Demolition of billion naira properties: Rivers Community accuses lawyers of gross misconduct, instigation

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The people of Umuotube Community in Igbo-Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State have accused Counsel to Livingstone Estate, Barristers Obinna Uchenna Korie and Augustine Akwarandu of engaging in professional misconducts that include Forum Shopping and suppression of facts that led to the demolition of over twenty buildings in the community said to be worth over one billion naira.

The community in a petition to Nigerian Bar Association said that on November 4, 2019, the lawyers filed a suit at a Rivers State High Court sitting at Okehi over the land dispute between the community and Livingstone Estate.

The community in the petition said that the lawyers were aware that the matter was already pending at a customary court in Egwi and the judgement delivered by the customary court thereafter.

According to Eze Nkemakolam Nwamuo who spoke on behalf of the community, the lawyers on November 8, 2019, abandoned the suit at Okehi High Court without any form of discontinuance, proceeded to the Port Harcourt Division of the Rivers State High Court where they secured a favourable judgement from Justice Augusta Kingsley-Chuku.

They said that Justice Kingsley-Chuku seized the case file and insisted on going forward with the matter despite several pending petitions and appeals against her on the suit.

The Umuotube community further explained that Justice Chuku refused to yield to all lawful excuses not to go on with the matter. They added that within few months of trial, Justice Chuku delivered her judgement on February 12, 2021.

Explaining further, they said that sixteen days after Justice Chuku delivered her judgement, they appealed for a stay of execution, adding that the appeal number CA/PHC/199/2021 is there in Rivers State Judiciary Portal and has not been erased.

Stressing further, the community said that the lawyers, Korie and Akwarandu were also served all the processes but several months down the line when the appeal was still pending, they proceeded to apply for enforcement of the contentious judgement.

They said that the lawyers approached the police to help in enforcing the judgement but the police declined, with reasons that they have a document showing that the matter was still pending at the Appeal Court.

Umuotube community said that the lawyers surreptitiously went and compromised the embattled Deputy Sheriff of the High Court, Austin Omubo Iruene. They alleged that Akwarandu paid Mr Iruene the sum of five million naira, adding that he was the one who personally transacted with the Deputy Sheriff who generated a document to mislead the Police to offer them the protection that to embark on the enforcement.

They said that the Police was deceived to provide enforcement for a matter that was still pending at the Appeal Court.

According to the petition, when the Officer in Charge of Legal realized the mistake, they called the Lawyer and the Deputy Sheriff to abort the enforcement mission but the lawyers insisted that there was no appeal.

They noted that the Lawyers also confirmed to journalists who witnessed the demolition exercise that there was no pending appeal on the matter, adding that evidence of the appeal are still in the Portal and has not been erased.

The community said that by the Lawyer’s actions, he has committed gross misconduct of Forum Shopping, misleading the authorities and suppression of facts.

They stated further that Barristers Korie and Akwarandu are the instigators, the engine room and conduit pipe with which Livingstone Estate and its owner, Mr Abasiobong Udofia orchestrated the unlawful demolition of their buildings.

Umuotube community said that they had in February petitioned the Nigerian Bar Association for disciplinary action against Barrister Korie but is yet to find out what the association has done about it.

They are also alleging that the NBA is culpable by encouraging the unlawful actions of Barrister Korie by not carrying out disciplinary actions on him.