- ‘Executive Order, an infringement on citizens’ rights to life, self-defence‘
AKEEM NAFIU writes that there is mounting concern over Executive Order signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, compelling private holders of licensed arms to surrender or risk prosecution
Some senior lawyers have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to promptly withdraw an Executive Order reportedly issued by him to revoke firearm or short gun licenses in Nigeria.
The lawyers while speaking on the issue with New Telegraph Law at the weekend, faulted the president’s action saying it is capable of infringing on Nigerians’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to life and self-defence.
President Buhari’s action might not be unconnected with his quest to stem the ugly trend of rising insecurity in the country where kidnapping, banditry, cultism and other vices have become a daily occurrence.
Last week’s disclosure by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, indicating that the Force had recovered 834 arms, 19,009 live ammunition, two rocket launchers and other exhibits in the last two months are a pointer to the deteriorating level of insecurity in the nation.
A statement by the Force Spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, indicated that the police boss made the disclosure while hosting a delegation of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) from Nasarawa State Chapter, led by Alhaji Aminu Muazu Maifata who paid him Salalah visit in his official quarters in Abuja.
According to him, aside the arms recovery nationwide, a total of 2,175 suspects have been arrested for kidnapping, armed robbery, murder and cultism since the launch of Operation Puff Adder on 5th April 2019.
However, the latest effort by President Buhari at tackling the insecurity problem through the issuance of Executive Order has been dodged by controversies.
Members of the House of Representatives have even adopted a motion asking the president to rescind his decision on the Executive Order which they argued could expose citizens to danger.
The motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Hon. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje (PDP, Bende Federal Constituency, Abia State) is seeking to revoke the “Executive Order to remove, revoke and banish all firearms certificates and licences throughout the federation”.
In her contribution, Hon. Elendu-Ukeje noted that the Executive Order recently signed by President Buhari and billed to take effect from 1st June, 2019, violates Section 44(1) of the Constitution.
The lawmaker further noted that despite the need for gun control, withdrawing legal guns would mean “only illegal guns will be in circulation and only criminals will own guns.”
“One would have thought that government position will be to domesticate international conventions that have proven to be effective in curbing proliferation of small arms and light weapons,” she said.
In his own contribution, Hon. Edward Pwajok (PDP, Plateau) noted that 99.9 per cent of legal owners of guns do not use them for killings or kidnapping.
He said: “This issue was reported wildly about the intervention, but there has not been comment from the government. With that, it is safe to assume that the executive order was signed by the President. We should err on the side of caution. My problem is that this policy is of over intelligence; is there research that the killings are done by those licensed to hold gun?
“Those who kill are the only ones with illegal weapon, someone with legal weapon will not kill. 99.9 percent of people with legal weapon will not kill. Why would the president ban the ownership of weapon?
“Mr. President and security agencies should go after unlicensed gun. A criminal will not apply for licence. This order does not serve any purpose; it further empowers criminals to have a field day.”
Hon. Abubakar Chika (APC, Niger) corroborated Hon. Pwajok saying: “Smaller thieves are afraid of going to some houses, thinking they have licensed guns. We should rather have recertification.
“I don’t have a gun, and there are people with guns around me. It helps in securing the environment.”
Hon. Alexander Adekola from Ekiti State equally believed the Executive Order will make Nigerians vulnerable to attacks.
He said: “This Executive Order is to make everybody in Nigeria vulnerable. Are they saying people use them to kidnap or kill? No. It is the kidnappers and armed robbers that are using it without licence”.
In his own submissions, Hon. Simon Arabo (Kaduna State) opined that government cannot use Executive Order to override lawful acquisition of arm.
“If most of the weapons are being used illegally, it is for the security to go and tackle that; not for people who have theirs legally. I think that Executive Order, if it has been signed, should be overwritten”, the lawmaker said.
However, Hon. Mojeed Alabi (APC, Osun), was in support of the Executive Order. He was of the view that it would sanitise the process of arms acquisition which he claimed has been shrouded in secrecy and fraud.
He said: “The police control the use of guns. The question we must ask is, what is the requirement of issuing gun licence? I have been victim of robbery. I have applied for a gun, and refused. I was asked to offer bribe. Why would some get, some would not.
“I will support the breakdown of the process for application as in order climes. I would love to have it decentralised. Why would some people have and some would not? Let us have regulations brought before the House”.
The motion was subsequently unanimously adopted after a voice vote.
Some members of the inner and outer Bar have also joined the House of Representatives in calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Executive Order saying the action have shown that the president have lost the larger picture of the citizens’ rights to life and self-defence.
In his comments on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome noted that the Order had unwittingly left honest and innocent Nigerians most vulnerable to the unrestrained murderous and blood-letting activities of marauders, herdsmen, terrorists, armed robbers and kidnappers.
He said: “Ordinarily, one would have readily applauded the president for signing an Executive Order banning possession of guns, having regard to the unbridled proliferation and possession of small and medium scale politically motivated and banditorily-induced arms currently in circulation.
“However, Buhari’s sectionalistic perception of governance from the opaque prism of ethnicity and religious nuance do not give one such euphoric comfort of nationalistically induced decisions.
“It seems to me a panicky measure meant to forestall the threats by Niger Delta militants to declare their Republic by 1st of June, and also for the now historic struggle by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for self-determination.
“Whatever be his reasons, the president and his handlers appeared to have lost the larger picture of the citizens’ rights to life and self defence. Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution provides for the right to life. Section 258 of the Criminal Code which operates in the Southern part of Nigeria and Sections 59-60 of the Penal Code that operates in the North, all guarantee the right to self defence and the defence of one’s property.
“What the Executive Order has unwittingly done is to leave honest and innocent Nigerians most vulnerable to the unrestrained murderous and blood-letting activities of marauders, herdsmen, terrorists, armed robbers and kidnappers.
“People may now decide to possess these arms illegally and under cover as guerrilla tactics, since even a legitimate licence cannot guarantee same, after thorough screening by law enforcement agencies. After all, self-preservation is the first law of nature.
“The Executive Order is also gravely flawed in the sense that those known and notorious to illegally possess these same arms, like herdsmen, were not even named at all.There now appears to be two sets of laws for Nigerians”.
Corroborating Ozekhome’s submissions, Dr. Biodun Layonu (SAN) said government needs to disarm those in illegal possession of arms and ammunition rather than putting the lives of Nigerians licensed to own guns under threat.
“Yes, I agree. The solution to current security challenges is not asking those who legitimately possess arms to drop them but to dispossess those who illegally own arms and ammunitions.
