Notable SC Judgement 2017: Abubakar vs Usman: Court Order SAN to Pay 1M for ill-advising Client (Full Judgement)

 

The Supreme Court has warned counsel not to give wrong advice or false hopes to their clients about the merits of their cases. Thus counsel , whether senior or junior who decide to ignore the decisions of courts and wantonly irritate such courts with the self- same question that has been answered in many decisions, does so at his or her own peril. Such an offending counsel will be damnified for his/her I’ll-advised and ill-fated forensic trip especially to the apex court where “only serious questions of law ought to be canvassed”

The apex court gave this warning in Abubakar and Usman [2017] 15 NWLR Part 1587. , page 36 particularly at pages 50-52.

In that case the apex court deprecated the conduct of J.S Okutepa SAN for filing an appeal in respect of a matter which the court had made pronouncements on especially in a case in which he was involved as counsel. It awarded cost of N1million in favour of the Respondents to be personally paid by J.S Okutepa SAN.

The appeal was prompted by
the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Abuja delivered on February 11, 2016 wherein the court held that Appellant’s (Okutepa’s client) application to alter / amend its judgment, was nothing but a prayer for it “to tamper and change the findings /judgment “ of the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal further held that being the final court in respect of appeal arising from the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal by the provision of section 246(3) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended ), it could not revisit such decision.

Aggrieved by the decision of the Court of Appeal, the appellants appealed to the Supreme Court. At the hearing of the appeal , the respondents raised a preliminary objection that section 246(3) of the 1999 Constitution robbed the Supreme Court of the vires to entertain the appeal.

The Supreme Court upheld the objection and struck out the appeal . I’m doing so, the Apex court lamented the failure of his duty to properly advise his client on position of the law. Particularly the Court per Nweze JSC stated:
“What I find even more worrisome is the fact that the Learned senior advocate for the appellant in this appeal was involved in one of the three judgments of this court delivered in December 9, 2016 affirming its earlier decisions in this question”

Continuing His Lordship stated:
“Although I am tempted to do so, I refuse to entertain the misgiving that the Learned senior advocate’s agitation of this same question in this appeal was a deliberate attempt to put the consistency of this court’s reasoning to test. From my painstaking and intimate reading of the entreaties before the lower court, , it would no doubt, seem obvious that he (Learned senior counsel for the appellant), craftily, tabled those reliefs before that court in the vain hope that it (the said court) could be decoyed into arrogating to itself a jurisdiction which it, clearly, did not possess. Happily, it (the said court) saw through his (the appellant’s) disingenuous ploy and declined to entertain the matter”.

In her contribution, her Lordship Ogunbiyi JSC noted concerning the appeal by Okutepa SAN, “It is unfortunate I must say that despite the clear and unambiguous provision of the law, counsel have failed consistently to be guided therewith and rather seek their way around the provision. This to my mind is not only deliberate but also a surreptitious move to break in through a back wall into a building which does not entitle any entrance whatsoever… Counsel are to blame for the consistent refusal to adhere to what is well within their knowledge and should desist from ill-advising their clients by giving them false hope”.

 

Below is the full Judgement reported by law pavilion

 

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3 Responses

  1. Chuks says:

    This SAN should be strip of SAN ship. He should be subjected to disciplinary investigations, processes and proceedings.

  2. Nigerian law says:

    No matter the age at the Bar, or rank, be it a SAN, AG etc, it is an unprofessional and unethical for counsel to wrongly or purposefully mislead his client,this amounts to a breach of trust and competence in his profession, and thereby gives the profession a bad reputation, this decision to me is greatly admonishing, I would have equally adviced that in other to reduce the pains inflicted on the client the counsel should be asked to refund at least half of his professional fees. To get more legal news checkup : http://www.nigerianlaw.net

  3. Anonymous says:

    No matter the age at the Bar, or rank, be it a SAN, AG etc, it is an unprofessional and unethical for counsel to wrongly or purposefully mislead his client,this amounts to a breach of trust and competence in his profession, and thereby gives the profession a bad reputation, this decision to me is greatly admonishing, I would have equally adviced that in other to reduce the pains inflicted on the client the counsel should be asked to refund at least half of his professional fees. To get more legal news checkup : http://www.nigerianlaw.net

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