Nigeria: Alleged Misconduct - Supreme Court Orders LPDC to Retry Three Lawyers

The apex court orders the LPDC to constitute fresh panels to hear and determine the petitions lodged against the alleged erring lawyers.

The Supreme Court has set aside the conviction of three lawyers by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC).

The three lawyers earlier adjudged guilty of professional misconduct by the LPDC are, Mamman Waziri, Olayori Muideen and Osaretin Izegbuwa.

In separate unanimous judgments delivered via Zoom on Friday, a panel of the apex court ordered the LPDC to constitute fresh panels to hear and determine the petitions that were lodged against the alleged erring lawyers.

The Supreme Court made the order after nullifying the previous trials conducted by the LPDC on the grounds that the proceedings breached the principle of "fair hearing."

Details of the allegations against the lawyers were not mentioned in the summary of the judgments read on Friday.

Supreme Court judgments

The three legal practitioners ,who were convicted and barred from practising in Nigeria over their alleged acts of professional misconduct, got a temporary reprieve from the Supreme Court with the setting aside of their convictions and an order for their retrial, on Friday.

Delivering separate judgments on the three appeals lodged at the Supreme Court by the lawyers, Ejembi Eko, who handed down one of the verdicts, said the sanctions by the LPDC were in flagrant violation of the provisions of fair hearing.

The court held that the disciplinary measures meted out to the lawyers were done in breach of the provisions of laws guiding disciplinary issues. This, the court held, was so because they were denied fair hearing as required by law.

Mr Eko held that the actions of the LPDC panels which led to the punishment of the three lawyers were not consistent with provisions of the law.

"Deciding complaints against the lawyers without participating in the hearing of the panels is tantamount to denying the appellants fair hearing," Mr Eko said.

'Composition of LPDC panel wrong'

The judge also faulted the conviction of the lawyers on the grounds bordering on composition of the panels.

Some of the members of the LPDC panels who signed the verdict convicting the lawyers were said not to have participated in the whole proceedings as required by law.

Mr Eko noted that the composition of the LPDC panels was too wieldy, counselling that a panel should not have more than three or four members to ensure proper attendance.

Having set aside the conviction, Mr Eko ordered that the three lawyers be made to face different panels to be constituted by the LPDC.

"The matter is hereby remitted to a fresh panel to be heard denovo (afresh)," Mr Eko held.

Previous panels

One of the previous LPDC panels, whose decisions were upturned on Friday, was headed by a serving Justice of the Supreme Court, Abdul Aboki, who was then a judge of the Court of Appeal.

Another of the panels was led by the late Chief Judge of Kogi State, Nasir Ajana.

A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Joseph Daudu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, equally chaired one of the LPDC panels.

LPDC

The LPDC is the body recognised by law to take disciplinary action against lawyers called to the Nigerian bar accused of professional misconduct.

For a case to be brought before the LPDC, a petition must first be filed with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which reviews it and finds out if there is a prima facie case to proceed with the case.

If the NBA, the body of all Nigerian lawyers, finds out that there is prima facie case against the reported lawyer, it will then file a case against the lawyer at the LPDC which will then constitute a panel to hear the petition.

The NBA serves as the prosecution in the trial before the LPDC panel.

By law, either of the defence of the prosecution dissatisfied with the final decision of the LPDC can only appeal to the Supreme Court.

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