Law News
Gbajabiamila was never convicted in US, aide tells court

A member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who contested and lost the speakership seat during the inaugural sitting of the House on June 9, 2015, has denied allegation of previous criminal conviction in Georgia, United States of America.

Gbajabiamila denied the allegation in his response to a suit filed before a Federal High Court in Abuja, seeking an order stopping him from contesting the speakership election, which eventually held on June 9, 2015.

The plaintiff – Social Justice and Civil Rights Awareness – through its counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), had anchored the suit on the grounds that Gbajabiamila, a lawyer, was not eligible to contest the speakership election because of his alleged “conviction” for professional misconduct by the Supreme Court of Georgia, United States of America, in 2007.

Gbajabiamila eventually lost the speakership election to Yakubu Dogara, but Ozekhome insisted on Thursday that his client would go ahead to challenge the legislator’s eligibility to remain in the House of Representatives.

However, Gbajabiamila’s Senior Legislative Assistant, Osaze Ogunditie, stated in a counter affidavit dated June 18, 2015, filed in opposition to a motion by the plaintiff seeking a restraining order against the legislator, denied the conviction record.

Ogunditie added in the counter affidavit that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi (legal right) to institute the suit.

Alluding to the judgment of the Georgia Supreme Court, a copy of which the plaintiff attached to its court papers, Ogunditie stated in the counter affidavit that “the 1st defendant (Gbajbiamila) was not convicted by any court of law in the state of Georgia for any criminal offence.”

The counter affidavit added, “That the 1st defendant is currently an active member in good standing of the state Bar of Georgia.

“That I know as a fact that the election to the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held on June 9, 2015.

“That the 1st defendant lost the election to Hon. Yakubu Dogara, a member of the House of Representatives representing Bogoro/Tafawa Balewa/Dass Federal Constituency of Bauchi State.”

After Thursday’s proceedings which were conducted in the chamber of the presiding judge, Justice Abdulkadir Abdulkafarati, Ozekhome told journalists that his client would continue to pursue the case despite the fact that Gbajabiamila lost the speakership election.

“We will amend our originating summons to reflect the current realities,” Ozekhome said, adding that his client would contend in the amended originating summons that Gbajabiamila did not qualify to remain in the House of Representatives based on his “conviction” record,” he said.

The plaintiff contended in its current originating summons that Gbajabiamila, who was found guilty of professional malpractices by the Supreme Court of Georgia, was suspended from practising law in Gerogia State for 36 months.

The Georgia’s Supreme Court ruling was based on a complaint by one of Gbajabiamila’s clients, who accused him (Gbajabiamila) of accepting payment of $25,000 on his (the client’s) behalf as personal injury claims but refused to remit the money to the claim.

Justice Abdulkafarati had, on June 8, 2015, refused to grant the plaintiff’s ex parte application seeking to stop Gbajabiamila to contest the speakership election scheduled to hold on the following day.

The plaintiff filed the ex parte application along with the main suit (FHC/ABJ/CS/501/2015) in which Gbajabiamila, the House of Representatives and the Attorney-General of the Federation are joined as the 1st to the 3rd defendants.

The judge, who had heard the plaintiff’s lawyer, Ozekhome, inside his chamber, however, ordered the respondents to appear in court on June 18 to show cause why the prayer sought by the plaintiff in the ex parte application should not be granted.

But the judge further adjourned the matter till September 21 in the light of the plaintiff’s intention to amend its originating summons and hearing of other pending applications.

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