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‘I goofed on first appearance’

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‘I goofed on first appearance’

He was called to the Bar in 2015. Evans Ufeli, an alumnus of the Lagos State University (LASU), tells AKEEM NAFIU on how his journey into the law profession began

 

Evans Ufeli is an associate lawyer at a Lagos law firm, Ubani & Co., a group of legal practitioners in Lagos. He was called to the Bar on October 21, 2015.
Ufeli, who attended Air Force Primary School Kaduna, obtained a Diploma in Law from the University of Jos before proceeding to Lagos University, Ojo, Lagos for his LL.B.
He said: “My name is Evans Ufeli. I am an associate lawyer with the law firm -Ubani & Co. I attended Air Force Primary School Kaduna and thereafter my father who was an Air Force officer was transferred to Lagos State in the late 80s and the entire family moved with him to his new place of transfer.

Also, I attended Ezebaja Secondary School in Etua-Etiti, Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State before proceeding to the University of Jos, where I first obtained a Diploma in Law and the Lagos State University (LASU) where I obtained my LL.B (Hons) degree. I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School for the completion of my post-graduate programme in Law. I was called to the Bar on October 21, 2015, at the International Conference Centre Abuja.”
Ufeli said his journey into the profession of law was not a happenstance. According to him, law had always been on his mind and his determination to join members of the wig and gown profession propelled him to the University of Jos where he first obtained a diploma in law before his call to Bar some years after.

He said: “I opted for law for many reasons. I had admired lawyers from childhood, their use of words, the nobility of the profession, the depth of scholarship, the trenchant elocution and the privilege it affords you to help the unjustly oppressed in our society.

I chose law because I hate injustice and law gives me the audacity to define my space intellectually, territorially and spatially. I opted for law because it is the highest reasoning embedded by nature which permits what should be done and forbids the contrary. Law remains the sum-total instrument of social control that regulates human conduct as it relates to existence, rights, privileges, civic orientation, policy formulations, capacity building, legislative engagement and directive principles of state policies. I couldn’t have opted for any other discipline other than legal profession because that is where I function effortlessly. I can research and read law reports the whole day or for weeks and months without any atom of fatigue or weariness. I think, law gave me meaning and purpose to life.”

Although he was fulfilled on day one of his appearance in court, Ufeli said his experience on his first court appearance in court was not palatable.
According to him, he kept missing the point notwithstanding his days of studying a simple instruction already given to him by his principal.
Ufeli said: “My first day in court was good even though I was consumed with stage-fright long before my case was called.

The matter was undefended and I was to inform the court that the business of the day was for the defendants to cross-examine the claimant and then open their defence. But like I said, the case was undefended and I had been told by my senior colleague who sent me for the matter to orally apply that the defendant’s right to cross-examination and defence be foreclosed in their absence and ask the court to adjourn for adoption of final written address.

I wrote all I was asked to say down in a plain sheet but I kept missing the points even though my voice was loud, my presentation was incongruous, much so because the court was filled up with lawyers and litigants. The magistrate forgave me my sins and I came out fulfilled that day.

On embarrassing moment, Ufeli said “one of my embarrassing moments happened when I was just a few months old at the Bar. There was a mistake in the numbering of an affidavit deposed to by the claimant who was my client and the 1st defendant had raised the issue before the court.”

He went on: “I opted to amend it orally to read in a particular way since it was just in the numbering that there was a mistake and the magistrate was furious. He insulted me for making the mistake of amending an affidavit in the open court when I am supposed to know that once there’s a problem on an affidavit, I must file a further and better affidavit to correct the anomalies and not to amend an oath orally in court. The magistrate asked me whether I went to law school. He went too far and I was embarrassed. He even said he wanted to see my call to Bar certificate. I did not utter a word. My client was in court while all these were going on. I was really messed up that day. I explained to my client repeatedly after the matter. I still had doubt whether he understood.

“Another one happened when my client was charged and arraigned one afternoon. I was called and I immediately left where I was to the court. I was not on black suit but on suit all the same. I felt since it was an overnight case and was called under an emergency situation the court will understand. Immediately I announced my appearance, the magistrate yelled at me for being improperly dressed. He cited the rules of professional conduct as it underscores the ethics of the profession. I was embarrassed. He said I was not before him because my appearance is unfit. He accused me of dressing improperly because I was in a magistrate court. He said he will grant the client bail because of his constitutional right to bail and not because he had legal representation. It was terrible.
Notwithstanding his moments of embarrassment while plying his law trade, Ufeli had some fond memories which had boosted his resolve to use as social engineering in a society already saturated with rights abuse and flagrant disobedience to orders of court among others.

He said: “I have had fond memories. I have won so many cases and lost a few. There was this case I handled against a university that rusticated students unjustly. I had to face two very senior lawyers representing the adverse party. I won the case and the students were reinstated. This was an outstanding moment for me after rigorous legal arguments with good senior lawyers the court gave judgement in my favour.

“Again, I did a case where the claimant in the suit had gone to alter agreements reached between him and my client so he could mislead the court during trial. I studied the document carefully and noticed the discrepancies. I raised it in our defence and given that such conduct is a crime, I recommended criminal prosecution against the claimant.

The claimant counsel read my defence and the relief therein he could not go ahead with the case. He told the court on the next adjourned date that they wanted to withdraw the suit. I was very happy that I knocked them that hard. We asked for cost and the court granted it while they withdrew the matter against our client. The sad part of this is that the client ran away thereafter and he never paid me my professional fees.
Although he expressed dissatisfaction on the snail speed justice delivery system in the country, he still envisioned for the country, a judiciary that would keep a stream of justice undiluted; a judiciary that would make the practice of law flow with ease.
He said: “I am looking forward to a judiciary that will make the practice of law easy. The current judicial system is slow. Cases aren’t expeditiously dispensed and this has become a cog in the wheel of progress. It’s worrisome that the laborious and impropriety of case management, judicial officers and lawyers are most times not vigorously check by the system and this impact on the profession negatively.”

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