Osasu Igiebor, a student and start-up entrepreneur seeking to register her business, has been defrauded by Emeka Ugwuonye, a lawyer with a rich history of misdeeds verging on criminality that has been widely reported by SaharaReporters. He is currently disbarred in some jurisdictions in the United States, where he used to ply his trade.
Ms. Igiebor said she contacted Ugwuonye, now of Eculaw Firm based in Nigeria, last month to help register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) a magazine she was planning to set up.
Ms. Igiebor told SaharaReporters that the lawyer agreed to do the registration for a fee of $200, which she agreed to pay into the lawyer’s account in the United States of America.
She subsequently asked Mr. Ugwuonye if he would be able to reserve the business name with the CAC, so she could commence registration.
Mr. Ugwuonye, explained Ms. Igiebor, said he was not doing the registration with CAC because the commission only registers company names, adding that since it was a magazine name, the prospective publisher needed to obtain an “SSNR” registration from the National Library because that is what is required to register a magazine name in Nigeria. Mr. Ugwuonye advised that his client call the following week to get an update.
That was the beginning of trouble.
When Ms. Igiebor contacted him as advised, Mr. Ugwuonye said she would need to call again the week after that. The alarm bells in Ms. Igiebor’s head began to ring. She asked Mr. Ugwuonye what SSNR stood for. The lawyer, curiously, said he did not know. The alarm bells chimed more loudly.
“I was surprised that he was doing a registration for SSNR but did not know the full meaning of SSNR,” Ms. Igiebor told SaharaReporters.
The next day, the lawyer tried to make amends via a text message, saying SSNR was the product of a typographical error and that he had meant to type ISSN (International Standard Serial Number).
Ms. Igiebor decided to contact the National Library on Facebook to find out the requirements for ISSN and how long the processing takes. She was provided with a link, which she opened only to discover that it was totally unrelated to what the lawyer had told him.
Now convinced that Mr. Ugwuonye was running a game on her and feeding her wrong information, Ms. Igiebor asked that the process be discontinued and demanded a refund of $150 out of $200 paid into the lawyer’s account.
Mr. Ugwuonye pushed back, claiming he had already started the processing, and promised to give Ms. Igiebor feedback the following week. As agreed, Ms. Igiebor contacted the lawyer for the feedback, but all she has received is a runaround, with the client unable to find the lawyer to obtain anything.
Ms. Igiebor, obviously, was unaware that she was dealing with a man of great crookedness. Six years ago, in the United States, Mr. Ugwuonye was disbarred by the Attorney Grievance Commission in Maryland for duping clients, just as he was in Washington DC and New York. He remains under temporary suspension.
Last month, SaharaReporters revealed that Mr. Ugwuonye had been lined up to face possible disciplinary action before the Nigerian Legal Disciplinary Committee (NLPDC), the body responsible for punishing misconduct among lawyers. His name was among those listed in a newspaper advertorial signed by Ms. H.A Turaki, NLDPC Secretary, and published by The Punch.
Mr. Ugwuonye was similarly lined up to face disciplinary proceedings by the Washington DC Bar over allegations that he pocketed over $1.55 million he had collected from the US government on behalf of the Nigerian Embassy.
The Washington DC Bar, SaharaReporters reported, wrote to notify Mr. Ugwuonye of its decision to schedule an investigation into his handling of the legal aspects of the sale of some real estate once owned by Nigeria.
Mr. Ugwuonye was said to have responded to the Washington DC Bar with a claim that he was “under severe travel restrictions” by the Nigerian government over criminal trials he had been undergoing since 2011.
The website, however, learnt from a government source that he was under no travel restriction. After a US District Judge ordered him to refund the $1.55million he had stolen from the Nigerian Embassy, Mr. Ugwuonye attempted to file for bankruptcy, an application that as dismissed by a US court.
Similarly dismissed was a libel case Mr/ Ugwuonye filed against SaharaReporters for exposing his fraud against the Nigerian Embassy. Instead, a US judge upheld the request of the Nigerian Embassy in a lawsuit it filed seeking an order to compel the dubious lawyer to return the stolen money and pay interest on it as well.
On Facebook, the lawyer claims to provide an “authentic voice for justice, fairness, equity and right to the pursuit of happiness” through Due Process Advocates, a public group he created on the social media platform. He, however, demands money for membership of the group. He was exposed as a con by one Mr. Obinna Aligwekwe, a UK-based Nigerian doctor.
Mr. Aligwekwe had pointed the attention of Mr. Ugwuonye’s Facebook followers to an apparent scam the lawyer was trying to pull with the case of a missing woman he claimed to have been investigating.
The doctor wrote as follows: “Emeka Ugwuonye of DPA, that man who is investigating the case of that missing lady, Charity, is a scam until proven otherwise.
“You start a pro-bono case, then in the middle of the game you start charging membership fees. Meanwhile you and your minions maligned and castigated other well-meaning Nigerians, who equally cared about Charity, but were asking logical questions.
“Running on emotions of Nigerians for ‘worthy causes’ to carry out activities that are not transparent seems to be the in-thing.”
Another scandal involving the dodgy lawyer featured Amanda Chisom, publisher of amandachisom.net.
The blogger had also labeled the lawyer a fraud on Facebook. Mr. Ugwuonye did not defend himself against the allegation that he is crooked, but curiously claimed, concerning a group supposedly dedicated to justice and other noble causes, that Amanda had attempted to seduce him when he went to her house. He further stated that he did not have sex with her, but that he possessed her nude pictures.
Amanda replied that it was the lawyer who had been pestering her for sex, but that she turned down his advances because she does not like short men, especially one with an oversized head.
Read the exchange between Mr. Ugwuonye and Ms. Igiebor via Facebook messenger below: