PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT ALLEGATION: Umeh Kalu SAN Clarifies, Set To Drag Don Ubani, Others To Court
PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT ALLEGATION: Umeh Kalu SAN Clarifies, Set To Drag Don Ubani, Others To Court
Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former Attorney General of Abia State Umeh Kalu, has put in perspective and given insight into the issues of professional misconduct leveled against him by some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains in Abia State.
Few days ago, PDP Chieftain and former Chief of Staff to the deputy governor Sir Don Ubani and others, alleged that UMEH Kalu SAN procured a fake counsel or a counsel unknown to the PDP legal team to sign as having been served with the processes.
In a detailed reply attached below, Umeh Kalu clarified what transpired and threatened to sue those tarnishing his name.
READ FULL BELOW:
RE: MY ALLEGED PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT IN THE ONGOING ABIA GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION TRIBUNAL PROCEEDINGS
My attention has been drawn to series of write-ups and press statements traceable to the PDP in Abia State, wherein I was alleged to have conducted myself unprofessionally by undertaking (in writing) to the Secretary of the Abia State Election Petition Tribunal to serve some processes on the PDP’s counsel in their Petition against the election of Dr. Alex Otti.
It was further alleged that upon the said written undertaking by me, that I procured a fake counsel or a counsel unknown to the PDP legal team to sign as having been served with the processes.
The above summary reflects my understanding of what constitutes the allegation against me as being presented by all the Abia PDP attack dogs that have been procured to pour tantrums on my person.
I would have ordinarily ignored these utterly false allegations like I have severally done in the past, but for the demands of some of my professional colleagues and legion of young lawyers whom I have mentored and continue to mentor, to present the correct facts to the general public, as only lawyers will appreciate the fact that non – service of a process on an adversary in a Court proceedings does not inure any advantage to either of the parties, as the Court records are always available to give guidance on proper service or otherwise.
What benefit or advantage will the Alex Otti legal have by the act of not serving INEC’s Reply to the PDP’s Petition on the PDP team? Is there any way that the Petition can be heard without all the parties joining issues and exchanging briefs on the facts raised in the Petition?
I leave the reader of this piece to fathom the answers
GENESIS OF THE MATTER:
Following PDP’s woeful loss at the Abia gubernatorial election held on the 18th day of March, 2023, wherein they engaged all manner of subterfuge, evil machinations, thuggery, intimidation e.t.c to thwart the will of the entire Abia electorate, INEC announced a belated result of the election, in which the Labour Party garnered 175, 467 votes to defeat all the other political parties including the PDP’s who secured only 88, 529 votes.
Contrary to the public statements of the then Governor Ikpeazu that the PDP had accepted the outcome of the elections as announced by INEC and will not contest same in Court, and, like in almost every other promise that the PDP had made in the past to the people of Abia State, the PDP proceeded to file an Election Petition with Petition No.: EPT/AB/GOV 1/2023.
On the face of the Petition which was filed on the 11th day of April, 2023 it had the list of Petitioners’ counsel as D.C. Denwigwe, SAN, Prof. Paul Ananaba, SAN, C.A.N Nwokeukwu, SAN, amongst other counsel. The Petitioners’ address for service within Abia State was and still remains till date C/O of their counsel D.C. Denwingwe, SAN & Co. and all the other lawyers listed or Nwaogu & Co. of 76 St. Michaels Road, Aba, Abia State.
The Respondent’s to the Petition are INEC, Dr. Alex Otti and the Labour Party, who all retained counsel of their choice, with their respective addresses for service within Abia State. Particularly, INEC retained the services of J.T.U Nnodum, SAN; Dr. Alex Otti engaged the services of Lateef Fagbemi, SAN and Co., while I am one of the senior lawyers engaged by the Labour Party to partner with Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, and others to defend the Petition on behalf of the Party.
ISSUES WITH SERVICE OF PROCESS
I must state from the outset that I have never been to the Registry of the Tribunal or met the Tribunal Secretary or any staff of the Tribunal for the purposes of filing processes or effecting service of any process in all the twenty – eight (28) Petitions which our law firm is handling before the Abia State Election Petition Tribunal.
Having stated the above, it may be necessary for the benefit of the general public who are not legal practitioners, to mention hear that it is mandatory for litigants and/or counsel representing them in every Court proceeding to provide an address for service at the bottom of the process – usually the last page. Some Courts make it mandatory for counsel to provide their phone numbers and email addresses.
