25% FCT votes: Court orders lawyer to pay N20m over ‘frivolous’ suit against Tinubu
…throws out suit FCT residents filed to stop the presidential inauguration
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday, wielded the big stick against a legal practitioner, Mr Chuks Nwachukwu, who it ordered to pay a fine of N20 million for filing a frivolous suit to stop the inauguration of President Bola Tinubu on May 29.
The lawyer represented five residents of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, that applied for an order of the court to halt Tinubu’s swearing-in ceremony that was held at Eagle Square, Abuja.
He had among other things, asked the court to restrain the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola or any other judicial officer, from inaugurating Tinubu as President, pending the resolution of all the legal issues surrounding the presidential election.
The plaintiffs behind the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/578/2023, who identified themselves as “registered voters of the FCT, Abuja, excepting those exempting themselves”, were; Anyaegbunam Okoye, David Adzer, Jeffery Ucheh, Osang Paul and Chibuike Nwachukwu.
They insisted that going by the provision of section 134(2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, “no candidate in the February 25 presidential election in the country may validly be declared elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without that candidate obtaining at least 25% of the votes cast in the FCT, Abuja.”
Meanwhile, the court, in its judgement on Tuesday, dismissed the suit on the premise that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi (legal right), to institute the action.
Justice Inyang Ekwo held that the plaintiffs failed to disclose to the court that the issue they raised in the suit was already a subject matter that is pending before the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC.
He held that the high court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to handle the matter.
Nevertheless, Justice Ekwo held that upon a careful study of an affidavit that was attached in support of the suit, the court, found that it was the lawyer that instigated the action against Tinubu.
“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 the elementary principle of law as it relates to the Constitution and Electoral Act, 2022,” Justice Ekwo added.
Continuing, the judge, held: “In my opinion, this action was willfully initiated to not just circumvent, but to overreach the ongoing 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.”
Besides, Justice Ekwo noted that the lawyer had after the initial day that was fixed for the judgement was changed, granted a press interview, wherein he lampooned the court.
He held that had it been the lawyer who was in court for the judgement on Tuesday, he would have been barred from practising as a legal practitioner in the country, until he is cleared by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, LPDC.
“But since he is not in court, I made an order directing the Registrar to forward all the processes to the LPDC to determine whether he is fit to practice the profession.”
However, as an immediate sanction, Justice Ekwo ordered the lawyer to pay to both the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and CJN, who were listed as 1st and 2nd defendants in the case, the sum of N10m each, as punitive cost.
He held that until the N20m fine is paid by counsel for the plaintiffs, no further action should be taken in the matter, in the event that the litigants intend to go on appeal.
More so, the court directed that orders in the judgement should be served on the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, the AGF and the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA.
It will be recalled Justice James Omotosho of the high had May 26, also awarded a fine of N17m against three litigants; Praise Ilemona Isaiah, Pastor Paul Isaac and Dr. Anongu Moses and their lawyer, Daniel Elombah, for equalling filing suit to stop Tinubu’s inauguration.
The court held that the suit was “frivolous, vexatious and constituted a gross abuse of the judicial processes.”