge countered his claim, Mr Olatunji then swiftly admitted that his colleague had previously moved the said application but that it was only ‘partially’ moved (whatever that means), and that he was ready to move it fully. The judge responded that Olatunji’s 22 years at the Bar was irrelevant to the court and that it was unethical for him to attempt to deceive the Court.
The criminal manner with which these lawyers have approached this case since inception is appalling. The highly respected legal profession, which is primarily aimed at pursuing the truth and justice, has been turned into a profession of lies,hostility, manipulation and grand deception. These lawyers, fully aware that they have nothing to canvas in their favour, worked only to prolong the matter in order to impress their clients.
The National Open University of Nigeria, which has not remitted billions of Naira to the Federal Government for several years, can so readily dole out same funds to external attorneys to battle an issue which the authorities of that institution could have resolved internally but chose to resort to waste.
This matter has been adjourned to 19th January, 2017 for ruling and it is only proper for the general public to watch closely the conduct of these desperate lawyers and their sponsors who are committed to the violation of the rights of its students and who are generously splashing public funds on external lawyers.
Okang Peter is a human rights activist. He writes from Ajah.

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