The Supreme Court of Nigeria has set aside the conviction of three lawyers for misconduct by the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee (LPDC).
The lawyers, Mamman A. Waziri, Olayori Muideen and Dr. Osaretin George Izegbuwa were ordered to be tried afresh by new panels of the LPDC after a five-man panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Mary Odili, unanimously allowed the three appeals by the lawyers.
The lawyers had claimed among others, to have been denied fair hearing on the grounds of distortions in the membership of the panels that heard their cases.
Justice Ejembi Eko, who authored and read the lead judgments in the three appeals, marked: SC/469/2017; SC/454/2018 and SC/334/2019, agreed with the appellants that the LDPC was wrong to have been inconsistent in the constitution of its panels that heard the three cases.
The appellants, having similar complaints, argued in the main, that the LPDC was not consistent in choosing members of its panels that heard their cases, noting that some members, who never witnessed the testimonies of some witnesses, participated in the delivery of the panels’ decisions.
Justice Eko, while relying on past decisions of the Supreme Court on the issue, particularly that on the appeal by Kunle Kalejaiye (SAN), held that such practice by the LPDC amounts to the denial of the appellants’ right to fair hearing.
He said: “The issue is whether the appellant had been denied fair hearing. And, I am of the considered opinion that, deciding without hearing is an aspect of denial of fair hearing.
“And, accordingly, I allow the appeal, set aside the directions of the LPDC, following the decisions in Kunle Kalejaiye, Adeigbe Salami Korisimo and a host of others, and particularly on the principle that where a court is differently constituted during the hearing of a case, on various occasions when it met or where one member did not hear evidence, the effect on the proceedings is to render them all null and void,”
Justices Odili, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Ibrahim Saulawa and Adamu Jauro, who were members of the panel, agreed with the lead judgments.