No, Emeka Ugwuonye was never disbarred in Nigeria. But that may make no difference now because of the powerful nature that rumor has assumed.
When I realized that there was a powerful machine put in place to embarrass me, as I had assumed to be the objective, I took the necessary legal steps to stop it.
I properly and lawfully stopped the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) from taking away my right to practice of law in Nigeria, as a legal practitioner.
By filing a timely appeal to the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the 9th of June, 2017 against the LPDC decision of 22nd of May, 2017, I stopped the decision of the LPDC called Direction from taking effect.
It could not be effective by virtue of Section 12(8) of the Legal Practitioners Act. Simple! That is the law and that was all I needed at that time.
It then became for the judgment of the 5 Supreme Court Justices to determine the matter. As long as that appeal was pending, and has not been decided by the Supreme Court Justices one way or the other, the LPDC Direction should no longer be the basis for any outcome on the matter.
Therefore, nothing changed as far as my license to practice law in Nigeria was concerned. That is if we were to follow the law. Anything else would be jungle practice.
But I discovered that the problem would not be the law. The law is clear enough.
Instead, the problem would be:
(1) ignorance on the state of the law by majority of the people,
(2) the failure of the proper authorities to hold firmly to the law, instead of getting intoxicated by the popular rumors on the matter, and,
(3) an extraordinary abuse of the social media where malicious elements remain hell-bent in spreading the false narrative about my case because it sells their business or gains them attention.
As we speak, my appeal is pending at the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The Nigerian Bar Association is a party to the Appeal. It has been served with all the processes.
It knows that the appeal has not been determined. The Bar Association has never filed anything to suggest that the appeal was not properly filed.
Indeed, it was the Body of Benchers that submitted the Appeal to the Supreme Court after it was duly filed with that Body in accordance with the law.
Therefore the Bar Association knows that my appeal is good and that it is pending and that the appeal suspended the Direction of the LPDC.
Yet, none of the officials of the Bar Association has been able to state the truth on my case.
They all went mute, watching as the law and their institutions are being lied against, just because it is Emeka Ugwuonye. Indeed, I have seen a few instances where officials of the Bar Association joined in the rumor that Emeka was disbarred.
The effect of this rumor is quite strong and extremely consequential. First, the police tried to use it to prevent me from defending a man they falsely accused of murder.
When they saw that I was not going to back down based on threats, the police charged me with the same murder as the man I was to defend.
Second, because of the rumor, the Bar Association is not interested in protecting me against the onslaught by the police. Indeed, the Bar thinks it is something happening to an alien from another planet.
How, do I respond to this rumor? It is important to stay focused on the critical issues. My appeal at the Supreme Court goes on and I am confident that the Supreme Court will decide in my favor.
But since it normally takes years for the Supreme Court to decide this type of cases, there is danger in waiting until the Supreme Court hears the Appeal.
Therefore, I will be taking out a number of lawsuits to try to ventilate these rumors in court well before the Supreme Court could hear the appeal.
My hope, in the ultimate, is that my case will open a serious debate into some of the issues involved. We really need to look at the Bar and how it works.
Clearly, the Bar failed to live up to standards. Like the ostrich, the Bar buried its head in the sand at a time, it ought to provide leadership and guidance to the country.
I am not a good politician and I have not done what could have been done – that is; to reach out to personalities to seek for their interventions.
I had help to my principles of fighting a fair and just battle. And that will remain my strategy till the end.
In conclusion, I have not been disbarred. This matter is one where the law should never be confused because it involves lawyers.
If we were to have confusion or engage in illegal procedures in this matter, how would people of other professions like medical doctors, engineers and accountants handle such a matter?
Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire.