The Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee [LPDC] has convicted one Mr. Nnamdi Osuji for professional misconduct bordering on alleged misappropriation of client funds to the tune of Eight million Naira.
The LPDC accordingly directed the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court to strike out the name of Mr. Osuji from the rolls, as well as directed that the said money be remitted back to the client within six months. The LPDC made its direction known whilst delivering its direction in complaint no, BB/LPDC/242/2020, between the Incorporated Trustees of The Nigerian Bar Association [as complainant] and Nnamdi Osuji [as respondent], on the 14th of January, 2021.
The facts of the case is that, the respondent has been approached by a client to purchase a property at FESTAC TOWN in Lagos State. The property at the time of contract had been negotiated at Eight Million Naira (8,000,000), to which the said amount was deposited into the business account of the respondent. However, contrary to the arrangement, the respondent used the money for other ventures claiming that the said amount was a loan amount granted him by the primary complainant, which he was expected to pay back upon maturity. In all, the primary complainant lost the home he wanted to purchase, and the respondent has constantly failed to return the said amount, whereupon a formal complaint was laid by the primary complainant to the Nigerian Bar Association.
In a bid to ensure professionalism and respect to the Profession, the Nigerian Bar Association (N.B.A.) proffered two counts charge against the respondent, viz;
Count 1: That you Nnamdi Osuji Esq., a legal practitioner whose name is on the roll of the legal practitioners in Nigeria, Male, Adult and of the 7th Avenue L Close, House 7, FESTAC Town, Lagos, sometime in 2008, in the course of your engagement by Arisa Chiekwero as legal practitioner collected the sum of eight million [#8,000,000] from the same Arisa Chiekwero to purchase a property on his behalf and failed to carry out the instruction and withheld sum of seven million Naira out of the said sum of eight million Naira all contrary to rules 1,15(1)15(2a) 23,49(2a) and 55(1,2) of the rules of Professional Conduct in the legal Profession 2007 and punishable under 12 of the legal Practitioners act 1999 now 2004 as amended.
Count 2: That you Nnamdi Osuji Esq, a legal Practitioner who’s name is on the roll of the legal Practitioners in Nigeria, male, adult, and of the seventh avenue L close house, house 7, FESTAC town Lagos, sometime in 2008 in the course of your duty as a legal Practitioner to Arisa Chiekwero, to purchase a property on his behalf and fail carry out the instruction and also failed to Account for the sum of #7,000,000 (seven million Naira only) to the said Arisa Chiekwero, despite repeated demands contrary to the rule of Professional Conduct of legal professionals, 2007 and punishable under section 12 of the legal Practitioners Act 1990 now 2004 as amended.
In furtherance to its case, the complainant called two (2) witnesses, after a plea of ‘not guilty’ was entered for the defendant. The trial went on without much opposition or objection from the respondent. It is noteworthy that there was no cross examination on the part of the respondent to the complainant’s witnesses. In its holding, the LPDC found that there was no dispute as to the said amount being handed over to the respondent in a client-lawyer relationship, however the contention was with regards to the purpose of the said amount. The LPDC found that the complainant was able to prove a client-lawyer relationship, between the parties in support of their argument and that the alleged loan arrangement/relationship between the parties as posited by the respondent was not proved, and as such goes to no issue.
“The Committee finds that it was well established that there was a client-lawyer relationship between the primary complainant and the respondent. Particularly as the primary respondent by his own admission under cross examination stated that he advised the primary complainant that the complainant needed to conduct a search on the property prior to proceeding with his accusation plans and not only did the respondent admit to advising to complainant to conduct a search, he also admitted to supervising and conducting of the said search on the primary complainant behalf. Furthermore, the respondent in para 4 of his witness statement expressly denied para 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 of the primary complainant’s deposition.
It is a trite that those paragraphs not expressly denied are admitted thus, the complainant’s deposition in paragraph 3 and 4 were admitted. The purport of these two (2) paragraphs effectively establish the fact that complainant got to know the respondent when he required a lawyer to provide legal Services having been nudged in the respondent’s direction by the respondent’s wife and the respondent had been using his business account to receive client’s money and fees for legal services provided to client in course of his practice. The respondent in his own statement in paragraph 6 stated “in that regard I was ready on my own initiative to conduct search on any potential property to be bought.” The skill set requires to conduct this due diligence on behalf of the primary complainant in a conveyancing transaction could not be picked up from trading AGO (automotive gasoline oil) and can only be attributed to his training and background as a lawyer.
Thus the respondent confirmed that he was willing to provide legal services ” on my own initiative” perhaps implying that this was not a paid service and therefore not qualified to establish a client-lawyer relationship. The analogy that comes to mind is a lawyer claiming that pro-bono legal service do qualify as a legal service, simply because the client is unable to pay for the service provided suffice to say, whether pro-bono or paid, the same standard is expected of a legal practitioner namely- professionalism and utmost good faith.” The direction reads in part.
Having convicted the respondent, the LPDC directed the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court to strike out the name of the respondent from the list of the legal Practitioners. ” We the legal Practitioners disciplinary Committee hereby find the respondent, Nnamdi Osuji also known as Nnamdi Osuji Patrice Esq a lawyer called to the bar in 1992 with enrollment number SCN020502 guilty of infamous conduct in the course of the performance of his duty as a legal practitioner as set out in counts 1 and 2 of complaint by the incorporated trustees of Nigerian Bar Association dated 4th March 2020 contrary to rule 1 of the rules of Professional of conduct for legal practitioners 2007 and punishable under section 12 (1) of the legal Practitioners Act Cap L volume 11 laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004 as amended.” The Committee further ordered that the direction of the committee should be made and published accordingly and same issued to the various head of Courts and security agencies.