Drama as court is told THISDAY lawyer was delisted from UK Solicitors’ Roll for unethical conducts

Nduka Obaigbena, Chairman of Leaders & Company Limited, which runs THISDAY Newspaper titles and Arise TV Network

Former Editor Paul Ibe sued THISDAY and its publisher for failing to remit his tax to the authorities and pay his pension and other entitlements

An Abuja court has been told that the General Counsel for THISDAY and the newspaper’s witness-in-chief, Chinwe Izegbu’s name was, in 2007, struck off the United Kingdom’s Roll of Solicitors, for unprofessional conducts.

The revelations emerged Monday at the cross-examination of Ms Izegbu in the suit instituted against Leaders & Company Limited, owners of THISDAY and its Chairman/Editor-in-chief, Nduka Obaigbena, by a former editor with the newspaper, Paul Ibe.

Mr. Ibe had in July 2011 slammed a N100 million suit on THISDAY and Mr. Obaigbena seeking, among other reliefs, payments of his pension, outstanding entitlements, remittance of his tax as deducted by the company and for the court to order a probe of the newspaper.

At Monday’s cross examination of Ms Izegbu, counsel to the plaintiff, Noble Ifeme leading another lawyer, Armstrong Ukwuoma, suddenly asked the THISDAY General Counsel and its witness-in-chief if she can be accepted by the court as a witness of truth having had her name struck off the roll of solicitors in the UK for lying under oath, committing unethical conduct and abusing her office as a solicitor.

Ms. Izegbu informed the court that she had appealed the matter confirming that there is a subsisting judgement against her.

Mr. Ifeme then told the the court that one of the reasons Ms. Izegbu’s name was struck off the UK solicitors roll was because she lied under oath. This THISDAY lawyer responded by saying she had since appealed the judgement of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

Justice M. N. Esowe, following objections by counsel to THISDAY in the case, Samuel Zibiri, then asked if the appeal had been determined. Ms. Izegbu said no.

Mr. Ifeme then put it to Ms. Izegbu that it was because her name was struck off the UK Roll, compounded by a £33,000 fine slammed on her by the disciplinary tribunal, that she ran back to Nigeria to take up employment with THISDAY. Ms. Izegbu rejected the suggestion, insisting that the judgement was on appeal.

However, documents obtained Monday by this newspaper showed that Ms Izegbu was convicted by the UK Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in 2007 and the ruling has not been overturned.

“The Tribunal Orders that the Respondent Chinwe Bernadette Izegbu of Erith, Kent, DA8, solicitor, be struck off the Roll of Solicitors and it further Orders that she do pay the costs of and incidental to this application and enquiry fixed in the sum of £33,000,” Chairman of the Tribunal A N Spooner ruled in the judgement dated May 1, 2007.

The matter against Ms. Izegbu in suit No. 9285-2005 was brought pursuant to the Solicitors Act 1974 following an application made on behalf of The Law Society by Peter Harland Cadman, solicitor and partner in the firm of Russell-Cooke of 8 Bedford Row, London, WC1R 4BX on 20th June 2005.

The allegations against Izegbu are that she had been guilty of conduct unbefitting a solicitor.

In its judgment, the Tribunal said it found the “evidence of Ms Izegbu to be wholly unreliable and unconvincing. She was evasive when tested in cross-examination and at times inconsistent…In two areas, the Tribunal find that she was dishonest and gave evidence which was intended to mislead the Tribunal.”

The Tribunal said in arriving at its decisions it “found that Ms Izegbu lied to it in her evidence. It warned her of the perils that lay ahead should she continue down this path. Ms Izegbu ignored the warning and continued to give evidence that could not be true. This was an act of blatant dishonesty and the appropriate penalty for such conduct is that she be struck off the Roll.”

Mr. Ibe, a former Editor of THISDAY on Saturday and Editor Nation’s Capital, had in July 2011 in suit No NIC/ABJ/26/2011, sued his former employers over alleged non remittances of his pension and taxes (PAYE) to the relevant agencies. He has also asked the court to declare that the procedure adopted by the defendants in terminating his employment on July 13, 2010 was unlawful, illegal and in bad faith.

The matter was adjourned to March 19 and 20 for continuation of cross examination.


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