Nigerian lawyer Emeka Ephraim Ugwuonye, who gained personal and professional notoriety in the United States a few years ago leading to his being struck off the legal practitioners’ roll in Maryland, Washington DC and New York, has suffered a similar fate in Nigeria, to which he had retreated.
The Nigerian notice by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) of the Body of Benchers of Nigeria, was signed by Mr. JB Daudu (SAN), its chairman.
The LPDC, which deals with professional misconduct among lawyers, ordered the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to strike out Mr. Ugwuonye’s name. The order was a sequel to a 2016 case in which the lawyer was accused of failing to disclose his personal interest in a property for which he was briefed to obtain letters of Administration.
That property was owned by a widow, and the eventual LPDC action was on account of Mr. Ugwuonye’s transferring a deceased woman’s properties to himself. It would be recalled that on May 22, 2017, his name was published in an advertorial, signed by LDPC Secretary H.A. Turaki, in a national newspaper.
The legal notice was addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, the President of the National Industrial Court, the Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, the Grand Khadi of the Federal Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, all the Chief Judges of the High Courts of States, Attorney-Generals of the states and the Federation, all Grand Khadis of the Sharia Court of Appeal and all Presidents of the Customary Courts of Appeal of states and the federation.
Mr. Ugwuonye’s action attracted a petition from the younger sister of the deceased. In his response, he claimed that the deceased was his fiancée and owed him in the region of $100,000. He, however, failed to disclose the alleged debt to the petitioner at the time of the briefing, forcing her to challenge Mr. Ugwuonye’s conversion of the assets of the deceased to personal use.
In 2013, US District Court in Washington DC issued a judgment against Mr. Ugwuonye in a case which he diverted to personal use a tax refund of $1.55 million in a real estate transaction he had undertaken on behalf of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC. He was found liable on all the claims made by the Embassy, and the court awarded monetary damages of over $2million against him. It also ordered him to pay interest on the money he had stolen.
In the year before that, in Maryland, a US District judge dismissed a defamation and invasion of privacy suit he instituted against SaharaReporters.
The case, thrown out for lack of merit, was one of the numerous cases he had filed in the hope of using the US judicial system to restrain reporting on his criminal activities in the US.
In 2015/2016 Mr. Ugwuonye also moved to Facebook to fleece unsuspecting Nigerians where he set up a phony account claiming to represent underprivileged members of the public. With an unregistered group known as "Due Process Advocates," Ugwuonye fleeced his followers of millions of naira in donations made into his private accounts.