Hallam Satmak v. Commissioner of Police & Anor. – Suit No. PLD/J148M/2016, Per Longji J.:
“Well, my obseevation was that of bewilderment; that a counsel should lie with his health that he was hospitalised, just to delay the hearing of this matter is indeed shameful and uncalled for. It is unbecoming of a lawyer, who is supposed to be a Minister in the Temple of Justice.”
The above statememt by the Court was as contained in the Ruling delivered on 18th April, 2016 by Longji J. of the Plateau State High Court, Jos Division. More so, in the record of proceedings of 14th April, 2016, when the circumstances that led to the above pronouncement transpired, the Learned trial Judge had lamented:
“It is baffling to me for a learned counsel to lie on his health condition to the point that he was on admission but which turns out to be false. I can only imagine this attitude to be that of rogues but not of a learned counsel.”
The facts of this case are quite interesting. The Applicant commenced a fundamental rights suit against the Respondents. The Court had earlier adjourned the case to enable the Respondents file their response. But they failed. On 14th April, 2016 when the matter came up for definite hearing, the Respondents and their Counsel, E. O. Ochayi Esq. were absent.
However, Learned Counsel for the Applicant, D. G. Dashe Esq. informed the Court that the Registrar of the Court told him he received a text message from the Respondents Counsel that he (Ochayi Esq.) was sick and hospitalised. Suspecting foul play, the Applicant’s Counsel asked the Registrar to forward the text message to him and the Registrar obliged him. Dashe Esq. began to investigate the truth about the whereabouts of the Respondents Counsel by calling the Registrars of different courts in the State. He eventually reached a Registrar at the Federal High Court who informed him that Ochayi Esq. was present at the Federal High Court as at 9.20 am same day (14th April, 2016). The Applicant’s Counsel further urged the Federal High Court Registrar to give the Respondents’ Counsel the phone whereupon both Counsel spoke on the phone. Seeing that the ‘game’ was up, the Respondents’ Counsel asked the Applicant’s Counsel to see him in his office later.
The Applicant’s Counsel narrated this development to the Court and the Court had no difficulty in believing the truth of it. The Court expressed its dissatisfaction with the conduct of the Respondents’ Counsel and thereafter proceeded with the hearing of the case.
Indeed, the conduct of certain lawyers like the Respondents’ Counsel, Ochayi Esq., in the instant case is highly disheartening. My Lord, Longji J., has said it all. Obviously, the Respondents’ Counsel showed little or no value for his health. The integrity of the legal profession must be upheld always and this cannot be overemphasised. Our Judges must be ready to award heavy costs on lawyers who are found personally responsible for delaying cases under any guise or tactics which include filing of frivolous applications especially on already settled principles of law.