S’Court Strikes Out Ugwuonye’s Name from Legal Practitioners Roll

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Emmanuel Onumah

The Supreme Court in Abuja has struck out the name of Lagos Lawyer, Emeka E. Ugwuonye from its Roll of Legal Practitioners.

The apex court conveyed the move in a letter dated 24th April, 2018, entitled: Re-BB/LPDC/217/16 Nigerian Bar Association V. Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye; with reference number: 197/SCN/LIT/100118, addressed to Euphraim Ugwuonye, which signed by Gertrude B. Bari-Nyana Esq (for the Chief Registrar).

The letter reads in part: “This is to notify you of a notice issued by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to the effect that your name be struck off the Roll of Legal Practitioners, after you were tried and found guilty of infamous conduct in the course of the performance of your duty as a legal practitioner as set out in count 1, of the Complaint, contrary to Rules 23 and 55 of the Rules of Professional Conduct in the Legal Profession 2007 and punishable under Section 12-(1)-(a) of the Legal Practitioners Act as amended.”

“The said notice is dated 22nd day of May, 2017 and in the absence of an appeal after the stipulated time within which to appeal has lapsed, the name Ugwunonye Ephraim Chukwuemeka is hereby struck off the Roll of Legal Practitioners.”

“Ugwunonye Ephraim Chukwuemeka is not entitled to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Any letter issued to you before now, with regards to your enrolment status is null and void, with immediate effect.”

In a matter of the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (Body of Benchers) holden at Abuja, between the Nigerian Bar Association (Complainant) and Emeka Ugwuonye (Respondent), before: J.D. Dauda, SAN (Chairman), Hon. Justice M. Umukoro, CJ, Delta State, Hon. Justice P.D. Damulak, CJ, Plateau State, Yusuf Ali, SAN, E.C. Ukala, SAN, Tijjani Inuwa-Dutse and Hon. Ahmed Mustapha Goniri, AG, Yobe State, Ugwuonye was found guilty of infamous conduct.

The body, in its ruling, ordered the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court to strike out Ugwuonye’s name from the Roll of legal practitioners in Nigeria.

According to records in a Certified True Copy of the Body of Benchers decision, “the complaint against Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye Esq. (hereinafter referred to as the Respondent) Legal Practitioner of ECULAW and Co. 25 Adeyemo Alakija Street, 2nd Floor, Victoria Island Lagos, is an allegation of Breach of Trust to wit; failure to disclose personal interest in subject matter of Client’s brief.

“The Petitioner, one Ms. Victoria Ekweani alleged that she engaged the services of the Respondent to secure and protect her interest as next of kin in the estate of her late sister, one Ms. Ifeoma Ekweani. Petitioner however alleged that Respondent failed to execute his brief, but rather filed an application at the Enugu State Probate Registry for the issuance of Letters of Administration to the Respondent in his purported capacity as Fiancée and creditor to the deceased. Ms. Ekweani’s Petition was investigated by the Nigerian Bar Association Disciplinary Panel ‘B’, Lagos, which considered all available materials…..”

In its ruling, the Body of Benchers found Ugwuonye guilty.

“We, that is, the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee hereby find the Respondent, Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye guilty of infamous conduct in the course of the performance of his duty as a legal practitioner as set out in Count 1, of the Complaint (as already indicated in this Direction) contrary to Rules 23 and 55 of the Rules of Professional Conduct in the Legal Profession 2007 and punishable under Section 12- (1)- (a) of the Legal Practitioners Act, as amended.”

“We are satisfied that the appropriate order to make in the circumstance is to direct the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court to strike out the name of Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye from the Roll of Legal Practitioners and we so Order. Our Order shall forthwith be brought to the attention of the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court. We further Order that Notice of this Direction be immediately brought to the attention of the Respondent by service on him personally or to his last known address and by publication in any Edition of The Punch Newspaper and also by publication in the Federal Gazzette as required by law.”

Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that the family of Ekweani in Enugu State are mobilising to approach relevant law enforcement agencies to commence criminal prosecution of Ugwuonye over breach of trust.