Tempers Flare, Emotions Rise, Legal FIreworks As Ugwuonye Sacks Lawyer In Court
There was drama in court on Wednesday as embattled Barrister Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye sacked his lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Chukwu, and engaged both the judge and the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Ochai in legal fireworks.
Trouble began when Barrister Ugwuonye disengaged the services of his lawyer over breakdown of communication between them and demanded to represent himself. [See attached document below]
Barrister Ugwuonye is facing trial over murder accusation and impeding the course of justice and has been in detention for 14 months since October 2018.
The first case involved his bail application while the second case was a murder charge of an Abuja-based social lady, Charity “Cha-cha” Aiyedogbon.
When the first case for bail application was called up for hearing, his lawyer informed the court that he has been disengaged, hence cannot stand on behalf of the accused.
The prosecuting counsel responded by saying that the case should not he heard since Emeka’s application is tantamount to change of counsel.
Ugwuonye, on his part, premised his reason for disengaging his lawyer on the fact that the prison authorities disenfranchised him by not granting him access to documents of importance to him.
The court gave him three option to proceed:
- To stand as a defendant while legally defending himself in which case he will not be subjected to cross-examination.
- Second option is to stand as a witness while legally defending himself in which case he will be subjected to cross-examination.
- Third option is to stand as a defendant but will keep not speak in the court and depend on the prosecution to do all the legal works, including cross-examination.
Barrister Ugwuonye chose the second option to sit on dock and be cross-examined and also be allowed to cross-examine others.
He threatened to blow the lid on the police, the prosecutor and the husband of the late lady, Mr. David Aiyedogbon how they connived to cover up her murder and ended up throwing him, the lawyer, in jail so the truth won’t be let out.
That was when the mood in the court went out of control. The judge shouted at both Ugwuonye and the prosecuting counsel.
The lawyers attacked each other and even the disengaged Ugwuonye’s counsel, who could not contain himself joined in the fray when the prosecutor accused him of derailing trial.
The case was later adjourned to February 11 for continued hearing and the second case was called up.
The second case involved Emeka Ugwuonye and two others in the criminal matter of murder with capital punishment in view.
Again Emeka insisted that his lawyer remains sacked and demanded for self-representation.
A curious judge asked him if he considered it is wise for him to disengage his lawyer in the criminal matter of murder which has capital punishment as penalty.
Emeka agreed it might not be wise but stated that extant circumstances forced him to take that decision.
He reasoned that since he cannot have unfettered access to his lawyer due to prison laws, it will be expedient for him to self-represent and avoid red-tapes.
A tough-talking Ugwuonye insisted that he will be representing himself and that he is still a lawyer since the National Judiciary Counsel [NJC] has not ruled on his appeal over his debarment.
Judge inferred that he can represent himself as lawyer since he has not been derobed but the Prosecution insisted he cannot he has been derobed.
Again Ugwuonye lost it and called the prosecutor names, including “tardy” and “lazy”
Judge blasts prosecution counsel and insisted that he is still a lawyer and can defend himself.
Judge conclusively rules that the accused persons have not been found guilty and hence should not be seen as criminals, rather as mere defendants.
She conclusively ruled that Ugwuonye can defend himself.
The Court blasted Ugwuonye for calling the prosecutor “tardy” and “lazy” and ordered him to apologise.
Accordingly, Emeka Ugwuonye apologised to prosecutor, Mr. Ochai in the open court and the court decided that the first case will be heard on 11th February while second case be adjourned to later date.
Lawyers to the 2nd defendant and 3rd defendants joined in the fray and made some demands as the Prosecution counsel objected to 11th date.
The judge overruled the prosecutor and stipulated that the 11th date holds and added that cross-examination in both case can be held same day and adjourned.
While speaking to our correspondent after the court who asked why he will disengage his lawyer despite the precarious situation he finds himself, Ugwuonye explained that the disengage is conditional.
He noted that the lawyer will still be in court and that he will play some strategic roles in the trials.