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YOUNG LAWYERS’ FORUM: ‘I read law to fight human trafficking’

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YOUNG LAWYERS’ FORUM:  ‘I read law to fight human trafficking’

Joy Eghonghon attended Ambrose Alli University, Epkoma, for her LL.B. Eghonghon who hails from Edo State was called to Bar in 2018. She speaks on her career in this encounter with JOHN CHIKEZIE

 

Background

My name is Joy Eghonghon. I hailed from Ugboha, Esan South East Local Government in Edo State. I attended Stars International School, Benin City. I thereafter proceeded to Patricia Private Schools, Benin city and I obtained my LL. B from Ambrose Alli University in 2017.

I attended the Nigerian Law School, Bwari, Abuja Campus, where I obtained my B. L and was called to the Nigeria Bar on 28th November, 2018.

My father, Simon Okoyo, is a retired Magistrate (at Customary court Fugar, Edo-North) before his retirement. While my mother, Valentina Okoyo, is a seasoned Teacher and Business woman.

 

Why law?

I studied law in order to tackle human trafficking, especially in my state of origin.

Growing up has taught me that not all that glitters is gold. At a time, in the big city of Benin, while growing up as a child, human trafficking was the order of the day. I was born and raised in a society which believes that the only way to survive as a family, was to send a child, preferably a female, overseas under the guise of advancing her education and subsequently getting a good job.

More often, the reverse is the case and these young girls are exposed to all sorts of health hazards in the name of oath swearing to ensure absolute obedience and conformity.

In lieu of a decent job, prostitution becomes the ideal labour for the ‘get rich quick syndrome’ upon their arrival at the foreign lands. They become voiceless and turned to sacrificial lambs for their respective families.

I had a lot of friends who travelled during my primary and secondary school. I also had a neighbour who shipped her 3 girls in same manner.

I watched these events unfold on daily basis as I grew up and then decided that the legal profession was the most adequate channel for these abused teens to be heard, liberated and their stories told, so that others could learn from their experiences.

I believed someone has to sue these perpetrators because most of the Non- Governmental Organisations, at that time, were only focused on helping the victims and not really ensuring the punishment of the perpetrators.

My father’s role as a magistrate then, also motivated me to take the bold step.

 

Experience about human trafficking

Yes, I was outrightly overwhelmed by a horrible experience that happened to a childhood friend (name withheld) I once knew. My friend (now deceased) died as a result of health complications after returning home from the so-called “abroad or Yankee” in a futile search for greener pastures.

 

My late friend was a 16-year-old girl, who I met during my senior year in secondary school at the local market (Oregbeni market), where she sells fish. We became friends as a result of the discounts she gave me for my continued patronage on her business.

She was a kind-hearted girl, who was just 2 years older, with a big dream of becoming a Nollywood actress while starring alongside the likes of Genevieve Nnaji. But unfortunately, she couldn’t go to college because her parents were unable to afford the fee.

One day, optimistically, she told me about an aunt who lived abroad (Italy) and was willing to assist with the funds for her education.

Being conversant with the rampant stories of human trafficking then, I asked her if she was certain about attending school abroad and she answered in the affirmative.

So, I gave her my contact to call or text me whenever she could and thereafter bade her farewell. After she travelled, she neither called nor sent text for about a year.

However, sometime in 2015, she finally called and apologized for not keeping in touch after she arrived Italy. But during the call, I noticed she had drastically turned to smoking and drinking as a new found habit.

She finally returned back to Nigeria in October 2015, after spending four years abroad and a big celebration was thrown in her honor. She, however, invited me and that was the first day I visited her family. When I got to her house, I noticed it has been renovated. And also that she had opened a very big shop for her mother at the market instead of an umbrella stand she had operated with; all thanks to her of course.

By this time, she had spent about 4 years in Italy before returning home. But while at her house, she gave me a graphic and gory details of her trip to Italy. She narrated how she trekked across the Libyan desert, drank her urine, and watched other girls get tossed out of the boat into the sea for being stowaways.

She lost all her hair because of the harsh weather and malnutrition.

She finally made it to Italy with five other girls. They were forced to swear a blood oath of allegiance and warned not to say a word to anyone or risk losing their lives and family members as well.

Meanwhile, her major aim of coming back to Nigeria was on the instructions of her aunt in Italy, to recruit new girls.

She never told any of her family members about her ordeal neither could she mention that prostitution was the ideal job her aunt had in mind from the start.

Although, as at the time she told me, she was already dying. I didn’t know she was sick because she never mentioned it. I only heard about her death the following year. She died of liver complications.