“There are those who are thinking of buying guns to protect themselves and family because of current security challenges. An increased confidence in the capacity of the State to protect according to the constitutional mandate will discourage those now wanting to own arms. Sadly, this is not the situation now hence the inclination of more people to apply for gun licences.
“Ordinary law abiding citizens ought not to be punished. It is criminals and bandits that should. I think the President is being misadvised by relevant authorities”, the silk said.
To a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Adekunle Ojo, it is morally inappropriate for government to issue the Executive Order given the current level of insecurity in the country.
He said: “When a license is issued, it means it is legalized. If it is legalized, it means there are conditions upon which those licenses issued were validated. The owners of such guns must have satisfied one condition or the other before they were issued such licenses.
“Persons who genuinely owned guns are not the problem of the country but those that are engaged in arms proliferation and illegal importation. In essence, I would have expected that government will do everything within its power to stop those using guns illegally rather than focusing on those that were licensed to use them.
“This is because for as long as an individual has not abused an opportunity granted him, he cannot be said to have flouted or breached any law upon which a revocation can be sustained.
“We must however not forget that government can lawfully issue and revoke license, as holding of gun is not an individual property in line with Section 40 of the Constitution. So, there is no laid down procedure to be followed by government other than the issuance of Executive Order.
“Despite this fact, I don’t think it is morally sound for government to do so given the current level of insecurity in the country. Someone that is licensed to hold gun will always be in a better position to defend his family from any attack than someone unlicensed.
“So, as far as I am concerned, the time is not auspicious for government to withdraw guns from private individuals who are licensed to hold them. There was even no basis for such withdrawal. I am not aware there is any allegation that they are misusing the guns in their possession.
“Another problem I see in all these is that, if the guns are being taken away from those licensed to keep them, and we left out those that were carrying guns without being licensed, more insecurity problems will be created in country. So, government action will be counterproductive”.
A former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mazi Afam Osigwe, expressed fears that president’s action will endanger citizens’ lives.
“If the news about the Executive Order is true, it may further endanger the lives of citizens. This is because it is a known fact that security agencies have proved incapable of being able to protect lives and property in every part of the country. So, this Executive Order will do nothing but only strip those who are licensed to hold guns naked of their rights to life and self-defence. This will further expose people’s lives to danger.
“It is a pity that government has also failed to realize that the problem of insecurity in this country is not caused by those who have license to hold guns but those in possession of illicit arms. Government should focus more on how to check proliferation of these illicit arms which are being used to carry out nefarious activities across the country.
“So, the Executive Order should be promptly reviewed as it will eventually be counterproductive. Government cannot also be talking about community policing and now be denying people of their rights to life and self-defence.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Ige Asemudara, was also concerned about the timing of the Executive Order.
“It is not a correct order to make at this time when Nigerians are been invaded left, right and centre by gunmen. We cannot be calling on locals to be vigilant, support the army and the nation’s security men and defend themselves in one breath and be making order that people should surrender their licensed guns or firearms in another breath.
“How do they defend themselves when marauding herdsmen and other criminal groups come calling? Section 33(2) of the Constitution and other provisions of the law allow Nigerians to defend themselves from unlawful violence or defend their property.
“That order lacks credibility. It lacks legitimacy. It lacks conscience as it does not fit into the damming reality on ground. I thought the president would have done so well to make an order directing the violent Fulani herdsmen and other criminal groups to surrender their arms or face the wrath of the state.
“That order is a declaration of war against the law abiding Nigerians who properly obtained licensed guns to provide security for themselves when the state failed to do so. That order intends to lead more Nigerians to the slaughter. If in deed, it has been made, I urge that it should be reversed,” the lawyer said.
Christian lawyers task colleagues on justice system
Christian lawyers have called on their colleagues in the legal profession to always pursue justice in the discharge of their duties. They believed that lawyers are catalysts and change agents in their sphere of influence.
The lawyers made the call at a ‘Dinner event’ organized by the Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), Lagos sub-region as part of its Annual General Conference.
According to them, Justice must not only be spoken of but must be evidenced and exemplified in all deeds, actions and practices of a legal practitioner.
They also emphasized the need for all lawyers to stand for truth, justice and righteousness at all times irrespective of whose ox is gored.
Speaking on the theme of the event, “Help all the way”, the Coordinator of CLASFON, Lagos sub-region, Prince Okey-Joe Onuakalusi, noted that justice has not only become a scare commodity in Nigeria, but is also on the verge of extinction.
“There is a common saying that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. But I dare say the actors to set the stage for eroding this hope are you and I.
“The Bar and Bench I dare say are the active participants when a judge delivers a judgement on the influence of any form of gratification. Whether called nepotism, bribery or any other fancy name, anything that defeats fairness and righteousness is evil and anyone that does such has done a great disservice to himself and humanity and as a lawyer especially, is an accomplice to the murder of justice.
“We are gathered here today because 12 men in their time chose to stand on the side of righteousness, equity and justice; and we are beneficiaries of their steadfastness. And I dare say that our over a hundred thousand self-professed ‘Christian’ lawyers can still change the Nigerian society for good if we are determined to.
“We must decide like those 12 pioneers of CLASFON stand for the truth, justice and righteousness at all times irrespective of whose ox is gored.
“May I then ask, “who is your helper?” as this is not a task for one without the Supreme being. Only God can help your resolve to follow the path of justice and righteousness”, he said.
The event was chaired by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Wemimo Ogunde.
My agenda for judiciary, by CJN
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, had an interview session with journalists from selected media houses on the sidelines of the just concluded Annual National Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). In the session, the CJN speaks on his agenda for the judiciary, its independence, NJC’s members and sundry issues. AKEEM NAFIU was there
How do we address the ugly perception by some foreign organizations that Nigeria’s judiciary is corrupt?
Well, anybody can say whatever he likes. But, what we are saying is that if the judiciary is corrupt, those who are saying it should come up with proofs.
They should be particular about it and mention the individuals involved. This must be proved and when this is done, the law will take its course on anybody.
This is what we are saying. You can’t just wake up and be making blanket allegations of corruption against the judiciary. Case or cases of corruption must be established and whoever is involved will not go unpunished.
What is the way out of concerns over lack of fund for projects embarked upon by judiciary, particularly in states of the Federation?
There were lots of complaints, particularly from Chief Judges of states across the country that state executives are not making funds available. Judiciary is an arm of government but unfortunately some states are not financially independent.
