DILEMMA OF JUSTICE AJUMOGOBIA’S LAWYER SUMMONED TO TESTIFY FOR THE PROSECUTION

Read previous post on case here.

An interesting legal point regarding lawyer-client privilege was today raised in the ongoing trial of Hon. Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and Godwin Obla SAN before Justice Oshodi of the High Court of Lagos State sitting in Ikeja. In the course of today’s proceedings, the prosecution called its 10th witness, Mr. Charles Musa, whom the court on the application of the prosecution subpoenaed.

Mr. Charles Musa is a legal practitioner, notary public and former classmate to Justice Ajumogobia. He testified that he is a friend to the Judge and when asked if he rendered services as a legal practitioner to the Judge, he stated his reluctance in answering questions that would breach the lawyer-client privilege. The prosecution however persisted and when directed by the court to answer the question, he stated that he drafted an agreement between County & City Bricks Development Col. Ltd and Justice Ajumogobia and after he identified the agreement, it was tendered in evidence. He however stated that after he sent the draft agreement to the Judge by email, he had nothing more to do with the Agreement. He testified that he did not prepare or sign any agreement between County & City Bricks Development Co. Ltd and Nigel & Olive and when shown an agreement between the parties purportedly prepared by him, he stated that he did not draft the agreement. The prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo sought to tender the document but the court refused on the ground that the witness is not the maker and that the document can be tendered through an investigative officer.

Robert Clarke SAN representing Justice Ajumogobia in the proceedings directed the attention of the court to the provisions of Section 192 (1) of the Evidence Act 2011 on privileged communication between a lawyer and his client and stated that the issue would be addressed at the appropriate stage. Under cross-examination, he asked Mr. Musa if he got the permission of his client before testifying in court this morning and Mr. Musa replied that he did not and that he was in court reluctantly.

The charge has been adjourned for continuation of trial.

Earlier in the course of the day’s proceedings, the court had granted the application of the two defendants for the temporary release of their international passports for the purpose of travelling to attend medical appointments. Justice Oshodi stated that he would exercise his discretion in favour of the Defendants as they have placed sufficient facts before the court. Relying on the Supreme Court case of Abacha v. The State (2002) 5 NWLR (Part 761) 638, the court held that everyone is entitled to be offered access to good medical care whether he is being tried for a crime or has been convicted or is simply in detention. He held that he believes that the defendants have a lot to lose if they fail to face trial and would therefore not take the risk of jumping bail. He therefore directed the Chief Registrar of the court to release the passports for the period between 7th of June and 30th of June 2017.


Read the relevant provision of the law here:

Section 192 (1) of the Evidence Act 2011 provides thus:

No legal practitioner shall at any time be permitted, unless with his client’s express consent, to disclose any communication made to him in the course and for the purpose of his employment as such legal practitioner by or on behalf of his client, or to state the contents or condition of any document with which he has become acquainted in the course and for the purpose of his professional employment or to disclose any advice given by him to his client in the course and for the purpose of such employment:

 

Provided that nothing in this section shall protect from disclosure –

(a) Any such communication made in furtherance of any illegal purpose;

(b) Any fact observed by any legal practitioner in the course of his employment as such, showing that any crime or fraud has been committed since the commencement of his employment.

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