A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State last Thursday stopped two lawyers from further representing the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in a matter before it.
The two lawyers barred from further representation of the party in the suit are Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and Tuduru Edeh in a matter brought before the court by 23 aggrieved APC members against their wrongful denial from participation in the ward congresses of the party, contrary to its constitution.
While stating the court’s position, Justice Chiwendu Nwogu of the Rivers State High Court 21, ruled that only the party (APC) can determine who represents it in court as counsel and thereby directed Tuduru Edeh and Lateef Fagbemi SAN to refrain from further representation of the APC in the matter.
He referred to a letter presented to the court from the APC Head of legal services, stopping the two from further representing the party in the matter.
However, O.C.F Azundah, APC Counsel objected to the ruling of the court. He insisted, while speaking with newsmen that the court ought to have drawn the attention of the defense counsel as regards the affidavit that informed the ruling of the court.
“The law says you (the court) must put the opposing party on notice and he (the Judge) relied on this affidavit without even giving us (defense counsel) the required constitutional provision as stated in section 34 of the constitution for hearing.
He (the Justice) never allowed us to reply to the affidavit which he based on and delivered his ruling,” adding that, “My argument is about the legal representation of the APC and from ab initio,
we have a ruling from the court of appeal to the effect that it was Lateef Fagbemi SAN that has the authority to lead Tuduru Edeh and the APC legal team and that ruling was delivered to the honourable court presided over by Justice Nwogu.
“But he set aside the ruling of the court of appeal and went further to rely on an affidavit filed yesterday, Wednesday, August 1, 2018.
I raised objection to that and we will contest this ruling, we will contest whatever you the outcome of this ruling today. This is a kangaroo proceeding and we are not going to accept it in good fate.”
While reacting to the judgement, Henry Bello, Counsel to the plaintiffs (23 aggrieved members of the APC) said the objective of Azundah urging the court to also restrain Felix C. Nwafor from representing the party in court could not stand because Nwafor representation of the party has not been challenged.
He said “they (O.S.F. Azundah and his team) left the court with no option but to allow Nwafor whose representation has not been challenged by the APC and was briefed by the state party legal adviser to continue appearance for the APC.
“On the 31st of July, 2018, APC wrote to Tuduru Edeh, Lateef Fagbemi SAN asking them both to refrain from further representation of the APC on this matter, based on this letter which the court has held today that these two lawyers are no longer lawyers to APC.
“Today we have moved the main matter, the substantive case, that is, the original summons that was adjourned because of vacation which is starting tomorrow but is adjourned to the 24th day of September, 2018 for judgement.”
Meanwhile, Felix C. Nwafor (counsel to the APC) expressed satisfaction in the judgement describing it as fair. “We have got through the application and it’s fair, it is only when you have reason or considers an application not to be fair that you oppose it.
“The letter today the judge made reference to is from the head legal services, APC, say that Lateef Fagbemi SAN and Tuduru Edeh should not represent the defendant APC in this matter.”