An Osogbo High Court Judge, Justice Kudirat Akano, has withdrawn from a suit filed by a team of counsel against erstwhile Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Osun State, Justice Niyi Owolade for alleged non-payment of their professional fees.
The jurist, who washed off her hands when the case came up for mention on Wednesday in Osogbo, attributed her withdrawal to what she described as her relationship with erstwhile Commissioner for Justice.
“I am not competent to preside over the case against my former boss. The defendant (Owolade) was the Attorney General while I was the Solicitor General in the State. Though, none of the parties in the suit raised any objection to my presiding over the case, yet some people will believe that I may be bias.
“Therefore, I am going to return the case file to the Chief Judge of the State for a re-assignment to another Judge,” she declared.
Some team of lawyers engaged during the Election Petition Tribunal which upheld the election of Mr Rauf Aregbesola by Owolade, who was a governorship flag bearer of the Accord Party (AP) in the 2014 governorship polls in Osun State, sued him for allegedly refusing to pay their professional fees after the legal battle.
The counsel in the suit entitled ‘Bisi Jacob Adedayo Esq. & 5 ors (Claimants) Vs. Barr. Niyi Owolade (defendant) with reference number HOS/47/2016′, filed before an Osogbo High Court, is asking the court to order the defendant to pay the claimants the sum of 20 million Naira being their professional fees for representing the defendant at the Tribunal.
According to the statement of claim filed by the claimants’ counsel, Dr. R. O. Abdulkadir, they are also seeking the court’s order directing the defendant to pay 20 per cent and 10 per cent interests respectively on the 20 million Naira to be calculated from the date of the judgment until the whole sum is liquidated and the claimants’ fees for services rendered for the defendant at Osun State election petition tribunal in suit No: EPT/GOV/OS/2/2014 forthwith.
At the sitting on Wednesday, counsel to the claimants, Abdulkadir and three of the claimants were present in court, while the defendant was absent but represented by a counsel.
The statement of claim read: “The claimants aver that they were engaged by the defendant to conduct his case in EPT/GOV/OS/2/2014 as legal practitioners before the Osun State gubernatorial election petition tribunal.
“The claimants aver that they accepted the said engagement and diligently prosecuted the said action for the period it lasted in accordance with the instructions of the defendant.
“The claimants aver that while the action was in progress, the defendant requested for the statement of the claimants’ professional fees, which was duly prepared, forwarded to and received by the
“The claimants aver that the defendant upon receipt of the said letter promised to expedite action without delay by paying a deposit of 70% of the entire fees to guarantee the payment of the professional
“The claimants aver that the defendant never raised a query on the professional fees. Rather, he accepted same with promise to pay without any delay before the completion of the said suit.
“The claimants aver that during the pendency of the said suit and upon completion, the defendant never made good his promise to ensure the prompt payment of either the deposit or the balance. The defendant refused and/or neglected to pay the claimants the agreed sum as professional fees.
“The claimants aver that at the completion of the suit, on 8th January, 2015 a letter of reminder on the subject of professional fees was written to the defendant. The said letter was duly received by the defendant. The letter dated 8th January, 2015 written by B. J. Adedayo Esq. is hereby pleaded and shall be relied upon at the trial of this suit.
“The claimant States that the defendant has not exhibited any sign of concern towards fulfilling his part of the obligation in respect of the election petition handled by the claimants for him before the governorship election petition tribunal, Osun State”.
‘They Want To Blackmail’
When contacted, Mr Niyi Owolade said:”They want to blackmail me. We were in Tribunal together and eventually I did not contribute to the matter. They just want to use it to blackmail me but I called off their bluff. I am aware of the case,” he explained.
When asked if he hired them, he said: “Yes we hired them, they were asked to appear for me through a third party. I do not know them at all. So, when they went to court, we had an agreement through the third party that we will pay 50,000 Naira for every appearance and we lodged them in the hotel and paid their bills but along the line I withdrew from the election petition then they started requesting for the sum of 20 million Naira.
“What for? I see them as blackmailers. It was a mistake on my part. These are guys I do not know. So, I should not have agreed to hire them through a third party”.