More ever, her recruitment didn’t quite work out as the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), got wind of the activities and arrested her agents alongside the girls. Her aunt was later arrested but the family worked hard for her release so she could take the younger sister abroad as well. It was really messed up because NAPTIP actually let her go as the families involved didn’t want to press charges, especially when money talks I guess.

 

What part of law interests you?

Criminal litigation and intellectual property law, particularly on Financial Technology and Regulations.

Criminal litigation was more of a first love and interest. But Fintech is something new and quite fascinating, so I picked an interest in it.

 

Plans against human trafficking

Well, I must say it has not been easy. I tried getting a job with NAPTIP but it didn’t quite work out for some obvious reasons. Currently, I am still in discussions with a human rights activist here in Delta State who sometimes handles briefs on human trafficking. Hopefully, he would look past the fact that I’m still a greenhorn in legal practice and give me a chance to learn.

 

Evaluation of judiciary in terms of justice dispensation

The conventional method of justice delivery in Nigerian courts is cumbersome and time consuming. It increases the use of papers, time spent and cost of service of processes. This is  because all the court processes are filed and served on papers. A litigant or lawyer may be precluded from filing his case where court personnel in charge are not available.

The cause lists and other register books of the court are also placed in the clerk’s offices and just one office worker at a time can work with it. This leads to unnecessary delays in commencement of matters in court. Upon commencement, it still takes forever for judgement to be obtained because most judges prefer the manual methods of writing judgements after numerous adjournment must have been taken either at the instance of the litigants or the fact that the court didn’t sit.

Therefore, the manual conventional method creates room for so many loopholes especially in the criminal justice system. The Justice system needs a lot of reforms for our judiciary to be able to survive with global trends .The world is fast becoming a global village and I believe that with the infusion of ICT in our court processes, it would circumvent most of these unnecessary paperwork.

 

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Reforming Nigeria’s prison system

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Reforming Nigeria’s prison system
  • Lawyers push for implementation of NCS Act

 

AKEEM NAFIU writes that the signing of the Nigerian Correctional Service Bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari has brightened hope that the myriad of problems confronting the nation’s prison system will soon be a thing of the past

 

 

Eleven years after it was first presented on the floor of the Senate, the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) Bill which sought to end a myriad of problems confronting the nation’s prison system has finally become law following President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent to the bill at the weekend.

 

 

Besides, the president’s assent to the Bill has led to a change in nomenclature from Nigerian Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional Service.

 

 

The Bill which repealed the 1972 Prisons Act which established the Nigerian Prisons Service was presented in January 2008 to the 6th Senate by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba.

 

 

Presenting the Bill, Senator Ndoma-Egba, who is the current Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), had noted that the Bill would address fundamental lapses inherent in the Prisons Act should it become law.

 

 

He was of the view that a review of the Act was necessary not only to put in place a framework for the rehabilitation and transformation of inmates but also to address inadequate funding of prisons.

 

 

He added that the Bill would drive prison reform by moving towards rehabilitative justice and preparing offenders for re-introduction into the society by making vocational and educational courses available.

But the Bill later suffered setbacks for more than two years until it was read for the second time in April 2010.

Passage of NCS Bill 2019

 

 

Effort at passing the Bill into law was intensified by the 8th Senate and it was later passed into law early this year.

 

 

However, President Buhari declined assent to it when it was transmitted to him.

 

 

In a letter sent to the Senate on 16th April, 2019, the president complained about the language used in drafting the Bill as well as a provision he believed would breach the independence of the judiciary.

The president noted that Section 44(d) of the vetoed Bill which sought to fund a special non-custodial fund with five per cent of all fines paid to the federal purse would run against Sections 81 and 84 of the Constitution which guarantee the independence of the Judiciary.

He said: “I am declining assent to the Bill because Section 44 (d) of the Bill which seeks to fund the special non-custodial fund with five per cent of all fines paid to the federal purse violates the provisions of Sections 81 and 84 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which guarantee the independence of the Judiciary,” Buhari said in his letter to the Senate.

The Bill was transmitted back to the president by the Senate after some amendments on 20th July, 2019 and it was finally assented to on 14th August, 2019.

NCS Act 2019

 

 

The Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019 repeals the Prisons Act. It also changes the name of government’s agency in charge of prisons from Nigeria Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional Service.

The two main faculties of the Correctional Service are; Custodial Service and Non-custodial Service.

 

 

According to the Act, the Custodial Service is to:

 

 

* Take custody and control of persons legally interned in safe, secure and humane conditions.

