• Traders protest against own lawyer
The new twist in the battle over ownership of the Wuye Ultra-Modern Market, Abuja, is leaving many stupefied. The protracted tussle took a new dimension as shop allottees accused their lawyer, Sepiribo Peters, of discretely joining forces with their opponents to jeopardise their case.
The over 3000 traders affected by the ownership quagmire on June 1, took to the streets to protest that the lawyer should hands off the matter and release the case file containing original copies of their letters of allocation of the shops to them.
They alleged that the lawyer deceitfully got classified information and documents from them and supplied same to their opponents, an indication that he might have soiled his hands.
To drive home their message, they staged a peaceful protest at the Banex Plaza in Wuse 2, Abuja, where the lawyer’s office is located, to register their discontent with what they termed as his unprofessional conduct. They that his continued involvement in the case seemed to have given their opponents strong edge over them particularly in determining the true allottees of shops in the market.
The group also disclosed that another lawyer has been engaged to take over their case, but the information they got recently was that the accused lawyer was requesting for N600 million before he could hands off the case. Armed with placards bearing different inscriptions, they chanted solidarity songs, calling the attention of the public and relevant government bodies to the alleged “dubious” activities of the legal practitioner.
Their chairman, Nnaemeka Nwobodo, said they had reported the lawyer to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), for intervention. He said they were shocked to hear that a lawyer they engaged turned around to be secretly working with their opponents to defeat them: “This is the height of absurdity.
“We had been suspecting his sincerity in pursuing our case but had ignored several signs that indicated that he was playing double standard. At a point, many of our colleagues suspected that he was aiding our opponents to defeat us, and that later became true.
“In the course of the litigation, he said that the court had requested to review the allocation papers. That was how he deceitfully collected our original allocation documents and left us with the photocopies, in addition to over N30million that he had collected from us and other relevant documents and files of the market.
“But we lost total confidence in him for months when we got information that he wrote a letter to FCT Administration without our consent, suggesting that they approve alternative plot elsewhere for us so that we could forget the market. We confronted him with the allegation and he confirmed it. We queried why he wrote such letter without our consent but he couldn’t respond. We later requested in a letter to him to withdraw the earlier letter to FCT Administration because we never consented to it but he refused.”
Getting the lawyer to react to the allegations was not easy. But when he eventually spoke to Daily Sun, he dismissed the allegations. He claimed that many of the protesters are not genuine allottees.
He agreed that the original allocation papers in his custody are for 1300 genuine allottees.
He challenged the protesters to provide evidence to support their allegations, particularly the payment of N30 million and the alleged sell out to opponent: “Regrettably, the man that claimed to be AWUMA chairman is not a genuine allottee in the market. He is just misleading the other allottees. I was approached by individual allottees in the market to make their case and not AWUMA.
“In that regard, those that engaged me should come individually to debrief me and not an umbrella body that was not recognised by the court as regards the ownership of shops in the market.”