Remember the story of the Actress who was molested by a Soldier in Port harcourt ?The soldier was eventually jailed for 28 days but there is more drama…
EBERE OHAKWE’S CASE AGAINST THE NIGERIAN ARMY: WHAT A WORLD!
Many people have been stunned upon learning the about the rift between Ms. Ebere Ohakwe and our law firm, and most have screamed – What a world!
To me and my colleagues, the outcome of Ebere Ohakwe’s case is not all that a surprise. What we did not know was the details of the implosion and its precise timing.
Normally, when a lawyer takes on a new case, he makes a detailed assessment of the kind of person his client is and define the relationship accordingly. Certain things are standard. Some other things depend on the personalities involved.
I was on my way to a Silverbird TV show on 31st January 2017, by 7:30amwhen I saw the message forwarded to DPA by Advocate Juliet Chukwurah. It was the sad story of a lady was brutalized by a Nigerian solider. Naturally, such stories trigger reactions from DPA. I managed to concentrate on my show for the next 45 minutes. Then I turned my attention to the case. It was the case of a lady we have all come to know as Ebere Ohakwe, with a Facebook name of Jewel Infinity.
Even without running a detailed background check on her, as I would normally do before undertaking to represent anybody, I felt that this is a human being and what happened to her was totally unacceptable, and that it deserved a strong response from our group. I used my social media influence to push the story out. It went viral.
I followed up with a strong statement condemning the military for allowing such act among its rank and file. My involvement brought the mater to the attention of military leaders in Abuja and one of them drew the attention of the General in charge of the Port Harcourt division of the army.
Later that afternoon, I settled down and forensically evaluate what happened. The analysis was detailed. I assessed the personas involved. I profited both the solider and the victim psychologically and socially. I concluded that the act was sexually oriented.
Right from day one, I knew that the commanders in Port Harcourt would try to cover up this incident or water it down somehow. I knew how inaccessible the military could be when they are under investigation. So, that was a stumbling block. I figured that the best way to try to overcome such stone walling tendencies of the military (indeed any military in the world) was to place things in the media.
So, I stayed on the media and the attention of the military was engaged.
Another thing I noticed was the personality of the victim. She did not look particularly stable. She has no single address or fixed home. She is estranged from her husband as well as from her 4-year old son. She spends time in Port Harcourt, but has no committed address in Port Harcourt.
She spends time in Onitsha where her parents lives, but cannot be said to have an address there either. The address problem was a challenge when the military police from Port Harcourt wanted to meet her to obtain her statement and they were willing to travel wherever she was to obtain her statement. We could not fix this meeting because she had no address. She was equally available in PH, Onitsha or Lagos.
Also, when you have a new client in a highly controversial case such as this case, you have to conduct a different kind of analysis on the background of the client. You have to identify any unique vulnerabilities that might affect the case along the line. We already identified her unstable family situation and the lack of address. When a person has no address, the person also has no employment. So, Ebere was unemployed and unsettled.
However, her biggest vulnerability has to do with a criminal trial she has been facing since the past two years for drug trafficking. That case is pending at the Federal High Court, Lagos and being prosecuted by the NDLEA. It is a very serious case and Ebere knows that she could be convicted.
From a lawyer’s operational point of view, these vulnerabilities could become an instrument of blackmail that might be used to pressure a client by those she was about to take on. I paid very close attention to that drug case against Ebere.
The amount of drug found on her luggage at the Murtala Mohammed Airport enroute to UAE was sufficient to classify her as a distributor, not just a consumer. I will not say more about the nature of the evidence against her in that case so that what I say here would not help the prosecutors in that case.
On 6th February, 2017, I personally went to Court 10, Federal High Court to know more about the case and to explain why Ebere would be absent in court on that date.
As expected, the drug case was a major problem for Ebere. All along, it turned out that she had been looking for money to escape from Nigeria, and the ongoing case. That has been her total obsession. Leaving the country was a single-minded obsession for her. That is why she is not settled for any job or for any address.
Her case against the military, to the extent that it might result in monetary compensation to her, became a God-sent avenue to get the much needed cash. I was disturbed by these calculations.
