Olukoya Ogungbeje, Counsel to suspected kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, a.k.a. Evans, failed to show up on Thursday in the N300m fundamental rights enforcement suit filed against the Inspector-General of Police by Evans.
The case was thus stalled.
The case, which was scheduled for hearing before Justice Abdulaziz Anka of the Federal High Court in Lagos, could not proceed as Ogungbeje was absent in court.
When the case was called Thursday, an Executive Litigation Officer from Ogungbeje’s law firm, Stephen Abunike, told the Judge that his principal was indisposed and had written a letter seeking an adjournment.
Abunike added that he had attempted to give a copy of the letter to the counsel for the police, Emmanuel Eze, but the counsel declined service.
Responding, Eze, who said he had just sighted the letter in court, noted that the letter was signed by one Saheed Sanni, a lawyer in Ogungbeje’s law firm, who said their principal took ill and other lawyers in the office were engaged.
Eze urged Justice Anka to reject Sanni’s excuse and to consider it as an affront on the court, saying it showed that the law firm was not serious.
“My Lord, I think it is an affront on this court and in view of this, we are of the view that the applicant’s counsel is most unserious with this application.
“I pray this court to award a punitive cost of N100,000 against the applicant and his counsel,” Eze said.
In a short ruling, Justice Anka held: “The court has noted the conduct of counsel, who wrote to the court without copying other parties. This is unprofessional. The court hereby warns the counsel to desist from such a conduct.”
The Judge noted that while Ogungbeje wrote to the court, seeking an adjournment on the grounds of ill health, he did not send a copy of the letter to the counsel to the police.
According to the Judge, it is unprofessional for a lawyer to communicate with a Judge without carrying the other parties along.
The Judge warned Ogungbeje to desist from such conduct.
He awarded a punitive cost of N20,000 Ogungbeje, adding that the money must be paid before the next adjourned date, otherwise, the lawyer would not be given audience.
In his fundamental rights enforcement suit, Evans, through Ogungbeje, is seeking a court order directing the police to charge him to court immediately or release him on bail.
Ogungbeje argued that Evans’ detention since June 10, 2017 without being charged to court was a violation of his (Evans) fundamental rights, as enshrined in sections 35 (1) (c) (3) (4) (5) (a) (b) and 36 of the Constitution.
For his alleged unlawful detention without being charged to court, Evans wants the court to award N300m damages against the Police in his favour.