Some of them have gotten what is due to them but others are yet to do so. But certainly whatever needs to be done has to be done, particularly as regards availability of funds because projects cannot be executed when there are no funds.
In a situation where the judiciary has to go cap in hand for funds from either the state or federal government, a lot of things will have to wait. I believe these are part of the reasons why those projects are yet to be completed.
Besides, most of these projects are handled by the Federal Ministry of Works and my view is that enough money should be made available for the purpose of executing the projects.
How much do you think will be adequate for the judiciary to perform its tasks?
This is something that comes with some calculations. If I speculate or make a guess, I may not not be accurate. Of course, we have a yearly budget which are defended and while defending the budget, a lot of issues are cut away. But, if what we are projecting is giving to the judiciary, it would go a long way in solving many of our problems.
As long as I may not be exact in telling you how much will be sufficient for the judiciary, we have experts who usually work on such issues and come up with what they think will meet up with the needs of the judiciary on a yearly basis.
However, if the Judiciary is financially independent and we are allowed to do what we think should be done with the funds in our control, I don’t think we will have some of these problems we are talking about.
Judiciary cannot be said to be independent when it is not independent financially. But I believe with some of the changes we are noticing, the judiciary will soon be independent in all ramifications and in the true sense of it.
Will you support the clamour in certain quarters that non-lawyers and retired judges should be made members of the National Judicial Council (NJC)?
Those who are making such proposition or suggestion does not know a lot of things. They are completely ignorant of a lot of things regarding the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The composition of the NJC as they are suggesting is what it is. We have lawyers in the NJC. When it comes to the discipline of judges, those concerned were asked to recuse themselves.
The law does not permit non-lawyers to be part of the NJC but if the law changes today to say they should be there, it will be so.
What do you say to insinuation that the CJN’s powers to appoint persons to the NJC is too enormous and should be whittled down?
Well, if those in authority thinks that the powers given to the CJN is too much and that it should be reduced, I have no issue with that, afterall I have no stake in anything. What we are doing is executing the law as it is.
What is your assessment of the chain of events that led to your emergence as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN)?
The only thing that is permanent is change. There must be changes. This is universal. Change is very necessary. If things must move properly, there must be change. Even in the application of the law, nothing is static; the law is applied to suit the society.
How do you view the relationship between the judiciary and the executive?
Well, as far as I am concerned, the relationship, let me generally say among the three arms of government is cordial. Each of the arms is carrying out its functions in line with the dictates of the Constitution.
The Judiciary does not involve itself in making the laws, except when court’s pronouncements are deemed to be laws. There are situations where we make pronouncement and they are seen as law. Otherwise, we inter-relate. But, none of the institutions interfere in the roles or responsibilities of the other. That is how we are going.
The Judiciary relates very well with both the Executive and the Legislature. That does not mean that we should not tell the truth if the Executive and the Legislature have issues to settle in court. We don’t mind whose ox is gored. That is what we stick to and this is what we have been doing.
There has been conversation about how to move the judiciary forward in terms of technology for it to operate as expected in the 21st century. How do we achieve this?
It is welcomed. Technology will certainly make our job more easier to do. Do you know that judges are still taking proceedings with long hand in almost all our courts in Nigeria? We still write judgements with long hand. If technology is introduced, I am telling you I will fully accept it because like I said earlier it eases a lot of work.
If I tell you that in a day, I hardly sleep for the required 8 hours, you may not believe me. This is because I had to study files of cases before me and I have to do this and other related works everyday.
What is your view on the controversies trailing the arbitration award of $9.5 billion in favour of a British firm, P&ID, over a failed power project?
I cannot specifically comment on this issue as well as what process will be involved in the investigation to be carried out by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation. This is because the case may eventually appear before me in court.
Normally, we don’t give advice and we don’t make suggestions when cases are likely to be in court for us. We must keep our mouth sealed until the case gets to court.
Besides, the Attorney General may also have made one or two comments on the issue, but I cannot make any comment on the issue for now to avoid any contradictions.
What is your agenda for the judiciary?
We want to take Nigeria’s judiciary to a very high status. We want the nation’s judiciary to be first among equals and the first in the African continent.
However, If government can give us all we require in terms of finance, a lot of things will be done. A lot of facilities will be made available for our operations.
I am so optimistic that the judiciary will soon be financially independent because the Federal Government has been taken steps in that direction.
I will also work towards achieving holistic independent for the judiciary in terms of everything.
Why ministers must hold office in public trust, by lawyers
Lawyers at the weekend joined millions of Nigerians to demand that the recently sworn in ministers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration should rise to the occasion and dutifully perform tasks assigned to them in order to move the country forward. AKEEM NAFIU reports
ou were chosen from each of the 36 States of the federation, and most importantly, you share my commitment to working tirelessly for the people of this country and to achieving a future where every Nigerian can reach his or her full potential.
“I believe you are ready to get to work. Indeed, the work has already started. For the past two days, you were with me at the retreat; the retreat which was conducted with clear focus on the roadmap towards the delivery of Government Policies, Programmes and Projects for 2019-2023.
“As you are aware, the core objectives of this administration are to improve security, achieve diversified, inclusive economic growth and fight corruption. I am convinced that we can build a buoyant economy that supports inclusive growth and creates broad-based prosperity for every Nigerian – one that will absorb the two million Nigerians entering the labour market each year, as well as reduce the backlog of over 20 million unemployed or underemployed Nigerians.
“We must also intensify efforts to reduce internal Isecurity threats and eliminate corruption at all levels so as to ensure that our citizens have a safe and corruption-free environment where they can live and conduct their businesses, without fear and intimidation.
“Our primary business over the next four years is to work together towards delivering the results that the people of Nigeria expect from us. We have a great opportunity as an administration to build on the progress already made in order to fundamentally shift Nigeria’s trajectory on the path of steady growth and development.
“Let me also emphasize that, as heads of your respective ministries, and for effective implementation of your mandates, you are required to work closely with the Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executive Officers of agencies under your purview. This has become necessary considering the fact that, the task of moving the country to the Next Level requires dedication, focus, and collective efforts”.
The above quotes represents part of the views of President Muhammadu Buhari at the swearing-in ceremony of the ministers designate.
The president’s thoughts underscored the high expectations of Nigerians in his government regarding the change promised them when he found himself at the helm in 2015.
In the meantime, some senior lawyers have added their voices to that of the president in calling on the ministers to live up to expectations in their various areas of assignments.
The lawyers while baring their minds on the inauguration of the ministers by the president emphasized the need for them to be accountable not only to the person that appointed them but also to Nigerians.
