A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday awarded N20 million cost against Chuks Nwachukwu, the lawyer behind a suit seeking to stall the May 29 inauguration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Nwachukwu had filed the suit in the name of five individuals who claimed to be residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Anyaegbunam Okoye, David Adzer, Jeffrey Uche, Osang Paul and Chibuike Nwanchukwu.
They had prayed the court to, among others, issue an order stopping the inauguration of President Tinubu and Vice President Kassim Shettima on the grounds that the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the February 25 poll failed to secure at least 25 per cent of votes cast in the FCT.
The plaintiffs, who claimed to have sued for themselves and on behalf of other residents and registered voters in the FCT, also urged the court to restrain the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, “and any judicial officer and/or any authority or persons from swearing in any candidate in the February 25 presidential election as President or Vice President”.
But, in a judgment yesterday, Justice Inyang Ekwo held that the plaintiffs failed to establish their locus standi by disclosing their right that was affected or injury done to them by the outcome of the election.
Justice Ekwo struck out the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked locus standi to approach the court on the matter they were contesting.
“I make an order striking out this action on grounds of lack of locus standi of the plaintiffs, lack of jurisdiction of the court and the failure of the plaintiffs to demonstrate to this court that similar subject is not pending before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, which proceedings are on-going”.
The judge, who frowned at Nwachukwu’s comments in an interview he granted the media on the case, awarded N20 million cost against him, out of which he must pay at least N10 million each to the first and second defendants – the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the CJN.
Nwachukwu had, in the interview, accused the judge of shying away from delivering the judgment in his suit.
The lawyer, who accused the judge of deliberately abandoning his duty, threatened to sue him up to the Supreme Court.
Justice Ekwo ordered that Nwachuku must pay the cost before he can take any further steps on the case.
The judge, who noted that the lawyer was absent, said had he been present in the courtroom, he would have been barred “from practicing until he appears before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to determine whether he is fit to practice the profession.”
“But, since he is not in court, I made an order, directing the registrar to forward all the processes to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to determine whether he is fit to practice the profession”.
Nwachuku was represented at yesterday’s proceedings by another lawyer, Nnaemeka Adiukwu.
The judge also directed that the order of the court be served on the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, the AGF and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Justice Ekwo said,
“Upon reading the affidavit attached to the application, 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 to 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 elementary principle of law as it relates to the Constitution and Electoral Act, 2022.
“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”.