A Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, awarded N20 million fine against Chuks Nwachukwu, a lawyer representing five FCT residents in a suit seeking an order to stop the swearing-in of President Bola Tinubu over his failure to secure at least 25 per cent of votes cast in the FCT.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment, struck out the suit on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked locus standi to institute the matter.
“I make an order striking out this action on grounds of lack of locus standi of the plaintiffs, lack of jurisdiction of the court and failure of the plaintiffs to demonstrate to this court that similar subject is not pending before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which proceedings are on-going,” he declared.
Justice Ekwo consequently ordered the lawyer to pay the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), listed as 1st and 2nd defendants in the case, the sum of N10 million each.
He directed that until Nwachukwu paid off the N20 million fine, no further action should be taken on the matter.
The judge, who condemned Nwachukwu’s comments in the media, said with his interview, if the lawyer was in the courtroom, he would have been barred “from practising until he appears before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to determine whether he is fit to practise the profession.”
“But since he is not in court, I made an order, directing the registrar to forward all the processes to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to determine whether he is fit to practise the profession,” he declared.
He also directed that the order of the court be served on the chief registrar of the Supreme Court, the AGF and the Nigerian Bar Association.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that five FCT residents; Anyaegbunam Okoye, David Adzer, Jeffrey Uche, Osang Paul and Chibuike Nwanchukwu, had filed the suit through their lawyer, for an order of the court to stop the inauguration of Tinubu and his vice, Sen. Kassim Shettima, slated for May 29.
The plaintiffs had sued for themselves and on behalf of other residents and registered voters in the FCT.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/578/2023 and filed on April 28, the plaintiffs averred that Tinubu failed to secure at least 25 per cent of votes cast in the FCT.
They, therefore, sought an order of court restraining the CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, and any judicial officer and/or any authority or persons from swearing in any candidate in the Feb. 25 presidential election as president or vice president, among other prayers.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Ekwo said upon reading the affidavit attached to the application, “I can discern that the averments thereof are merely the voice of Esau and the hands of Jacob.
“It means that the said Chucks Nwachukwu of counsel for the plaintiffs instigated this suit and merely got the plaintiffs to stand in as parties while he handles the suit as a lawyer.
“This is an unprofessional conduct on the part of the said Chucks Nwachukwu of counsel of the plaintiffs.
“It is unfortunate that lawyers like Chucks Nwachukwu of counsel to the plaintiffs continue to engage in this sort of activity by procuring innocent citizens to act as fronts in litigations which are actually their personal cases.
“This is done with such impunity and lack of fear of the consequence to the chagrin and ruin of the reputation of the legal system in this country.
“It is so because the learned counsel has made himself to believe that he can flout the Rule of Profession Conduct for Legal Practitioners without any consequence.
“On the whole I find that this action is premised on recklessness, frivolity and complete lack of knowledge of elementary principle of law as it relates to the Constitution and Electoral Act, 2022,” he said.
According to the judge, in my opinion, this action was willfully initiated to not just.circumvent but to overreach the on-going proceedings of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
“The aim thereof which cannot be denied, is to plunge this country into unprecedented constitutional anarchy capable of causing bloodshed and genocide.
“The plaintiffs and their lawyer ought to be deprecated in the strongest term for this type of adventure and I so do,” Justice Ekwo declared.
NAN reports that Nwachukwu had granted interview in the media, accusing the judge of shying away from delivering the judgment in his suit.
The lawyer, who accused the judge of deliberately abandoning his duty, threatened to sue him up to the Supreme Court.
But Justice Ekwo, before delivering the judgment, said he could not hear the matter on May 26 because he was on official duty.
NAN had earlier reported that the judge had been away for some days due to official engagement.
The development had forced the court to adjourn cases, including high profile and election-related matters, before it.
This was also contrary to the rumour going the round that Justice Ekwo’s absence to hear the suit on May 26 was a ploy to comply with alleged standing order handed down by the FHC Chief Judge, Justice John Tsoho, to all judges of the court’s divisions across the country, directing them not to entertain cases bothering on presidential election or swearing-in of Tinubu and Shettima.
NAN reported that a sister court presided over by Justice James Omotosho had, on same May 26, delivered a judgment in another suit filed by three applicants seeking to stop the swearing-in of Tinubu on May 29 as fifth Nigeria’s democratic president.
The judge had awarded a total sum of N17 million against the three applicants; Praise Ilemona Isaiah, Pastor Paul Isaac and Dr Anongu Moses, including their lawyer, Daniel Elombah, for filing a suit considered to be “frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of court processes.”