They opined that as long as Nigerians are yearning for better living standards and democracy dividends, the ministers must be ready to give their all in their service to the nation.
In his comment, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, want the ministers to see their appointment as a privilege and call to service.
He said: “The president has picked the ministers out of millions of Nigerians and they have taken their oath of offices. I expect them to realize that it is a privilege to serve the nation and as such they should live up to expectations.
“I believed that the president that has appointed them expect them to perform well in any assignment given to them. They should not dissapoint the president and the nation”.
Another silk, Dr. Biodun Layonu (SAN), was of the view that Nigerians have a duty to make the ministers accountable by properly scrutinizing their activities.
“The ministers are an extension of the executive powers of the government and that of the president who is their principal. They are accountable the same way the president is accountable to the people of Nigeria and the Constitution.
“Everyone has the responsibility to make them accountable by watching them in and out of office. The media and the National Assembly oversight functions play major roles in this regard including NGOs and the professional bodies like NBA. The ordinary people too, by responsible social media coverage and investigative journalism. “Finally the success of the government is the success of the country. We must help them whenever we can to achieve. We are not in competition with them and we must wish them well and cooperate with them by giving ideas and making positive suggestions.
To Mr. Yemi Candide-Johnson (SAN), the ministers are serving at the president’s pleasure and as such any failure on their part must be blamed on the person who appoints them
He said: “It’s not our job to hold them accountable. They serve at the pleasure of the president in whom all executive power resides. Their faults is his failure and it is him who must account to the Nigerian people”.
Another member of the inner Bar, Mr. Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, was also of the view that it is the president who appoints the minister that is accountable to Nigerians.
“The ministers are accountable to the president. It’s the person that appointed them that has authority over them. It’s a 4-year bondage that we have signed ourselves into. The person that is accountable to us that we can remove by our votes is that individual that we put in power.
“So, as far as the issue of the ministers is concern, it is only the person that appointed them that can decide their fate. The president has chosen these people to help him achieve his agenda and if they are not doing well, he is the only one that can take an action to remove them.
“But for me as a Nigerian, I don’t have any expectation from anyone in government and I hope you equally know that most Nigerians are on their own. Government is on its own while majority of Nigerians are also on their own. They don’t look up to government for anything and they have no expectation from government.
“Personally, I don’t have any expectation from any minister and if perhaps they perform, we’ll give thanks to God, but I can assure you that will be accidental.
“Some of these people have been in government since the commencement of this democracy in 1999 and if you asked them about their contribution to national development, they can’t point out to anything. So, it will be foolish of me to say I have any expectation from anyone in government and any Nigerian who is hopeful, I wish him or her goodluck”, the silk said.
In his own submissions, a law teacher, Mr. Wahab Shittu, tasked Nigerians to monitor the ministers’ activities in line with the indicators set by Buhari’s government as well as global best practices on fundamentals of good governance.
He said: “Holding ministers accountable is a collective enterprise. We all must serve as Ombudsmen to monitor their progress and performance in the context of indicators set by the administration and global best practices on the fundamentals of good governance.
“Nigerians are yearning for better living standards and democracy dividends.This administration mainly has three point agenda- anti-corruption, security and improvement of the economy. Ministers must deliver on all of these including reflecting integrity, competence, character, capacity, capability and performance. There should be no excuse.
“We must set targets and monitor compliance. Ministers either ship in or ship out; they must know that public office is public trust and seize the opportunity to really serve the people. Ministers must deliver. No excuse.”
To Mr. Destiny Takon, Nigerians should be concerned about how to make the ministers accountable since they are holding their various offices in public trust.
“Public office holding is a public trust. To that extent, though appointed by the president and ‘approved’ by the National Assembly, their allegiance and stewardship should be to the Nigerian people.
“In this regard, because the Nigerian people have high expectations for the change promised them by this government since five years ago, that is yet to manifest, emphasis needs to be shifted a bit from calling on just the president and his party alone, to calling on the ministers too directly, to perform on their specific ministerial assignments.
“This is so because the ministries are the outspread arms of the government by which the dividends of democracy and the derivatives of good governance are delivered to the yearning populace.
“In sane climes, the ministers are chosen from the best crop of the intelligentsia of that nation, just so that meaningful progress in all areas of national life, can be realized. This in itself, emphasizes the prime place of ministers in the quest for good governance and national development”.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Gabriel Uduafi, noted that ministers’ performance can only be measured in line with people’s expectations.
“For us to make the ministers accountable, we have to look at the issue ministry by ministry and sector by sector. We must place this side-by-side with the expectations of Nigerians. Once we are able to put these expectations in place, then, we can measure the ministers‘ level of performance.
But, if citizens don’t have expectations, there is no way we can set any performance index for them”, he said.
NBA cautions FG against undermining rule of law
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has cautioned the Federal Government against engaging in actions that can undermine the rule of law to avoid creating a bad impression of the nation to the outside world.
The plea was made by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) while addressing journalists at the weekend on the communique issued by the lawyers’ umbrella body at the end of activities at its 59th Annual General Conference.
Usoro noted that the rule of law is one of the core foundational values in a democracy, predicated on an independent judiciary, independent Bar, separation of powers and access to justice.
The NBA president while assuring that the Bar under him will defend and promote the rule of law, said citizens and government have a duty to protect, safeguard and advance the rule of law at all times.
His words: “In no circumstance will the NBA stop to defend, promote and to protect the rule of law. Even when it appears that people in authority are undermining the rule of law, the NBA has sworn to continue to highlight those actions that degrade the rule of law.
“We will not only stop at continuing to talk about those issues, we will also name and shame those involved, so that the populace will know that we are concerned about some of these practices.
“The only thing that we will do and that we are still doing is to meet relevant authorities and highlight these issues to them for them to know the damage that the degradation of the rule of law does to the image of Nigeria. It destroys our economy and discourage investors from coming to the country. It does so much negative things to the country”.
Usoro informed his audience that the recommendations and decisions were adopted in acknowledgment of the roles of different stakeholders in ‘facing the future’ for the betterment of the legal profession, the Nigerian economy and the general public.
He said the conference achieved the objective of speaking to the task of its theme; ‘Facing the Future’, not just by NBA, representing all of the legal system, but also the nation.
In the communique, the NBA urged the Supreme Court to avail itself any available opportunity to make unambiguous determination on the status of the Code of Conduct Tribunal and clarify whether it is an organ of the Executive or a quasi-judicial tribunal capable of bring vested with criminal jurisdiction.
