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Court to rule on suspended UNICAL professor’s plea to quash charge against him

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, fixed May 16 for ruling on a motion filed by Prof. Cyril Ndifon, the suspended Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Calabar (UNICAL), seeking an order quashing the sexual harassment charge against him.

Justice James Omotosho fixed the date after Osuobeni Akponimisingha, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC)’s counsel, and the defence lawyer, Joe Agi, adopted their processes and presented their arguments for and against the motion.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ndifon and his co-defendant, Sunny Anyanwu, had alleged that Akponimisingha was not qualified to practise as lawyer.

The duo, through their lawyer, Joe Agi, SAN, insisted that Akponimisingha’s name was allegedly not on the roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria pursuant to Section 2 of the Legal Practitioners Act.

They argued that the four-count amended charge preferred against them by ICPC was incompetent as a result of the disputed identity of the anti-graft agency’s lawyer.

They said the development had robbed the court of its jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

They, therefore, prayed the court to quashed the charge against them.

Akponimisingha, in his counter affidavit dated March 20, accused the suspended dean and his legal team of being jealous of his academic qualifications.

The lawyer, who attached his Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)’s Practising Licence document dated 2016 with the counter affidavit, said he graduated from law school.

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He said contrary to the defence argument, the appellation “Dr” added to his name was as a result of an additional academic qualification acquired by him after he had been called to the Bar as a legal practitioner.

He equally alleged that the names of the lead counsel to the defendants, Joe Agi, SAN and other senior advocates appearing with him in the criminal case, were not on roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria with the appendage of “SAN.”

He argued that the fact that the appellation “Dr” was added to his name did not make the amended charge liable to be struck out.

Akponimisingha said he was duly called to the Nigerian Bar and had been licensed to practise law in the country.

“That I know as a fact that justices presiding over cases in courts in Nigeria were called to the Bar only with their given names without the appellation ‘Hon. Justice.’

“Therefore, the appellation ‘Hon. Justice’ added to their names by reason of their appointment as judges does not render their judgments invalid because their names do not appear on the roll call of Legal Practitioners as ‘Hon. Justices.’

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“The name Joe odey Agi, SAN is not on the roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria. What exists on the roll is Agi Joseph Odey, year of call, 1985,” he said

Akponimisingha told the court that the present application by the defence was a delay tactics deployed to stall the smooth trial of the charge.

He urged the court to discountenance their plea.(NAN)

Taiye Agbaje
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