LPDC Orders SC Chief Registrar To Strike Out The Name Of Former Attorney General Of Cross Rivers, Off The Roll Of Legal Practitioners
LPDC Orders SC Chief Registrar To Strike Out The Name Of Former Attorney General Of Cross Rivers, Off The Roll Of Legal Practitioners
LPDC Orders SC Chief Registrar To Strike Out The Name Of Former Attorney General Of Cross Rivers, Off The Roll Of Legal Practitioners
*Says Evidence Act and Strict Provisions of Evidence Does Not Apply To Proceedings

The LPDC has directed the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court to strike out the name of the former Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice for Cross Rivers State, Mr. Joe Bang, over allegations of professional misconduct, especially as it relates to dealing with clients funds.

The LPDC handed over its direction whilst delivering its decision in complaint no BB/LPDC/234/2020, between The incorporated Trustees of Nigerian Bar Association [as complainant] against Joe Abang Esq [Respondent].

The fact of the case is that the respondent was approached by Unity Bank PLC [the primary complainant] to recover money owed to it by Bilwadams Construction Company Nig. Ltd to the tune of over One Hundred and Ten Million Naira, however, the respondent was only able to remit a negligible amount after much persuasion from the primary complainant. Whereupon a complaint was laid against the respondent before the LPDC. 

The NBA proffered the following charges against the respondent:

COUNT ONE:
That you JOE ABANG, ESQ, a legal practitioner whose name is on the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria, Adult Male and Practicing in Lagos State, sometimes in October 2010, on behalf of your client Unity Bank PLC, received the sum of N6,666,666.66 (Six Million, Six Hundred and Sixty-six Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty-six Naira, Sixty-six kobo) but you withheld and use the money for yourself and refused to remit same to your client and by so doing, you failed to maintain a high standard of professional conduct expected of a legal practitioner all contrary to Rule 1, 14(1)(2), 23(1)(2) and 55 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

COUNT TWO:
That you JOE ABANG ESQ, a legal practitioner whose name is on the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria, Adult Male and Practicing in Lagos State, sometimes in 2012, received the sum of N66, 666,666.71 (Sixty-six Million, Six Hundred and Sixty-six thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty-six Naira, Seventy-one kobo) being money meant for your client, Unity Bank PLC, from a debtor of the said bank but you kept and used the money for yourself and refused to remit same to your client, and by so doing you took advantage of the confidence reposed in you by your client and failed to maintain the high standard of professional conduct expected of a legal practitioner, contrary to Rule 1, 14(1)(2), 15(3), 23(1)(2) and 55 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and punishable under s.12 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L 11 of the law of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 (As revised).

COUNT THREE:
That you JOE ABANG ESQ, a legal practitioner whose name is on the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria, Adult Male and Practicing in Lagos State received the sum of N6,666,666.66  [Six Million, Six Hundred and Sixty-six Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty-six Naira, Sixty-six Kobo] and N66, 666,666.71 (Sixty-six Million, Six Hundred and Sixty-six thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty-six Naira, Seventy-one kobo) in October 2010 and sometime in 2012 respectively, on behalf of your client, Unity Bank PLC, and you refused to remit same to your client, until 23rd September, 2013 when you remitted N45,000,000 [Forty-five Million Naira only] after intensified demand by your client and you failed and/or refuse to pay the outstanding balance on or before October 2013, and by so doing, you took advantage of the confidence reposed in you by your client and failed to maintain the high standard of professional conduct expected of a legal practitioner, contrary to Rule 1, 14(1)(2), 23(1)(2), 15(3)(j) and 55 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and punishable under s.12 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L 11 of the law of the federation of Nigeria, 2004 (As revised).

COUNT FOUR:
That you JOE ABANG ESQ, a legal practitioner whose name is on the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria, Adult Male and Practicing in Lagos State received and did pay into your own/firm’s account with Unity Bank PLC, the sum of N6,666,666.66  [Six Million, Six Hundred and Sixty-six Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty-six Naira, Sixty-six Kobo] and N66, 666,666.71 (Sixty-six Million, Six Hundred and Sixty-six Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty-six Naira, Seventy-one kobo) received on 29th of October 2010 and sometime in 2012 respectively, from debtors and belonging to your client, Unity Bank PLC, thus mixing your client’s money with your own/firm’s money instead of your client’s account and by so doing, you failed  to maintain the high standard of professional conduct expected of a legal practitioner, contrary to Rule 1, 23(2) and 55 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and punishable under s.12 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L 11 of the law of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 (As revised).

COUNT FIVE:
That you JOE ABANG ESQ, a legal practitioner whose name is on the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria, Adult Male and Practicing in Lagos State without your client’s express or implied instruction or authorisation and despite a subsisting High Court Judgement in Unity Bank PLC favor, entered into terms of settlement with the Judgement debtor to pay the sum of N110,000,000 [One Hundred and Ten Million Naira only] in full and final settlement of the outstanding indebtedness which as at July 2013 was in the sum of N392,202,376.82 [Three Hundred and Ninety-Two Million, Two Hundred and Two Thousand, Three Hundred and Seventy-six Naira, Eight-Two Kobo] and by so doing, you failed to maintain the high standard of professional conduct expected of a legal practitioner, contrary to Rule 1, 15(3), 18(2) and 55 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and punishable under s.12 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L 11 of the law of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 (As revised).

It is noteworthy that whilst the complainant relied on all necessary documents, correspondence and bank transactions in other to establish its case, the respondent rested its entire case on that of the complainant, noting that most of the exhibit sought to be tendered are but documentary hearsay and are not sufficient to prove guilt. Furthermore, the respondent argued that given that no vital witness was called by the complainant to prove its case and that the documents where merely ‘dumped’ on the committee, accordingly, probative value ought not to be attached to them and the case of the complainant should fail.

In arriving at its decision, the LPDC considered that the relationship between the primary complainant [Unity Bank PLC] and the respondent was a client-lawyer relationship, and also that the relationship was for the recovery of debt, it, however, noted that under the Nigerian Jurisprudence, the provisions of the Evidence Act and Strict Codes of Evidence do not apply strict, accordingly, the argument of hearsay remains largely ineffective. The LPDC thereafter convicted the respondent and directed that his name be struck out.

In a document sighted by ASKLEGALPALACE, dated 21st January, 2021 and signed by the LPDC Chairman, Emmanuel.  C. Ukala, SAN, and four other members,  Hon. Justice Dr. Hussein Mukhtar, PJCA, Hon. Justice Rabi Umar, CJ, Bauch,  Ebenezer Obeya, Esq., and Boma Ayomide Alabi,SAN, OON, the Committee resolved as follows

“We are satisfied that the appropriate order to make in the circumstance is to DIRDIRECT the CHIECHIEF REGREGISTRAR OF THE SUPREME COURT TO STRIKSTRIKE OUT the name of JOE ABANG  that is, ABANG JOSEPH OSHIE from the roll of Legal Practitioners in accordance with the Rule  22(a) of the LPDC Rules of 2020 and we so order.

“The Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court  is hereby DIRECTED against the name of the Respondent JOE ABANG that is, ABANG JOSEPH OSHIE on the Roll of Legal Practitioners.  This order shall forthwith  be brought to the attention of the Chief Registrar  of the Supreme Court.  We further  order that NOTICE of this DIRECTION  be immediately be given and brought to the attention of the Respondent ( the presence of the Respondent  of this committee  where this DIRECTION is read shall be deemed  to be sufficient personal service) by publication in any edition of the Punch Newspapers  and also by publication in the Federal Gazette as required by law.”

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