Besides, through the communique, the NBA is urging judicial officers to be independent, courageous and unbiased in the execution of their functions without regard to the appointing authority, in order to bolster and retain confidence of investors, businesses and the public in the judiciary.
The NBA also identified poor socio-economic situation in Nigeria as a contributory factor for the increase in kidnapping and terrorism. It consequently urged the Federal Government to adopt policies that will support socioeconomic empowerment without reference to ethnic, religious or geographical location.
It also called for an holistic and total enforcement of the Criminal Justice Act 2015, Criminal Justice Laws of some of the states, the anti-kidnapping provisions of the Criminal Code Act and the Kidnapping laws of some states, Terrorism (Prevention) Act and Fundamental Human Rights to reduce the act of kidnapping and terrorism.
It was also recommended that the Nigerian Bar Association should review the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) for an improved and efficient disciplinary process.
The Conference featured 42 sessions, 209 Nigerian and foreign speakers from the legal and business community, academia, legislature as well as the public sector. It witnessed a record attendance of 12,000 delegates.
‘Specialised court’ll fast track justice system’
Oluwaseun Adebisi, an alumnus of Lagos State University is an indigene of Odo-Otin Local Government, Osun State. She was called to Bar on 12th December, 2017. Adebisi shares her law journey with JOHN CHIKEZIE
My name is Oluwaseun Adebisi. I am from Odo-Otin Local Government, Osun State. I am a graduate of Lagos State University where I obtained an LL.B and finished with a Second Class Honours.
I also attended the Nigerian Law School, Yenagoa campus where I graduated with First Class Honours. I was called to the Nigerian Bar on 12th December, 2017.
I am a finance and investment enthusiast which is why I have decided to carve a professional niche for myself in business finance and investment.
I actually studied law because I didn’t like science and I wasn’t really interested in the commercial class.
However, I’ve always liked Mass Communication, but then I thought that if I chose to study the course, I would be very restricted. And since law was a professional course and more encompassing, so, I thought that if I wanted to switch to Media, I could do that without necessarily having to study Mass Communication all over again.
I did love Economics and Commerce and that, I presume, may be the reason why I decided to specialise in finance and business.
My pupilage was awesome. I had the opportunity to work with one of the top tier firms in the country. I garnered experience in the practice of law as a result of working alongside seasoned professionals. I was exposed early on to the realities of law practice; how and what we were taught in Law School does not necessarily apply in practice. It was like a learning process for me all over again.
I had my Law school externship at Falana & Falana. During my service year, I worked with Simmons Cooper Partners (Vice President’s firm). I had an opportunity to work alongside Mr. Dapo Akinosun, Victoria Alonge, Mrs. and Mr. Akintayo Iwilade.
Currently I work with The New Practice (TNP), a commercial law firm that specializes in Fintech, Corporate Commercial M& A and , Private Equity and Business Advisory Services
alongside seasoned professionals like Baba Alokolaro, Babajimi Ayorinde and Bukola Bankole.
It has been a learning curve for me, from dispute resolution to corporate Commercial transactions.
Finance and business
I see lots of persons all around the country that lack employment opportunities but have great ideas. Unfortunately, they do not have the finance to get their ideas up and running, and I mean credible and innovative ideas, more especially for small scale enterprises.
I want to help these persons develop and finance their ideas and business plans in the little way I can, and to help them out of that feeling of helplessness that comes with not having a steady stream of income.
It’s my desire to help these persons have access to the finance needed to grow their businesses, and enable them live good lives and raise decent families.
I am also interested in helping women become financially dependent and empowered.
These are the things I hope to solve in my own little way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on a grand scale.
But this, for me, is a long term goal because the stage in which I am now is to garner knowledge and learn all I can in order to be able to fulfil this long term goal.
First day in court
My first appearance alone was okay but not that great. I recall that my supervisor was supposed to appear alongside me, as the lead counsel, but he was stuck in traffic. So, unfortunately, I had to appear alone. I would say I was prepared, but I was not that prepared to address the court.
I was so nervous and I fumbled my words a bit. Other counsel in court had to give me a few tips here and there. But, it finally went well, regardless. I got through it, which was the most important thing and got a date for adjournment.
It is kind of hard to have extra-curricular activities when you have to work every day of the week.
So, at my leisure, I simply write or create content for online blogs. I attend trainings and conferences when I have the time, so I can meet and network with people.
Honestly, there are no comparison to be made between the nation’s judiciary and western jurisprudence. They are miles apart. We still have a long way to go in terms of justice delivery.
This question is very broad, but I am going to answer it from an economic and dispute resolution/ litigation standpoint.
I think that people are yet to really understand the role the Nigerian judiciary play in the economy. The truth is that our legal system, as we have it today, is weighed down by technicalities as opposed to substance. And as such, resolving dispute between parties could take years.
When you examine the reason for the delay, you realise that it is probably as a result of technicalities.
So, lawyers sometimes could argue for a long time on trivial preliminary matters. For instance, the failure to tick the name of the lawyer on the face of a court process, and then take such trivial issue up all the way to the Supreme Court without ever getting to the real substantial matter. This, personally, is absolutely ridiculous.
Ease of doing business
After all what is the use of entering into a contractual agreement if the enforceability of such contract would be problematic.
In addition, I find that even if they do business in Nigeria, when it comes to enforcing the ability of agreements, parties choose to resolve their disputes through arbitration outside the country. This robs lawyers and even the country off the revenue that may be generated from resolving such disputes.
In western jurisprudence, you find out that specialised courts are created to deal with specific matters. They have sufficient personnel to handle these matters and their judiciary is adequately funded. Same cannot be said for the Nigerian legal system.
Attorney-General of the Federation and confidence of foreign investors
Actually the Attorney-General can only do so much. The primary job of the Attorney General is to advise the Federal Government on legal matters and represent the federation in litigation.
As an attorney general, what I would do if I were to be appointed is to point out some areas to the legislature and utilise the influence my office holds to highlight laws that needs to tweaked, adjusted or reformed to ensure speedy delivery of justice. This is simply because legislation essentially is the primary way to tackle these bottlenecks.
I would also try to get the legislature to ensure that specialised courts are established to deal with commercial matters that are time sensitive.
I would also encourage the government to invest in human capacity building like training of judges and judicial personnel on the emerging trends in business and on ways in which they could facilitate the speedy resolution of disputes, and also, keeping in mind punitive measures for legal practitioners that engage in time delaying tactics.
