It was a mild drama yesterday at an Enugu State High Court presided over by Justice C. C. Ani as counsel fought over legal representation of five dead plaintiffs in a communal land dispute.
The case which was between Ugwuaji and Ogui Nike communities in Enugu South and Enugu North Local Governments respectively, was initiated in 2005 with suit No. E/439/2005.
The plaintiffs in the said suit said to be dead now were Benjamin Atu, Aneke Ede, Jackson Nshi, Ewo Nnaji, Godwin Ani and Sunday Ngene for themselves and Ugwuaji community while the first set of respondents were Igwe Tony Ojukwu, Joseph Nnaji, Ikechukwu Agbo and Paul Anike for themselves and members of Ogui Nike community.
Yesterday, when the matter was called up, counsel to the first set of defendants, Mr Kelvin Nwufor (SAN) moved his motion for substation of one of the first set of defendants, Igwe Tony Ojukwu whom he said was late with Mr. Donatus Ojukwu and it was granted by the court.
He told the court that the five plaintiffs on record were dead and his clients had waited for too long for the counsel to the plaintiffs to bring a motion to substitute the dead plaintiffs on record to no avail hence he filed a motion to substitute them with living plaintiffs from the same community as required by law.
He reminded the court that the dead plaintiffs had earlier withdrawn their statements of claim before their demise and that it was improper for anyone to claim to be representing dead plaintiffs saying, “You cannot be representing anyone who is in the grave.”
Objecting to his submission to substitute the dead plaintiffs on record with living plaintiffs from the same community, Mr. Emeka Offordile (SAN), who announced his appearance for the plaintiffs said the issue of representation of the plaintiffs was contentious and should be resolved before substitution.
Another lawyer, Mr. Chimezie Nkwor, who also entered appearance for the plaintiffs, told the court that he was duly briefed to take over the matter from Offordile and had filed and served Offordile the application of change of counsel in the matter, noting that the application was ripped for hearing.
While moving the motion on the application, Nkwor said he was the right person to represent the community and prayed the court to recognise him as the rightful counsel to the plaintiffs and strike out the name of Offordile.
After much argument, Justice Ani told the counsel that the court would prefer to resolve the issue of legal representation first and adjourned the matter to September 29, 2020 for continuation of adoption of processes.
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