For administrative purposes and possibly ease of service, counsel who operate outside the immediate environment of the Court are expected to provide an address for service within the jurisdiction of the Court. The purpose of an address within jurisdiction is to aid the Court bailiffs whose duty it is to serve processes or for a party (when they undertake to effect service on their own) to dispense service timeously.
It is public knowledge that the Abia Election Tribunal commenced sitting in Umuahia shortly after the elections. Their venue of operation in Umuahia was Damgrete Hotel, as the Court Halls in Umuahia were under lock due to the strike action embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union (JUSUN).
The protracted strike action necessitated the relocation of the Tribunal to Abuja. The operational venues of the Tribunal in Abuja were National Judicial Institute (NJI) and Ajuji Greenwich Hotel in Apo.
The Tribunal on relocating to Abuja found themselves in dire difficulty with serving processes, as there was no Bailiff attached to the Tribunal and most addresses for service were in Abia State. The Tribunal therefore prevailed on the counsel at the point of filing processes, to undertake to serve the processes themselves on the other contending parties.
Following the relocation of the Tribunal to Abuja, Mr. Jude Nnodum, SAN opted to use my Abuja office as his address for service within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, to ease the bureaucratic bottlenecks and delays that may be encountered in serving the process meant for him as counsel to INEC at the INEC Headquarters in Abuja.
I recall receiving a call from one of the staff assisting Mr. Jude Nnodum, SAN, who had travelled all the way from Owerri to file processes on behalf of INEC, informing me of the difficulties he was encountering at the Tribunal. He informed me that the Tribunal staff were insisting that he must undertake to serve the processes he wanted to file on behalf of INEC, on both the PDP and the other parties in the Petition, otherwise the process will not be accepted for filing.
I asked him to undertake to serve the said process and I equally put a phone call across to D.C. Denwigwe, SAN, who is the lead counsel to the PDP on record, and, requested from him an address within Abuja for purposes of serving the processes relating to that Petition on him. He provided the phone number of a lawyer named Chinedu Onyeukwu with phone number 08033958979 who is resident in Abuja, for purposes of receiving the said processes.
Few days after the filing of the process, the said Chinedu Onyeukwu was reached on the phone and he arranged to meet with my staff at the National Judicial Institute, Abuja, the venue of the Tribunal sittings, whereat the processes were handed over to him and one of the lawyers who came with him acknowledged receipt of the process. Thereafter, the Endorsement and Return Copy of the process was returned to the Tribunal.
I have since the issue of my alleged receipt and withholding of the court process filed by INEC in the PDP Governorship Petition (which for the record I never personally collected or undertook to serve) called D.C. Denwigwe, SAN, who confirmed to me that the said process was received by Chinedu Onyeukwu. Mr. Denwigwe, SAN, equally informed me that the process is in the Apo – Abuja office of another senior counsel Mr. Asoluka, SAN, where he uses as his Abuja address for service.
It is rather unfortunate that the PDP lawyers who were aware or ought to know that service of processes should be effected on the lead counsel and had in fact been effected on the lead counsel, decided out of their mischief to deny service and misinform the Court in order to obtain an Order for fresh service on them, since from the Rules of Court they were already out of time to file their Reply to the INEC process.
I have it on good authority that it is equally this team of PDP lawyers led by one Ukpai Ukairo who provided the information with which Abia PDP attack dogs have gone to town to spread all manner of falsehoods and defamatory narratives about my person and integrity.
My attempt to get Mr. Denwigwe, SAN, to intervene and set the records straight elicited an explanation from him that neither the Abia PDP nor their gubernatorial candidate have formally approached him to handle their Petition despite having affixed his name conspicuously on their Petition as their lead counsel two months after filing same.
The highly respected senior counsel equally informed me that he has equally raised the above issue with Paul Ananaba, SAN and C.A.N Nwokeukwu, SAN whose names are equally listed on the Petition as counsel to the PDP.
It is clear from all that has been said so far that the PDP in Abia State are obviously not serious to prosecute their Petition but are rather like a drowning man looking for any available straw to hang on, which includes the issue of non – service of an INEC process on them.
I would definitely not yield myself as an instrument to be used by the PDP in deceiving the general public, especially Abians, that they are prosecuting an election petition while in actual fact they are chasing shadows.
I will conclude by stating that those that I have identified as having been procured to tarnish my hard earned image and integrity will meet me without fail at the Courts very soon.
DATED THIS 19TH DAY OF JUNE, 2023
UMEH KALU, SAN