I desire to become the CEO of a company or the Managing Partner a of top commercial law firm. But, then I recognise that these things are subject to change as such I am easily and readily adaptable to these changes.
I am very much looking forward to what the future brings.
Egypt denies 10, 000 lawyers visa for AfBA conference
Following an alleged denial of visa to 10,000 lawyers for this year’s African Bar Association (AfBA) by the Egyptian’s government, the association at the weekend, shifted the 2019 annual conference earlier scheduled to hold at the Triumph Luxury Hotel, Cairo, Egypt from 2nd to 5th September 2019 to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.
This followed an alleged refusal by the Egyptian government to grant entry visas to over 80 per cent of the participants across the continent, including prominent Bar leaders and lawyers.
However, Cairo’s loss is now Monrovia’s gain as the Government of Liberia under President George Weah has offered to host the 2019 AfBA annual conference.
The rescheduled conference would hold between 20th and 25th October, 2019.
In a release by AfBA’s Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Osa Director, President Weah would declare the conference open on 21st October, 2019 with over 10,000 lawyers expected from the various Bar associations and law societies on the continent.
Meanwhile, top government functionaries and business leaders are also expected to graze the event with the theme: Tackling contemporary issues facing the continent; How lawyers can drive a renaissance.
Like Dizeani, like Oshodin
N69.2bn, $487.5m: Diezani, Oshodin before the law
FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE writes that President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s avowed crusade against graft in its second term assumed a twist at the weekend following an alleged discovery of N22.9 billion fraud, linked to another female after first female Nigerian Petroleum Minister, Diezani.K. Alison-Madueke was accused of defrauding the federal government of N47.2 billion and $487.5 million
lthough President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowed war against graft was variously seen as selective in view of scores of members of the opposition political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the anti-graft body—the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) net while accusing him of shielding some corrupt members of the ruling AII Progressives Congress (APC), the war took a new dimension at the weekend as one of Nigeria’s top businesswomen was allegedly linked to have corruptly enriched herself to the tune of N22.93 billion.
The female business mogul, Mrs. Isabella Oshodin is a United States-based. Oshodin was at the weekend arraigned at a Federal High Court, Abuja for receiving N22.93 billion from ex-National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki.
This was coming barely two years after a former Nigerian first female Petroleum Minister, Diezani .K. Alison-Madueke was allegedly discovered to have looted the treasury of N47.2 billion and $487.5 million.
The nation’s anti-graft agency, EFCC has said it traced at least N47.2billion and $487.5 million in cash and property to Diezani Alison-Madueke.
This, according to EFCC, followed painstaking investigations by its officials.
Diezani, who was the first female to be investigated and charged for corruption after a former Finance Minister, Nnenadi Usma and former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, has since faced prosecution for allegations of fraud and money laundering.
However, new female entrant in the corruption trial after Diezani, Patience Jonathan, Nnenadi Usma are the American-based businesswoman, Oshodin.
Until 29th May, 2015, Diezani .K. Alison-Madueke was Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister under former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Diezani was born on 6th of December 1960 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. She is the daughter of late Chief Frederick Abiye Agama. After her primary and secondary education in Nigeria, she went to England to study architecture.
Shortly after his education in England in the United Kingdom, Diezani moved to the United States to complete her studies at Howard University.
She obtained her Bachelor’s degree on 8th December 1992 at Howard University. She returned to Nigeria the same year and started career with Shell Petroleum Development Corporation.
In 2002, Dizeani returned to England where she pursued a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) at the Cambridge University after which she was appointed as an Executive Director in Shell in 2006.
She was the first woman ever to be appointed by Shell as an Executive Director in Nigeria. Diezani came into limelight when she became Minister of Transportation between 26th July, 2007 and 17th December, 2008.
She was appointed Minister of Mines and Steel Developments on 23rd December, 2008 and became Minister for Petroleum Resources after former President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as the President in February 2010, becoming the first woman to hold the position.
Between November 2014 and December 2015, Dizeani served as President of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as the first woman to assume the position.
Diezani married a former Naval Staff Chief, Alison-Madueke.
The former minister, whose accounts had been frozen, also got some property, including a mansion worth N3.58billion in Abuja seized by the EFCC.
Specifically, EFFC accused Diezani of diverting $115million, $487.5million and N47.23billion oil cash.
Undaunted by its desire to recover $2.2billion arms fund allegedly looted under former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki which had been linked to prominent politicians, the EFCC further beamed its searchlight beyond the nation’s shore.
This, however, produced a United States’-based Nigerian, Mrs. Isabella Oshodin.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accused Oshodin, among others, for receiving N500,000,000; N750,000,000; N125,000,000; N350,000,000; N170,000,000; N85,000,000; N60,000,000; N50,000,000 and other sums totalling N2,366,000,000 from the NSA’s Office.
Besides, the EFCC accused Oshodin for receiving $57,217,301.15 into the Escrow accounts of Bob Oshodin Organisation Limited.
Specifically, EFCC in its charge against Oshodin said: “That you, Mrs. Isabela Mimie Oshodin, Bob Oshodin Organisation Limited and Mr. Robert (Bob) Oshodin (said to be on the run) on or about June 22, 2014 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court directly transferred $7,712,598 to one Portfolio Escrow Company with account number 3102004330 domiciled in California Republic Bank, United States of America, which sum you reasonably ought to have known to be proceed of an unlawful act of Sambo Dasuki (retd), the then National Security Adviser, to wit: criminal breach of trust, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Provision) Act, 2011, as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
On arraignment, Oshodin pleaded not guilty before the Abuja Federal High Court.
Onuakalusi: Speedy implementation of NCSB 2019’ll restore inmates’ dignity
Prince Okey-Joe Onuakalusi is the Coordinator, Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), Lagos sub-region. In this interview with AKEEM NAFIU, he speaks on insecurity, judiciary’s independence, prison reforms and sundry issues
There has been a change in the nomenclature of the Nigeria Prisons Service following the recent signing of the Nigerian Correctional Service Bill 2019 into law by President Muhammadu Buhari. What reforms are you expecting in the nation’s prison system with this new development?
Prior to the emergence of the law, prisons were seen as places of punishment and prisoners are usually stigmatized.
This, however, should not be the case because the essence of prison ought to be a way of taking someone who have committed a crime out of the society and placed him in a place where he will be able to re-adjust into the system before bringing him back to the society.
This new arrangement of Nigerian Correctional Service system brings out what is obtainable in advanced countries where correctional agencies are in existence for people who have been convicted for various minor offences.
