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All for one - the 90 strong defence team

Posted by: Laurence Simons 25/02/16
Trials with considerable media involvement often warrant substantial legal representation for the case’s defendant. However in the trial of Nigerian lawyer Ricky Tarfa, it was his excessively large defence team that caused his case to gain traction in the media. Mr Tarfa, a prominent Nigerian lawyer brought over 90 lawyers with him to the trial, a significant number of which were Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN).
Lagos State High Court’s presiding judge, Aishat Opesanwo, claimed that the 90 strong legal team paraded into court by Mr Tarfa was tantamount to ‘harassment of the court’.

The attorney currently faces perversion and obstruction of justice charges brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency. Prominent cases, particularly in the US, have previously been known to attract large legal teams, however Opesanwo claimed that the magnitude of support was unnecessary for such circumstances. 

Mr Tarfa is accused of one count of obstruction of justice for impeding the arrest of two individuals wanted for financial crimes, and a second count of perversion of justice for communicating with a judge in what was an ongoing trial between the EFCC and two companies he was representing.

The defendant was granted bail at the trial which has now been adjourned until March. It remains uncertain if the attorney’s defence team will return in its entirety for the following stages of the trial, but if one thing is clear it’s that the stunt resulted in a good day for Nigerian lawyers. And while the technique failed to overwhelm the presiding judge it did gain the case considerable media coverage. If this is a trend that catches on, practicing professionals may find they see a significant rise in new job opportunities.