In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court recently awarded a punitive fine of N8 million against a lawyer, Dr Dickson Osuala, counsel to the governorship candidate of the Democratic People’s Party in the 2011 election, Chief Great Ogboru. Osuala had applied for a review of the court’s judgement which upheld the election of the present governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The judgement had gone against his client.
In his application to the apex court, Osuala claimed that Section 285 (7) of the Nigerian Constitution was fraudulently inserted by the National Assembly. He went on to state that, since due process was not followed in inserting the clause, it was wrong for the Supreme Court to dismiss his client’s case based on it.
Supreme Court Justice Walter Onoghem blamed Osuala for not properly advising his client but, instead, embarked on a clear case of gross abuse of court processes. According to the him, “the said N8 million is awarded as cost against the person of Dickson Osuala and is to be paid from his pocket to the respondent”. He further said “the plaintiff through his counsel wants to resurrect a dead and buried horse… plaintiff’s counsel should advise his client to take his case to heaven, if he is not satisfied with the ruling”.
Osuala rejected the advice on the grounds that no one should be allowed to benefit from a defective law. The counsel had twice approached the Supreme Court for a review of the judgement but the request was turned down.
This is, indeed, a landmark judgement that should serve as a lesson to counsel who take pleasure in exploiting the naivety of their clients for their own pecuniary gains. As we applaud the decision of the Supreme Court, we also point out that, for too long, lawyers have been abusing court processes and by so doing causing unnecessary delays and waste of time in the nation’s judicial system. This category of lawyers, who should advise their clients appropriately, instead give them false hope and charge them exorbitant fees for cases they know they cannot win. However, we find it difficult to exculpate the clients from the shenanigans that go on in the nation’s judicial processes. Sometimes even when the handwriting is clear on the wall, they would not relent, always hoping for a miracle that would never come.
This decision of the apex court will, indeed, serve as a warning to all lawyers and litigants who go to court for flimsy reasons and who, as the Supreme Court pointed out, keep on trying to resurrect a horse that was dead and buried. The Court of Appeal should take a cue from the Supreme Court judgement especially in matters relating to election petitions.