By NBF News

Hearing in the suit to stop Justice Umaru Eri as Chairman of Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) was on Thursday stalled by the absence of Justice Gabriel Kolawole who was said to be indisposed.

The plaintiff who is a member of the LPDC, Prof. Abiodun Adesanyan (SAN), had gone to court to challenge the eligibility of Justice Eri as Chairman of the committee.

He said Justice Eri should step down pending his investigation and clearance by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission over alleged N6 billion fraud at the National Judicial Institute where he is Administrator.

Meanwhile, the plaintiff has beefed up his legal team with Mr. Kola Awodein (SAN), Bamidele Aturu, George Okunsanya, Mohammed Muritala-Abdulrahman and Anthony Itedjere from the chambers of Aturu.

The case, which was initially fixed for June 15, was later adjourned till July 4.

On that date the case could not hold as the Judge was said to be out of Abuja.

Following alleged indisposition of the Judge it was also adjourned on Thursday till July 26 for hearing on the application for injunction and the defendant's counter affidavit that the plaintiff has no locus standi to file the suit.

The Body of Benchers then chaired by Chief George Uwechue (SAN), is also joined as defendant.

The plaintiff had stated that following the allegation he wrote to the defendant to refrain from further participating in the activities of LPDC adding that rather he chose to call off a meeting of the LPDC scheduled for March 28 in which a temporary and substitute chairman would have been elected.

The plaintiff further alleged that Justice Eri instructed the secretary to inform a member of the committee that the meeting has been postponed because of the forthcoming elections.

He said, 'That it is a monumental scandal to both the legal profession and to the plaintiff that the chairman of a committee of which the plaintiff is a member and which committee decision is binding is being investigated for misappropriation of public funds and that the defendant still insists on sitting in judgment over other persons being tried.

'That it has never happened in the history of the LPDC that a person who is being investigated for misappropriation of funds or even lesser crime is appointed to sit in judgment over other persons.

'That I was surprised to see the defendant on television as one of the speakers at an induction of new electoral judges by the NJI even though the institute is the complainant/victim in the allegation of N6 billion corruption against him.'

While stating that he has nothing against Justice Eri, Adesanya also believes that particularly the disciplinary body should maintain the reputation, tradition and integrity of the legal profession.

The plaintiff therefore wants the court to declare that the defendant acted improperly by postponing a meeting of the LPDC scheduled for March 28, upon the receipt of a letter that he should excuse himself from the chairmanship of the committee and that another member be appointed pending his clearance by the ICPC.

But in his counter affidavit, Justice Eri asked the court to dismiss the application submitting that the plaintiff has no locus standi to institute the action adding that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

Counsel to Justice Eri and the Body of Benchers, Chief Joe-Kyari

Gadzama (SAN), said there is nowhere in the nation's laws and legal jurisprudence where a man is asked to step aside in respect of a spurious allegation against him which has not been proved.

He said, 'No matter how strong, suspicion does not take the place of legal proof. Under Section 36(5) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), Hon. Justice Umaru Eri (retd) is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved.

'Professor S.A Adesanya (SAN) claims to have no personal grudge or animosity against Justice Eri, yet he singled him out for an unwarranted castigation when there is a plethora of cases where judicial officers have been accused of one misdeed or the other and nobody has requested that they cease to perform the functions of their office, let alone personally filing court cases against them.'