LAWYER IN SOUP – DOCKED OVER FORGERY OF COURT JUDGEMENT
It is not a common sight to see legal practitioners in the dock of a court room. Their favourite perch is at the bar, pleading the cause of their clients and earning their fees. However, a legal practitioner, Obiorah Umeh Esq. forty-three years old had cause to face a court of law, on January 29, 2008 from the centre of the dock as an accused person. That court is Magistrate Court 3, Ikeja.
Alongside one Mr. Daniel Nwarienne, the barrister was arraigned on a three count charge of conspiracy to commit forgery, forgery and willfully making false claims in Charge No. MIK/C/06/2008. There are two immediate striking aspects of the case. First is that Obiorah Umeh’s co-accused is a client of the lawyer and secondly what the duo allegedly conspired to forge and allegedly forged was, of all things, the judgment of an Ikeja High Court in favour of Daniel Nwarienne delivered in April, 2007 (See cover story exhibit).
In that case, Suit No. ID/165M/2004: Daniel Nwarienne & Or Vs IGP & 6 Ors. Honourable Justice O.H Oshodi found that the defendants (except the 3rd) had violated the constitutional right of liberty of the applicants and awarded the applicants the sum of N100,000 jointly against the 1st 2nd 4th 5th 6th and 7th defendants jointly and severally.
Unbelievably, this happy development was to lead to unhappy consequences for the 1st applicant in the suit, Daniel Nwarienne and his lawyer Obiorah Umeh. Inner sanctum geckos informed the squib that several months after the judgment in the suit was delivered, precisely on the 25th day of January 2008, a certain barrister turned up in Honourable Justice Oshodi’s court requesting to meet with the registrar. The gentleman barrister was not Obiorah Umeh Esq. but he said he had come to verify and certify a judgment of the honourable court in Suit No. ID/165M/2004.
The registrar who attended to him straight away noticed that the copy of the judgment in question brought out by the lawyer had a signature different from that of his boss, Oshodi J. When he told the lawyer his observation, the lawyer demurred claiming that there was nothing wrong with the judgment in his hand. The registrar however insisted on his point, a position which irritated the lawyer greatly. The argument soon became loud and then hot since neither the registrar nor the lawyer would yield ground. To the greater annoyance and bewilderment of the lawyer, the registrar upon closer perusal of the judgment found that the sum awarded in favour of the applicants was five million naira!
If the registrar was in any doubt before that the judgment the lawyer brought was ‘genje’ (fake), such doubts vanished immediately. Yet, the lawyer insisted that the registrar’s claim could not be right. At that point, it was decided that the best thing to do in the circumstances was to draw the attention of Honourable Justice Oshodi to the situation. When this was done, the judge, stared in the face with the brazen forgery of his order and signature wasted no time in bringing in the police. The police arrested the lawyer who appeared, and to some geckos trully embarrassed and very bewildered at the turn of events. According to out-field geckos, the lawyer explained to the police that he was innocent of any crime, as according to him, the document he came with was given to him by Mr. Daniel Nwarienne. According to the man, Nwarienne had told him that the judgment in turn was given to him by Barrister Obiorah Umeh, his lawyer in the fundamental right suit before Honourable Justice O.H Oshodi.
The police allowed the lawyer to put a call to Nwarienne who he asked to come to the police station to clear him, since he was only helping him (Nwarienne) certify what he believed was a valid court judgment in his favour.
At first, the police doubted whether Nwarieene would show up. But the man came and was promptly arrested. When he corroborated the detained lawyer’s story, the lawyer was eventually let off the hook.
But another lawyer was soon to replace him in detention - none other than Obiorah Umeh. At the end of their investigations, the police believed that both Nwarienne and Umeh are culpable of forging the judgment of Justice Oshodi and had a common intention to achieve that end. Upon his arraignment before the court of law, Barrister Umeh was granted bail by the court. Unfortunately, the gentleman stayed for some time at the Government Lodge, KiriKiri, eating the ‘king’s rations’ before his bail was perfected. The next hearing date of the case is 26th of March, 2008.