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Alleded Professional Misconduct, Access Bank Petitions LPPC, LDPC, Over Seplat Lawyers

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Trouble days might be ahead for
Babajide Koku (SAN) and Etigwe Uwa (SAN), both lawyers to Seplat Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

This is as Access Bank PLC has petitioned the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC) and the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), demanding the bodies sanction the duo.

Findings by www.theoctopusnews.com, indicates that the duo were alleged of professional misconduct in the handling of court case between SPDC and the bank.

In the petition against Koku and Uwa, the lender alleged that both senior advocates engaged in acts unbecoming of legal practitioners and contravened well established legal principles in bad faith.

The petition is not in isolation from the ongoing debt suit between Access Bank and SPDC.

Recall that Access Bank had weeks back taken over the corporate headquarters of Seplat Petroleum Development Company Limited through a receiver-manager Kunle Ogunba (SAN).

The take over was done after a court issued an order to the effect due to a debt that had almost gone bad.

The order amongst other things granted Access Bank power to possess the corporate offices of Seplat and to freeze its accounts over a loan obtained by Cardinal Drilling Services Limited, which according to the bank, was utilised by Seplat.

Seplat has however continue to maintain that it never got a loan from the bank and as such, its property could not be taken over.

According to Seplat,  the loan was given to Cardinal Drilling and not directly to Seplat.

In the letters to both bodies, Access Bank accused Koku of “Aiding and abetting his client’s engagement in acts contravening well established legal principles and illegalities all in bad faith to prevent his clients from fulfilling their corporate responsibilities.”

Further, the bank maintained that the  lawyers “Engaged in acts calculated to deliberately obstruct, delay and ultimately affect the administration of justice.”

According to the bank, the email written conveying the execution of the order of the Court of Appeal to the bank was replete with fallacies, insisting that notwithstanding the fallacies contained, Koku failed to immediately caution his client Dr Ambrose Orjiako to refrain from instructing his company Seplat from making such misleading statements.

“It is pertinent to state that the suspension of the interlocutory injunction was to be secured by a Bank Guarantee issued in favour of the Deputy Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal in line with the ruling of the Court.

“It is indeed elementary and Mr. Jide Koku SAN, a member of the Inner Bar ought to know that the suspension of the interlocutory orders made by the trial court in FHC/L/CS/1588/2020 shall not take effect until the lodging of the security (Bank Guarantee in favour of the Deputy Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal) ordered by the Honourable Court.

“However, till date Seplat being directed by its Chairman Dr. Orjiako has failed to lodge the said bank guarantee issued in favour of the Deputy Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal within 21 days of the said ruling and the office of the Deputy Chief Registrar after the requisite filing at the Court of Appeal Registry.

“Furthermore, Seplat being directed by its Chairman, Dr. Orjiako published several notices, alleging that it had repossessed its Head Office,” Access Bank stated.

The lender added that a public notice released by Seplat was also full of  fallacies, all in a bid to deceive the general public and create public sentiment in favour of the company.

“A close examination of the public notice will reveal this mischief particularly the fact that the said publication deliberately seeks to mislead the general public into believing that the entire building, housing companies other than Seplat was closed up, thereby portraying the bank as irrational,” it said.

The bank further stated that Uwa under the direction of Orjiako violated the interlocutory order of the Federal High Court by taking pictures inside the said asset at 12:27am when indeed the Court of Appeal delivered its ruling around 10:00am.

“It is befuddling for Seplat being directed by its chairman to allege that the said order had been executed, save for the deployment of illegal means approved by its chairman in any such purported execution,” Access Bank maintained.

Access Bank hinged the basis for its petition on the rule of practice stating that: Rule 15 (2) (a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007, the bank said that a lawyer shall keep strictly within the law notwithstanding any contrary instruction by his client, and if the client insists on a breach of the law, the lawyer shall withdraw his service.

According to the bank, from the provision above, Koku having failed to withdraw representation of his client in breach of the law, but rather encouraged, defended and corroborated in such illegalities had breached the rules of professional conduct.

“We urge the committee to determine this instant petition in favour of the petitioner and hold that Koku is indeed guilty of professional misconduct and conducts unbecoming of a legal practitioner and proceed to sanction this conduct to serve as a deterrent to other legal practitioners,” it said.

In the case of Uwa, Access Bank accused him of deliberately making, publishing and/or causing to be published false statements of facts and law and participating in making extra judicial statements calculated to prejudice and/or interfere with the fair trial of a pending suit

“It also said the senior lawyer aided and abetted his client’s engagement in acts contravening well established legal principles and illegalities all in bad faith to prevent his clients from fulfilling their corporate responsibilities.

According to the bank, Uwa on his part “Engaged in acts calculated to deliberately obstruct, delay and ultimately affect the administration of justice and failed to observe promises to opposing counsel thereby failing to adhere to agreements implied by such promises.

“Why did Etigwe Uwa storm the asset accompanied by heavily armed policemen while he was fully aware that the petitioner had caused to be filed a Notice of Appeal to the Supreme Court alongside an application for injunction pending appeal?

“How did Etigwe Uwa procure policemen on illegal duty to accompany him to attempt to repossess the asset in a gestapo like manner, without the mandatory Sheriffs of the Federal High Court?

“Is Etigwe Uwa’s attempt to foist the Apex Court with a situation of fait accompli a conduct becoming of a legal practitioner?,” the bank queried.

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