A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Apo, has declared the report of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) investigative panel, which led to an originating application against a legal practitioner, Chibuzo Chukwueroka Ezike before the Legal Practitioner Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) delineated No. BB/LPDC/809/2022 null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
Justice A.A. Halilu made this declaration while delivering judgement on an application for the enforcement of fundamental rights filed before the court by Ezike against Registered Trustees of Nigeria Bar Association, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN), Mr. Oluwaseun Abimbola (SAN) as members of the NBA investigative panel, Dr. Monday Ubani and the Legal Practitioner Disciplinary Committee (LPDC).
Halilu, in his judgement, declared that the report of the investigative panel against Ezike constitute a breach of his right to fair hearing pursuant to Section 36(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Articles 7 and 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right.
The court, however, ordered the parties to bear their costs, adding that it will not act on speculation and award damages against the respondents for publishing or authorising a publication subjecting the applicant to ridicule in the eyes of the public since it couldn’t lay its hands on the said publication in order to enable it award the damages of N500 million.
The court further held that while there is no doubt that the NBA is saddled with the responsibility of investigating its members upon a complaint made against them, the procedure adopted by the respondents, having failed to adhere to the principle of natural justice and failure to afford the applicant fair hearing has made their entire action in that regard null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
“The purported report that led to the filing of originating application to LPDC against the Applicant referred to as BB/LPDC/809/2022 is also declared null and void and of no effect whatsoever having fail to pass through the legitimate means of making same,” the judge held.
The court also stopped the LPDC from acting on the pending originating application against Ezike before it as it has been declared null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
Halilu held that Ezike has a legal duty to seek timely judicial protection whenever he smells danger and not wait until the rope is tight around his neck for execution. He added that the legal practitioner does not have to wait for the LPDC to act on the NBA’s report that indicted him without hearing his own side of story, without availing him with the copy of the complain written against him and without giving him a copy of the NBA Report sent to LPDC.
“I am of the view that the respondents breached the rules of natural justice for their failure to communicate the complaint to the applicant and give him reasonable time to react to same.
“The respondent’s notice of preliminary objection dated 10-6-2022 is hereby dismissed for lacking in merit. Accordingly, judgement is entered for the applicant against the respondents,” the court ruled.
Ezike had filed a suit through his legal representative, Emeka Ozoani (SAN), before the court, asking for a declaration that the report of the NBA Panel that investigated conflicting judgements on some political cases which indicted him of professional misconduct and led to the filing of Petition No BB/LPDC/809/2022 against him before the LPDC, which was widely published in different media platform without affording him the opportunity of being heard throughout the period of the purported investigation is a breach of his right to fair hearing as provided under section 36(2) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Articles 7 and 9 of the African Charter on Human And Peoples Rights (Ratification And Enforcement) Act Cap A9, Laws Of The Federation Of Nigeria 2004 and encapsulated in Latin Maxim Audi Alterem Partem.
Reacting to the judgement, Ezike’s counsel, Ozoani (SAN), said that “the judgement was incisive, well considered in substance and a proof that the court is the last hope of the common man. We commend his lordship.”