Arguments over the rightful representation of five dead plaintiffs among three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) at the Enugu State High Court yesterday added drama to a land case in the court.
The case between Ugwuaji community in Enugu South and Ogui Nike community in Enugu North was filed in 2005.
The plaintiffs in the suit No. E/439/2005 are Aneke Ede, Jackson Nshi, Ewo Nnaji, Godwin Ani and Sunday Ngene for themselves and Ugwuaji community.
The first set of respondents are Igwe Tony Ojukwu, Joseph Nnaji, Ikechukwu Agbo and Paul Anike from Ogui Nike community.
When Justice C.C. Ani was to hear the case, Mr. Kelvin Nwufor (SAN), counsel for Igwe Tony Ojukwu, Joseph Nnaji, Ikechukwu Agbo and Paul Anike from Ogui Nike community told the court that the plaintiffs were dead.
Nwufor said he had brought a motion to substitute them, claiming that the rules provided that lawyers for plaintiffs or defendants could apply to bring in new plaintiffs in such a case.
He told the court that the his clients had waited for too long for their counsel to bring a motion to substitute the dead plaintiffs.
He therefore sought to substitute the dead men with living plaintiffs from the same community.
Nwufor told the court that the deceased had earlier withdrawn their statements of claim before they died and that it was improper for anyone to claim to be representing them.
“You cannot be representing anyone who is in the grave,” he said.
Nwufor also moved a motion to substitute Igwe Tony Ojukwu, who according to him is dead, for Mr Donatus Ojukwu.
However, Mr Emeka Offordile (SAN), who announced his appearance for the plaintiffs, objected to his submissions to substitute the five plaintiffs on record.
Offordile said that the issue of representation of the plaintiffs was contentious, adding that it had to be resolved first before substitution.
Also, Mr Chimezie Nkwor, who also entered appearance for the plaintiffs, said that he was duly briefed to take over the matter from Offordile.
Nkwor said that he had filed and served Offordile the application of a change of counsel in the matter, adding that the application was ripe for hearing.
While moving the motion on the application, he told the court that he was the right person to represent the community.
He prayed the court to recognise him as the rightful lawyer for the plaintiffs.
Justice Ani, who adjourned hearing till September 29, 2020, had earlier told the senior lawyers that the court would prefer to resolve the issue of legal representation.
The disputed land measuring over 300 plots is the same land that the state government recently set up an administrative panel of inquiry to determine its true ownership.
In an interview, Offordile said that he had been representing the community since 2005.
He, however, added that some young men in the community brought an application for a change of counsel in the matter.
“But there are others who said they do not have problems with me as their counsel,” Offordile said.