Our dear nation Nigeria is blessed with diverse cultures; with over 200 million citizens, it is one of the most populous nations in the world and with such numbers, one is sure to expect some kind of extra drama daily.
The issue of imposters is not uncommon to the ears of an average Nigerian, we see these culprits being apprehended often, from those who disguise to be soldiers, to those who appear like the CEO of companies just to fraud others, to some who pretend to be policemen; the Nigerian society has such shady persons in no small numbers. Despite the numerous cases reported daily and the popularity of the Nigerian cliché “shine your eye” many people still happen to fall into the hands of these fraudsters. And sadly these imposters are growing confident by the day that they now even disguise to be lawyers; accept cases and go to represent unsuspecting clients in court.
In a published report by Daud Olatunji of Punch Newspaper on the 6th of October 2020, Tajudeen Idris, a 47-year-old suspected fake lawyer, was arrested by men of the Ogun State Police Command for posing as a legal practitioner. He was reportedly arrested on Friday at Magistrates’ Court 6 in Ifo Local Government Area of the state. Idris was said to have appeared before Chief Magistrate I. A. Arogundade in a civil case between one IfeanyiChuckwu and Ayo Itori. He allegedly claimed to be a counsel from Tajudeen O. Idris & Co. Chambers and was representing one of the parties.
According to the report
the state Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi disclosed in a statement that the suspected fake lawyer’s unprofessional conduct and manner of presentation before the chief magistrate aroused suspicion about his qualification as a lawyer.
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His conduct prompted the chief magistrate to ask him for the year he was called to the bar, which he claimed to be 2009 but further enquiry revealed that his name was nowhere to be found among those called to the bar in 2009, hence the police were invited. Consequently, the DPO, Ifo Division, CSP Adeniyi Adekunle, detailed his operatives to the scene, where the suspect was apprehended and taken in for investigation.
The PPRO said the Commissioner of Police, Edward Ajogun, had expressed concern over the increase in the number of fake lawyers swindling people of their hard-earned money. Ajogun recalled that not less than five cases of fake lawyers had been reported in the state since the second half of 2020. According to the him, on August 12, 2020, 56-year-old Sylvester Ogbagu was arrested at Sagamu while parading himself as a lawyer; while one Adedeji Ebenezer was also apprehended on the court premises at Itori on August 5, 2020, while appearing for a client; he was tried and subsequently sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
He also added that another suspected fake lawyer, Elijah Ayodeji Ojo, was arrested at the Ajuwon Police Station on the 28th of June, when he came to solicit for a so-called client, who was having a criminal matter with the police. Likewise, one Lawrence Oyedunu was arrested in Sango Ota while presenting himself as a counsel to a suspect.
He therefore admonished the state branch of the NBA to put necessary machinery in motion to check the activities of these fraudulent people. He also appealed to those who wish to be lawyers to take a cue from the determined effort of a traditional ruler in the state. “The Towulade of Akinale”, who at 75 years of age, still endeavoured to go to the Law School because of his interest in the legal profession rather than impersonating.
ANYONE CAN WEAR BLACK AND WHITE
With the facts revealed in the report by punch newspaper, it behooves us to see that this matter is gradually becoming a cause for serious concern, for both the police and the general public and must be treated with the required attention; as these fake lawyers tend to charge less than most conventional lawyers hence get more patronage and opportunity to defraud more people. What is more troublesome is the devastating effect their unprofessionalism can have on their clients and the country’s judicial system at large.
Imagine a case where a fake lawyer has to represent an innocent person who was probably accused of a crime, his chances of adequately matching the intellectual skill of a prosecutor and proving beyond reasonable doubt that such a client is innocent of that crime are very slim and in a case where he fails to, as he mostly likely will, an innocent person will be sentenced to jail and it goes further to demean the efforts of the real lawyers, ridicules the integrity of the noble profession as well as the entire justice system of the country.
WE SHOULD ALWAYS STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
As an organization that is passionately committed to preventing litigation and reducing the rate of incarceration in the country, through alternative dispute resolution and mediation; PRALARG INT’L is also deeply concerned with this seemingly negative development in the society where people disguise to be lawyers and go represent clients badly in court.
PRALARG INT’L hereby admonishes its members and the general public to be careful and wary of such imposters. The law profession is a very sensitive one; from procurement of a property, signing a contract, to handling of criminal cases, whatever would prompt one to hire the services of a lawyer is considered very serious hence hiring a fake lawyer can really have unimaginable consequences.
Let us all be careful; anybody can wear white and black
When you seek to hire a lawyer, ask for good recommendations from people who have some experience with legal issues and don’t be quickly moved to hire a lawyer just because his charges are very cheap and attractive; it is also necessary that you do some background check; you can inquire about him/her from people around, go to his office and ask questions about him as well and try to know whatever legal firm or chamber he claims to work for. While all these might not completely guarantee that you will evade a fake lawyer; they can at least help reduce the risk of getting defrauded. May we always step in the right direction.