This was done to take away any stigma of a prisoner. My expectation of the new legislation is that it will make prisoners better members of the society.
I know for a fact that the organization I represent, the Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), do visit prisons, made donations as well offer free legal services to prisoners. Through our legal services, we have been able to rehabilitate some of them.
We hope that government will be able to implement all that were contained in the new law for a thorough reformation, revamping and rejigging of our prison system.
I also hope that mechanism that will make our prisons truly correctional facilities will be put in place by government. Officers who will man these Correctional facilities must also be trained.
What is your advice to the Federal Government on how to tackle the growing spate of insecurity in the country?
The primary responsibility of any government is the protection of lives and property of the citizens. So, it is the responsibility of the government in power to ensure that people’s lives are secured.
It no longer news that the country is battling with insecurity. There is no part of Nigeria that is safe. I expect President Muhammadu Buhari to show leadership and act fast in rejigging the security architecture of the nation.
The president as the leader must take responsibility for any failure of security. There is no reason for any buck passing. He must also be able to harness the best brains in all security outfits and assign roles to them, in a bid to secure the country. Any of the security officials found wanting should be shown the exit door.
In order to tackle the menace, the vigilante groups at the grassroots must work together with other security outfits.
Besides, the National Assembly should repeal the existing Police Act and put another Act that accommodate 21st century policing in place. The responsibilities of both the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Commissioners of Police should be well defined by law.
Traditional rulers should also be incorporated into the issue of security. These monarchs as leaders in their various domain should endeavour to make prompt report of any criminal activity to law enforcement agents.
Another thing we must address on the issue of insecurity is our porous borders. Foreigners now enter the country unhindered without being queried. This can only happen in Nigeria. I don’t know what the Federal Government is doing on this anomaly. There should be proper documentations of people leaving and entering the country. These are some of the measures I think can be taken to address the problem of growing insecurity in Nigeria.
What do you think should change in the fight against corruption in President Buhari’s second term in office?
There must be a measure to ensure that institutions work in this country. Once the institutions are functioning effectively, we will have lesser corruption.
The various anti-graft agencies cannot even carry out their functions optimally because institutions are not working effectively. Therefore, the president, in his second term in office, must ensure that institutions are working if the anti-graft war is to be fought successfully.
Besides, everyone found to have indulged in corruption must be brought to book irrespective of their tribe, religion or party affiliation. These are some of the things I expect in the fight against corruption in the president’s second term in office.
Many of your colleagues believed that the ineffectiveness of the National Judicial Council (NJC) coupled with the enormous influence of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) on members are responsible for the recent woes that befell the judiciary. Do you share their sentiments?
Let me start by expressing my regrets as to the fact that the Judiciary as we have it now is an appendage of the Executive. Ordinarily, the Judiciary should be able to raise its budget, defend it and manage it, just like the National Assembly.
But, I must also point out that the problem being faced in the Judiciary is an extention of what obtains in the larger Nigeria society. However, we must begin to look at the Judiciary as the last hope of the common man.
Now to your question, I don’t agree with those who are saying that the National Judicial Council (NJC) is responsible for the recent woes that befell the judiciary.
I believe the interference from other arms of government, particularly the Executive has been hampering the NJC in effectively discharging its functions.
Look at the way the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) was suspended from office by the president. This was done in a very clear breach of the Constitution. So, until the Judiciary is left alone by the Executive and be allowed to perform its Constitutional function as an independent arm of government, we may not get it right in this country.
How do you think the Judiciary can help in the fight against corruption?
The Judiciary can only help in the fight against corruption if it is truly independent. Besides, for the Judiciary to help in the anti-graft war, there must be incorruptible judges on the Bench.
On this, I want to say that we must take a second look at how judges are appointed. Nothing stop the National Judicial Council (NJC) from conducting exams for would-be judges and with that we can get the best brain on the Bench.
When we have qualified judges on the Bench, then it is equally important to take good care of them. Their welfare must be of paramount importance. When they were well taken care of, it is very possible that they will stay away from corrupt act and when that happens, they will dealt with cases before them judiciously without fear or favour.
Ekiti to implement Criminal Justice Act
orking Group for Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) in Ekiti State has called on government at all levels to revalidate the criminal justice system in Nigeria and equip the police force for holistic investigation that would lead to flawless arrest of suspects.
Besides, the group called on stakeholders to simplify and make available to security agencies the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) and Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL), with adequate sensitization on the content of the law in order to guide security agents in their operations.
The group in a communiqué issued at the end of a meeting held in Ado-Ekiti and signed by Executive Director, Gender Relevance Initiative Promotion, (GRIP), Rita Ilevbare, solicited for the support of the Ekiti State Chief Judge and the Commissioner of Police to give necessary logistics support to magistrates to enable them visit police and other detention centres for the purpose of granting bail in deserving cases.
Also, the group proposed collaboration with the Office of the Public Relation Officer, Ekiti State Police Command on sensitization of police officers and the public on provisions contained in ACJA/ACJL vis-a-vis the powers of the police to grant administrative bail in deserving cases.
According to the group, there should be adequate sensitization of the public on the function of bail, which would ensure that suspects would stand trial rather than a case had been compromised as generally believed by some complainants.
The working group coordinated in Ekiti state by Gender Relevance Initiative Promotion (GRIP), is currently promoting accountability and transparency in the administration of criminal justice system in the country.
Oluwatayo Fabusuyi, who represented the Office of the Public Defender, Ministry of Justice said administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) was designed to improve access to justice and ensure speedy trial in order to decongest the prison.
He said: “There are some areas of the law that is of concern, for instance, law stipulates legal advice which empowers ACJA to request for case file to monitor compliance of the legal advice, speedy trial is also dwelt in the law.”
Stakeholders at the meeting included the Ekiti State Judiciary, Police, NSCDC, FIDA, NYSC, Ministry of Justice, NBA, Office of the Public Defender, Legal Aid Council, Prisons, National Human Rights Commission, CLEEN Foundation Data Collectors and the Media.
‘Pupilage key to successful legal practice’
Oluwafemi Ogunjimi studied and obtained his LL.B from the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Osun State. He was called to Bar on 28th November, 2013. In this interview, Ogunjimi shares his post-call experience with JOHN CHIKEZIE
My name is Olaitan Oluwafemi Ogunjimi and I am from Egbeda Local Government area of Oyo State.
