Court asked to sack Gbajabiamila over alleged US fraud conviction

A Nigerian, Philip Undie, has filed a suit seeking an order of the Federal High Court in Abuja to declare the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, unfit to be elected as a member or Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Mr Undie, according to PUNCH report, said this was over an allegation that Mr Gbajabiamila was convicted for fraud and dishonesty in the United States of America in 2007.

Mr Undie, in his request, described himself as a Nigerian resident in Abuja, who pays his tax.

He also contended through his lawyer, Ayodele Justice, that by the virtue of Section 66 of the Nigerian Constitution, the judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia allegedly convicting and sentencing Mr Gbajabiamila for fraud and dishonesty, the lawmaker was unfit to be elected as a member or Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The suit marked HC/ABJ/CS/539/2019, also urged the court to restrain both the House of Representatives and Mr Gbajabiamila’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), from accepting his nomination as an aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the House.

Those joined as defendants in the suit, are Mr Gbajabiamila, the House of Representatives, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the APC.

In the suit, the plaintiff alleged that Mr Gbajabiamila, as a practising lawyer in the State of Georgia in the US, “was convicted and sentenced for fraud and dishonesty in relation to the sum of $25,000” belonging to a client of the lawmaker, at the time.

According to the plaintiff, “as punishment for the offence, Mr Gbajabiamila was sentenced to a suspension from practising as a lawyer for 36 months.

He said the conviction and sentence were passed by the full panel of the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia in a judgment on February 26, 2007.

His affidavit, filed in support of the suit read in part, “That the first defendant (Gbajabiamila) herein is the same respondent in the said matter with Case No. 506Y0829, IN THE MATTER OF FEMI GBAJA.

That it was stated in the said judgment that the first defendant admits violating Rule 1.15 (1) of Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct set forth in Bar Rule 4-102 (d).

A copy of Rule 1.15 (1) of the State of Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct and Enforcement is hereby attached and marked as ‘EXHIBIT B, the report added.

“That the violation of the above-referred rule is punishable by disbarment.

“That the first defendant accepted the imposition of a sentence of suspension up to 36 months as a punishment for fraud and dishonesty in relation to the sum of $25,000 belonging to a then client of the 1st defendant before the full panel of the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia.”

The plaintiff noted that Mr Gbajabiamila had admitted that he accepted payment of $25, 000 as settlement of a client‘s personal injury claims, deposited the fund in his Attorney Trust Account in January 2003 but failed to disburse the fund to the client.

Mr Undie further noted that Mr Gbajabiamila later withdrew the money “for his own personal use closed his practice and moved out of the State of Georgia and back to Nigeria to contest election for the House of Representatives in 2003.”

He said by the content of the judgment, Mr Gbajabiamila had later paid the $25,000 to his client in 2006, “he, however, admitted that his conduct violated Rule 1.15(1) and that, as a result, he is subject to disbarment”.

The plaintiff is not only seeking a declaration that the first defendant is not a fit and proper person to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives and or/as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, he is also, among others, seeking “an order of injunction restraining the second and fourth defendants (the House and APC) from accepting the nomination of the first defendant as an aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the second defendant herein.”

He also asked the court to make “an order of injunction restraining” the lawmaker “from parading himself as a member of the House of Representatives” and “also as an aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

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