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Firm drags SAN to LPPC, NBA over alleged fraud

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Akinseye-George denies allegations, demands N115m legal fee

A company, Nacenn Nigeria Limited, has filed a petition against Prof Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN) before the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) as the chairman of the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), alleging professional misconduct among others. 

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The petitioner also alleged “criminal misrepresentation, suppression of material facts and fraud” against the SAN.
   
But Prof Akinseye-George denied the allegation of fraud or misrepresentation.
   
He had earlier filed a suit against the firm at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, in which he is demanding N115 million from the firm for services rendered in recovering debts for it.
   
The SAN said he was engaged due to his expertise as a professor of law and experience in mediating between the government and the private sector, having also worked as a special assistant to three different Attorneys-General of the Federation.
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He said the late CEO of the firm, Chief N. G. Ezulike asked him to do all within his powers to recover three judgment-debts worth about N2bilion and was engaged via a February 28, 2018 letter.
   
He said he briefed his client about the developments at the expiration of the time given him.
   
The lawyer said he was asked “to continue to carry out the assignment”, with the assurance that the promised 10 per cent would be paid on the recovery of the debt.
   
According to him, he succeeded in recovering the funds.
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Prof Akinseye-George explained that the late Ezulike’s son, Afam, called to reassure him that the company would honour the father’s commitment to him when Chief Ezulike died.
  
The claimant said due to his “persistent follow-ups”, the Ministry of Finance paid N500 million to the company in November 2019. The company, in turn, paid him the agreed 10 per cent.
   
The SAN said following numerous visits to the ministry and several letters, the ministry decided to pay the balance in three equal instalments of N416,666,666.6, with the first instalment paid in May this year.
   
Akinseye-George said to his “utter surprise and dismay,” the company refused to pay him the agreed 10 per cent fee, instead, he was paid “a paltry sum of N10.4million being 2.5 per cent of the amount paid the defendant by the Federal Government”.

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But the firm in its petition, dated October 8 and sent separately to the CJN and the NBA, is urging them to investigate its complaints against the SAN.
   
It wants them to refer the petition to the LPPC and the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) respectively “for appropriate sanctions as the justice of this petition demands.”
   
In affidavits on oath deposed to by Nacenn’s director, Chukwugozie Ezulike, the petitioner accused Prof Akinseye-George of violating the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007.
   
Specifically, the firm said the SAN contravened Rule 1 and Rule 23 (1), which provide: “A Lawyer shall uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the cause of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner.

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“A lawyer shall not do any act whereby for his benefit or gain he abuses or takes advantage of the confidence reposed in him by his client.”
   
Nacenn Nigeria said it engaged Prof. Akinseye-George by a letter dated February 28, 2018, to assist it to recover N2 billion judgment-debts from the Federal Government.
   
The firm said it was agreed that his professional fees will be 10 per cent of whatever he recovered and that the duration of the engagement shall automatically terminate after March 30, 2018, if Nacenn does not receive the said payment.
   
The petitioner said Prof Akinseye-George did not recover any amount within the period of the subsistence of his engagement letter.
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The firm said it re-engaged the SAN on April 25, 2018, to continue with the recovery on the terms that he is entitled to 10 per cent of any recovery made.
   
Nacenn said this engagement terminated on May 15, 2018, by the end of which Prof. Akinseye-George made no recovery.
  
The company said: “Despite the fact that no effort by Prof. Akinseye-George (SAN) yielded any benefit for the company in form of any payment, when in June 2018, after the effective termination of his second engagement, the Federal Government paid the sums of N100 million and N150 million, Nacenn Nigeria still magnanimously paid him the sums of N10 million and N15 million respectively, representing 10 per cent of the recovered sums as contained in the earlier terms of the engagement letter.
   
“Nacenn Nigeria having paid off Prof. Akinseye-George for his services and given the fact that his engagement had lapsed, formally wrote him on the 10th day of August 2019 terminating his services to the company.”
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The petitioner said its former CEO the late Chief Ezulike, had engaged the services of another lawyer, Henry Iheanacho, to recover the remaining debt.
   
However, the SAN has insisted that the N50 million he was paid was deployed to honour the commitments made by the late Chief Ezulike to those who facilitated the recovery of the judgment-debt.
   
“These commitments were known to the General Manager, Mr Ifeanyi Okwusa and Mr Maduka Anigbogu. 
   
“The N50million was deployed fully for the purpose it was brought, through Mr Ifeanyi Okwuosa.
   
“I never misrepresented any fact or facts to anybody, including Afam Ezulike, in respect of anything done in the course of the recovery of the entire debt,” he maintained. 

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