The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has said it was not aware that Rita Chris-Garuba, one of its nominees for appointment as judge of Court of Appeal, was indicted for fraud in the United Kingdom.
The body says it is investigating the indictment and will submit its findings to its executive council.
A PREMIUM TIMES investigation revealed that Mrs. Chris-Garuba, one of the 12 lawyers shortlisted by the NBA from a pool of 187 lawyers, to be nominated as judges into Nigeria’s second highest court, in 2000, was indicted for a £250,000 mortgage fraud in the UK, where she worked as a solicitor.
The Law Society of England and Wales, which regulates solicitors, also found Mrs. Chris-Garuba guilty of professional misconducts such as withdrawing funds from client’s account for personal use.
After the indictment, the Law Society of England and Wales described Mrs. Chris-Garuba as lacking the “integrity, probity and trustworthiness” expected of a legal practitioner, and subsequently struck her name off the Roll of Solicitors.
In a statement posted on its website after PREMIUM TIMES’ report, the Nigerian Bar Association said it received a petition against Mrs. Chris-Garuba and one other unnamed nominee after it released the names of its finalists. The body said it has notified the Court of Appeal of its ongoing investigation.
“On the 26th of February, 2017 after the publication of the names of those shortlisted by the Committee, the NBA received formal complaints against two (2) of the Nominees (including Mrs. Chris-Garuba Rita Ifeyinwa Enewa and her matter before the Solicitor’s Disciplinary Tribunal of the Law Society of England and Wales). Consequently, the following actions were taken,” the statement signed by NBA general secretary, Isiaka Olagunju, said.
“On the 28 of February, 2017 the NBA requested a response to the complaint and allegations from the Nominees (Mrs. Chris-Garuba inclusive).
“On the 1st of March, 2017 the NBA received a response from Mrs. Chris-Garuba; and commenced further investigation on the complaints vis-à-vis her response; The Committee is yet to decide the merit or otherwise of the complaints.
“Whilst investigation was on-going; the NBA simultaneously sent a formal letter of notification of complaint dated March 6, 2017 to the President of the Court of Appeal on the investigation and development, while withholding the supporting documents (Judgments and Publications) with respect to both Nominees pending the outcome of the investigations in this regard by the NBA. The Court of Appeal acknowledged the receipt of the notification on the same day.”
The association advised its members and the general public against making statements that may rubbish the integrity of process of selecting the finalists.
“The NBA would like to caution our Members and the general public against any insinuations which would impeach the integrity of the process, its President, members of the Court of Appeal Nominations Committee or the Court of Appeal based on this issue. The President has directed that the outcome of the investigation against the two nominees will be released to relevant institutions and members of the NBA-NEC for further necessary action.”