I had my primary school education at Omolabake Nursery and Primary School, behind Toun hospital, New Ife Road Ibadan before proceeding to Loyola College Ibadan for my Secondary School education and graduated in 2004. I obtained a Bachelor’s degree (LL.B) from the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Osun State and was called to the Nigerian Bar on 28th November, 2013.
The quest to study law began at an elementary stage of my life when I realized my disdain for injustice.
Attending and actively participating in primary and secondary school debates further prompted me into becoming a lawyer.
The nobility of the profession was another drive and reason I studied law. The fact that law can be seen as that veritable platform to defend the defenceless in the society endeared me more to the profession. My father would always remind me of the pride and respect that comes from being a lawyer.
How would you describe your pupilage?
After my experience at the ministry of justice, I was opportune to learn a bit of commercial practice from Lakinberg Associate, a commercial law firm in Lagos before I fully moved to pure civil litigation practice.
I started my internship at J.A Ajeranti & co in Ibadan. It was not really a bed of roses then, as majority of the lawyers at the firm were already 5 to10 years in practice, when I just graduated from the university. But I used the little time I spent with the firm to understand some basic of law.
I learnt a bit of filing processes in court and was also opportune to do a bit of client interviewing at the firm before I went to law school.
My journey to practice started formally during my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) attachment with the Ogun State Ministry of Justice. My experience at the Ministry of Justice exposed me to real practice.
I was attached to the Public Prosecution Department (PPD) which was the criminal litigation department of the ministry. I was introduced to writing legal opinions and advice from simple offences’ case files.
I developed all the confidence needed to argue motions and simple applications in court through the help of my seniors at the department. My integration to practice brought me closer to the people at the grassroots level, as I was able to understand the pains, hardships and sufferings some of them go through to fight for justice.
How would you describe your law school experience?
Well, for me, law school was great; we had good lecturers at the Kano law school, even though the weather was not friendly.
I feel it can be better though. The curriculum is wide and the whole one year happens so fast. In my opinion some of the courses can be incorporated into our university syllabus to reduce the work load at the law school. Many people struggle in law school because the courses are voluminous and the lecturers are as much under pressure as the students. I just feel the system needs a complete overhaul to bring out the best in students. Law school can make you doubt your ability as a student or feel you are not at the level your colleagues are.
What was your first court appearance like?
My first time in court was quite interesting. I had attended the court proceedings with the aim of just moving an application for an adjournment, which I felt would be a lot easier on the first day.
It was my first time in court and so I felt it should be more exciting, although, I had earlier crammed the entire case file before approaching the court.
Only for me to appear before a judge, who insisted that the matter must go on for trial.
I was unaware that the court had earlier warned the other counsel handling the matter, before I came in, that the case was adjourned for trial.
From nowhere, I began sweating profusely despite the whirling ceiling fan and robust air-conditioner in court. Goosebumps immediately invaded my skin even before I attempted pleading with the judge.
Graciously, the judge realized I was a new wig, he smiled and said ‘next time read the endorsement on your file before coming to my court’.
My face suddenly leaped for joy. I was so happy when he finally granted my application for an adjournment.
How has the journey been so far in terms of challenges and achievements?
Well, the journey so far has been smooth though with few hitches. But I’ve grown in the profession, and I keep learning daily.
Challenges are inevitable but the challenges in my profession are glaring for all to see, especially the interference and undue pressure coming from the executive to the judiciary calls for a huge concern.
A lot of my colleagues have given up on the country and our judicial system; majority have relocated, while some have totally left practice for businesses and other enriching trades.
Young lawyers are underpaid by their senior colleagues. Clients hardly entrust big briefs with young lawyers because so many senior colleagues don’t give recommendations for their juniors.
The competition is so real that we get the experience, as a young lawyer, and simply set out to establish our own firm as soon as possible.
There are so many cases in court and a few judges to expedite quick trials. Cases at the court of appeal are given long adjournments which actually discourage litigants and clients generally.
Any irregular or weird event ever experienced in the judiciary?
Well, there are times, as a lawyer, you deny yourself of sleep, prepare for cases all through the night and you are already in court before 9a.m., only for the court Registrar to stroll in and inform you that the court is not sitting.
Like really! You begin to wonder and ask questions like, what happened to the court pre-informing you early enough? There are times when my boss had traveled out of jurisdiction for cases in other states, just for him to hear that the court won’t be sitting.
These are weird events that I feel should not even exist in the first place. I feel since the court’s Registrars have each counsel’s data, they ought to reach out to the lawyer in time and say, ‘please the court won’t be sitting’ instead of wasting the lawyer’s time, efforts and discouraging the litigants (clients), especially when their matters have already spent years in court.
How would you look at the principle of separation of power?
The principle of separation of powers between the three arms of government in Nigeria (legislature, Judiciary and the executive) is only a principle on the pages of a paper, as same does not reflect in the true sense of its concept. There is so much influence from the executives to the other arms of government in Nigeria, especially with the judiciary that a common man wonders if he/she can get justice when he clashes with a government establishment.
A former State Attorney-General once said “it is hard for you to bite the finger that feeds you.” What this statement simply means is that even as a judge or an Attorney-General of a State, there are levels of influence you can’t ignore or deny because when the executive come calling, you can’t totally ignore or shun them out completely.
Whether you like it or not, your remuneration comes from them and any decision the executive takes, affects the judiciary either positively or negatively. More reasons I was not too surprised at the role played by the executive in the case of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, who was unceremoniously whisked out of office.
I believe the three arms of government needs their independence if we truly want to see massive improvement in governance. The judiciary, most especially, needs to be independent if we want a corrupt-free country.
Do you share on mplementation of licensed vigilante Fulani herdsmen?
It’s just crazy really, and it speaks ill of how we value lives in this country. The Fulanis are normadic pastoral people who move from place to place. They have been able to move from one country to the other bearing in mind where they originated from. The Miyetti Allah is supposed to be a business organization of cattle herders but it has become very clear that they are part of a sinister plan by the cabal, some of who have transformed to herdsmen, Boko Haram, bandits and militias. Now the implementation of licensed vigilante Fulani herdsmen in all states by the government is like exposing ourselves to the enemy for slaughter. It’s pertinent to ask what level of education or the intellectual prowess of these groups of people?
I feel the leaders are not being sensitive enough or they are just blindfolded by selfish interest or favoritism of some part of the country. In my opinion i don’t think this move by the government is backed by logic or the interests of the people at heart.
What’s your future ambition?
I see myself at the peak of my career in a few years to come by God’s grace. I believe this country has all it takes to be better again if we can get things right and I hope to become a Judge someday.
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