Prosecutor loses appeal against professional fee
A lead prosecution counsel, who tried three former senior naval officers over the missing oil-bunkering vessel, MT African Pride, Brig.-Gen. Donatus Idada Ikponmwen (rtd), has lost an appeal over a disagreement regarding due professional fees for other prosecutors.
According to the Court of Appeal, Lagos, both ex-military men, Capt. John Airen Asemota and Paul Okohue, are entitled to their professional fees and other allowances for the services they rendered.
The judgment came 10 years after the trial of former Training and Operations Officer, Naval Headquarters, Abuja, Rear Admiral Francis Agbiti; former Commanding Officer, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Kolawole and former Deputy Commandant, Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna, Rear Admiral Anthonio Bob-Manuel, had been concluded.
Although the counsel successfully prosecuted the case and eventually got two of the officers convicted, the bond among them has been threatened following disagreement over who takes what as professional fees and other allowances.
This led to a suit at a Lagos High Court by Asemota and Okohue, claiming the sum of N5 million being their share of the N9m collected so far by Ikponmwen from the Nigerian navy as legal fee for the prosecution of the accused officers and N1.314m as their share out of 4.6m paid for accommodation allowances.
Also, they asked the court to declare interest at 25 percent for both claims from 23rd October 2004 till judgment and thereafter at 15 percent until judgment was liquidated.
On his part, Ikponmwen in his statement of defence, debunked some of the claims by the plaintiffs. After the trial, the lower court delivered its judgment in favour of the claimants, awarding N900,000 being outstanding balance due to the claimants’ professional fees, a combined 25 percent of the N60,000 daily allowance for 76 days being 25 percent of the total sum of N4,560,000 amounting to N1,140,000 and interest on the total amount at the rate of 15 percent per annum from the date of the judgment until full payment.
Dissatisfied, Ikponmwen sought the Court of Appeal’s intervention on four grounds, demanded for an overturn of the verdict.
But, the appeal failed on all the grounds, as their lordships including Sidi Bage, Samuel Oseji and Yargata Nimpar did not see merit in Ikponmwen’s request.