With all these uncertainties, I had to make sure that we had a clear retainer agreement with Ebere to protect our interest against any surprising moves she could make. Specially, we wanted to make sure that she would not be forced to settle the case in our back. So, we put in a clause in the retainer agreement that stated that she would not compromise the case in our back. With that, we actually gave her an avenue for her to refuse to comprise the case simply by telling anyone that she would have to get her lawyers involved.
At the beginning of our representation, we knew that Ebere did not have money and lack of money is one thing that could force a client to compromise her case. To protect her against this, I told her that ECULAW would be willing provide cash as may be necessary to develop her claim. Here, I meant that we would pay for all logical needs and medical bills and evidence preparation efforts necessary for her case.
Unfortunately, Ebere understood this to mean that ECULAW would give her cash whenever she needed it. And almost immediately after I dropped the phone on this, she called me and demanded cash for pocket money. I told her that was not what I meant.
Going by the voice recording, the first day Ebere spoke to the General Commanding the Army Division, the General was asking her to come so they could settle the matter. Ebere told the General that she would have to speak with her lawyers (us), and the General repeatedly tried to discourage her from using lawyers.
In fact, on that day, the General offered to give her his phone number for she and the General to be discussing directly. But because Ebere insisted on consulting her lawyers, the General ordered his men not to give his number to Ebere. So, clearly the Military Commanders were pissed by the fact that she insisted on continuing to use a lawyer. I had extensive discussion with Ebere on this.
I explained to her that I knew the Commanders were going to try such. I urged her not to worry about such predictable development. I explained to her my plans to overcome that.
The pressure for her to pursue her case without a lawyer continued. On the 9th of February, the day the trial of the solider took place, Ebere had a private meeting with Colonel Ibrahim and General Udoh respectively.
Both officers insisted that she would not get anywhere with a claim against the Army in so far as she continued with the lawyer. I was disappointed that Ebere would insist on meeting these officers alone, unaccompanied by the lawyer I had sent to represent me. After those meetings, Ebere was visibly shaken. She believed that her case was a lost cause.
And her attitude changed. She began to see the lawyers as destiny spoilers. I tried to calm her down. I explained to her the legal process all over. But her question for me was money, money, money. But I could not give her any specific date when money might come and I could not even give her a guarantee that money would come.
She bluntly told me that she just needed the money to get out of Nigeria. I pitied her, but there was really nothing I could do about it. I only fight the way I was trained to fight. I had no means of forcing the military to pay her money outside the standard claim process.
From the night of 9th February, Ebere changed. She became extremely cantankerous. She hung the phone on me. She would start talking without stopping. She would get impatient if I did not pick her call all the time. I tried to defuse this tension by having my Associates to deal with her.
But she was was. She abused my lawyers and called them names. I was loosing my patience. And one day, I made it clear that she is not the lawyer and she should not direct us on matters that involve legal judgment.
Rather, I urged her to focus on the only thing she could do meaningfully, which was to continue her medical treatment until discharged.
She urged me to move to Abuja immediately to demand money for her. I explained to her that I did not believe that the military would give her money voluntarily. I advices her that the more realistic outcome was that we would go the court and win a judgment against the military before they could pay anything serious. She did not want to hear this. But that was really all I could offer her at that time.
On Friday, 17th February, by 11pm, Ebere called me on the phone and complained that she had no airtime asking me to call her back. I sent her airtime. She called me and told me that she wanted terminate our services. I told her it was her rights, but I hope she was not going to compromise her case. I later sent her an email about that.
I was going to get to the bottom of the matter. I just wanted her to think it over. However, because of these tensions I stopped giving public updates on her case because I knew something unpleasant was about to happen.
However, yesterday night, after the military press release on a case where I was involved as a lawyer, I had to share the release. All along, Ebere has been trying to convince the military that she had fired me as her lawyer. She attacked me yesterday as a way to convince them that I was not her lawyer anymore, in order to get them to give her the N250,000 the promised her.
We are considering suing Ebere and the Nigerian Army in relation to this case. I don’t think she will get the N250,000 she ready to die for yet.