THISDAY Vs. Former Editor Ibe: Lawyer goes berserk in court

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

The General Counsel of THISDAY Newspapers, Chinwe Izegbu, on Wednesday went berserk in court after she was cross examined in the case brought by a former Editor at  Thisday Newspaper, Paul Ibe, against Leaders & Company Limited, publishers of THISDAY and its Chairman/Editor-in-chief, Nduka Obaigbena.

Ms. Izegbu, who had just ended her cross examination as the principal witness of the defendant and had subsequently been excused by the presiding judge, Justice (Mrs) M. N. Esowe of the National Industrial Court in Abuja, went into theatrics shortly after leaving the court room shouting “thief, thief” “onye oshi, onye ori”, “ole, ole” and then wagging her middle finger at no one in particular.

After her drama in the court premises, Ms. Izegbu was later observed by our reporter as she stopped in front of the gate of the court on Port Harcourt Crescent in the Garki District of Abuja, wound down the windows of her black Kia Sportage vehicle and pointed and shouted again “thief, thief”, “onye oshi, onye ori”, ole, ole” in the direction of lawyers milling around the entrance of the court.

It is not clear who she was cursing but some visibly shocked onlookers were overheard asking each other “what is wrong with this lady, we hope she is normal” as she drove away.

Earlier, Ms. Izegbu, in continuation of her cross examination by lawyer to the plaintiff, Noble Ifeme (leading another lawyer, Armstrong Ukwuoma) had insisted that her name was never struck off the United Kingdom Roll of legal practitioners in 2007 as alleged.

The counsel to Leaders & Company Ltd. and Mr. Obaigbena, Samuel Zibiri had raised objections, which were upheld by Justice Esowe that the questions by Mr. Ifeme had no relevance to the issues under adjudication.

But Mr. Ifeme insisted that that line of questioning was to buttress the point that Ms Izegbu is not a witness of truth having been indicted by the Disciplinary Tribunal in the UK for lying under oath and for engaging in a sham practise contrary to the legal practise act in the UK.

When Izegbu was reminded by Mr. Ifeme that she had on February 17 told the court that her appeal to the suit brought against her by the UK Law Society and upon which a judgement was entered against her was pending at the Appeal Court, Mr. Zibiri once again objected and his objection was sustained by Justice Esowe.

But Mr. Ifeme, lawyer to Mr. Ibe, waving a document, told the court that all he was trying to proof was that Ms. Izegbu’s appeal is not pending but had indeed been determined in 2008 and that the judgement of the Disciplinary Tribunal delisting her name from the roll call of legal practitioners had been upheld.

 

But Justice Esowe upheld her objection insisting that issues being raised by Mr. Ifeme had been dealt with exhaustively by him before the court at the last sitting in February and that it was not relevant to the matter before her court.

However, documents obtained by this newspaper showed that Ms Izegbu’s appeal before Lord Justice Hooper and Mr. Justice Maddison failed in its entirety but for the downward review of the costs against her to 21,045.16 British Pounds Sterling.

“For the reasons given by my Lord Lord Justice Hooper, I agree that it has been right not to adjourn these proceedings but to hear the appeal in the absence of the first appellant (Chinwe Izegbu). I also agree that her appeal should be dismissed for the reasons already given,” the court ruled.

The matter was adjourned to Thursday for continuation of trial.

Mr. Ibe had in July 2011 suit 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 the February 17 cross examination of Ms Izegbu, the counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Ifeme, had 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.

Mr. Ifeme then told 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, the THISDAY lawyer responded to 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, Mr. Zibiri, then asked if the appeal had been determined. Ms. Izegbu said no.

However, documents obtained last month 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,” the 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 June 20, 2005.

The allegations against Ms. Izegbu were 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 finds 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 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.

 

 


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