commotion as Justice Minister-designate Fagbemi attends hearing at Abia tribunal

commotion as Justice Minister-designate Fagbemi attends hearing at Abia tribunal

There was uproar at the Abia state governorship petition tribunal sitting in Umuahia, yesterday, as the minister-designate, Lateef Fagbemi, showed up at the sitting of the petition.

Fagbemi is the lead counsel to Governor Alex Otti , who is the candidate of the Labour Party in the suit filed by the PDP and APC and their candidates, Chief Okey Ahiwe and Chief Ikechi Emenike, respectively.

Though Fagbemi did not announce appearance at the hearing, his presence in court and sitting with Otti’s lawyers caused some ‘murmuring’ in the court. Lawyers were observed discussing the situation.

A senior lawyer who pleaded anonymity , condemned Fagbemi’s presence at the court sitting and described it as an attempt to ‘intimidate members of the tribunal’ with his new office.

“After his nomination by the President Bola Ahmed Tinubuo, his screening, clearance and confirmation by the Senate to serve as a Federal Minister, and having been assigned the portfolio of Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I thought that Chief Lateef Fagbemi , SAN, ought to know that he can no longer show up in court for private cases in which he has interests like that of Mr. Otti. As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, he ought to have known this. Fagbemi ought to have known that despite having not been sworn in after confirmation, that he can no longer represent a candidate or political party.”

Another lawyer said; “why Lawmakers appointed as ministers by President Bola Tinubu had to quit their former roles to attend Senate screening and focus on the job ahead but Fagbemi chose to cling to a private matter he was handling in court thereby casting doubts already about his impartiality as Minister of Justice. This is obviously a move to intimidate members of the tribunal. He has shown that he may not show neutrality as a minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Reacting to the situation, the PDP in a statement signed by the publicity secretary, Abia State, Elder Amah Abraham, stated that Fagbemi’s action shows a grave and dangerous misunderstanding of the importance of the exalted position he is to occupy and casts doubts about his understanding of the weight and significance of that office.

“The Abia PDP is disappointed with the incoming Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, who has even before assumption of office started to show partiality through his body language and our only interpretation of his presence in court yesterday is that it was meant to send signals and intimidate members of the tribunal and the petitioners in the matter. We also understand that his presence in court was to boost the dwindling fortunes of the respondents which is crumbling under the weight of evidence everyday.

“In case, Lateef Fagbemi has forgotten, the role of an attorney general and justice minister is to give impartial legal advice to the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not to take private briefs from individuals or continue to represent private citizens once he has accepted to serve as the country’s chief law officer.

“The Abia PDP is mindful of the fact that some prominent lawyers have already condemned his actions and also advised him to recuse himself from the case and face his duties as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. “

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