 

 

* Conveying remand persons to and from courts in motorized formations;

* Identifying the existence and causes of anti-social behaviours of inmates

 

 

* Conducting risk and needs assessment aimed at developing appropriate correctional treatment methods for reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration

 

 

* Implementing reformation and rehabilitation programmes to enhance the reintegration of inmates back into the society

 

 

* Initiating behaviour modification in inmates through the provision of medical, psychological, spiritual and counselling services for all offenders including violent extremists

 

 

* Empowering inmates through the deployment of educational and vocational skills training programmes, and facilitating incentives and income generation through Custodial Centres, farms and industries

* Administering borstal and related institutions

 

 

* Providing support to facilitate the speedy disposal of cases of persons awaiting trial

 

 

* It further provides in Section 12 (2) (c):

 

 

“that where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted all legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years has elapsed without execution of the sentence, the Chief Judge may commute the sentence of death to life imprisonment”

 

* Section 12 (8) empowers the state Controller of the Service to reject more intakes of inmates where it is apparent that the correctional centre in question is filled to capacity.

 

 

However, the Non-Custodial Service is responsible for the administration of non-custodial measures. These are;

 

 

* Community Service, probation, parole, restorative justice measures and such other measures as a court of competent jurisdiction may order.

 

 

* Measure of Restorative Justice approved in the Act includes victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, community mediation and other conciliatory measures as may be deemed necessary at pre-trial, trial, during imprisonment or even post- imprisonment stages.

 

 

Lawyers speak

 

 

Some senior lawyers have been speaking on the new legislation as well as the change in nomenclature of the Nigerian Prison Service.

 

 

The lawyers while baring their minds on the issue at the weekend lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for assenting to the Bill, saying this is a sign of good things to befall the nation’s prison system.

They however demanded a holistic implementation of the new legislation from the Federal Government.

 

 

Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola, expressed his hope that the new legislation will help in reforming the nation’s prison system.

 

 

He said: “I want to commend the Federal Government for allowing such legislation. It is an international best practice that is being adopted and I hope government will be able to implement it.

 

 

“Putting a law in place is not a major problem for us in this country but its implementation which has always been the bane of our development.

“The country is blessed with good brains to formulate good policies but getting people to implement the policies have always been a problem.

 

 

“So, all I can say is that this is a step in the right direction and I hope government will be able to put machinery in motion to ensure the full implementation of the law”.

 

 

In his comments, the National President of the Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, said the new legislation is consistent with the whole package of the reformed Criminal Justice system.

 

 

 

 

“The first thing is to commend the Federal Government for this shift in nomenclature which is reflective of an intended shift in policy decision to move away from punishment to correctional.

 

 

“This is against the regular prison facilities that we have had from the colonial era till this moment and it’s quite consistent with the whole package of the reformed Criminal Justice system.

 

 

“But you can agree with me that it will not stop at just change in name. Even if we call it empowerment center, it doesn’t cease to be a place of confinement.

 

 

“What comes along with such facility designed to hold onto people pending trial or at such time they finish serving their jail terms is the access to activities that has the capacity to reform a suspect or an accused person.

“There should be a deliberate policy of government, particularly the prison service to ensure that every prisoner who is desirous to be educated and entitled to be educated have that education.

 

 

“Another thing is the provision of infrastructure, including ICT facilities to enable prisoners have access to the world in a manner that would re-orientate them. In essence, there should be a deliberate policy to re-orientate prisoners for them to develop a frame of mind that takes them away from criminality to innovation. Prisoners must also have regular interface with members of the public in terms of external lectures and religious activities,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On his part, the Coordinator, Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), Lagos sub-region, Prince Okey-Joe Onuakalusi, thumbed up the president for assenting to the Bill saying it will make prisoners better members of the society.

 

 

He said: “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, make 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”.

 

 

A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Ige Asemudara, argued that the problem with the nation’s prison system borders on human, financial and other resources available to it and the management of such resources.

 

 

“Change of name is not the same thing as transformation. What difference does it make if I change my name from Ige to Samson? Does that make me the strongest or most powerful man on earth?

 

 

“The service needs to be transformed. Every prison officer I have seen either looked frustrated, overworked or unkempt. The welfare of the officers is as bad as those of the prisoners.

 

 

“I have not read the Bill or Act as the case may be but I know one thing for sure, the problems with the service is not with the law but with the human, financial and other resources available to it and the management of those resources.

“So, the institution needs a total overhaul, budgeting for the service and implementation of same should be reviewed and monitored to the last kobo.

 

 

“Inmates are dying, officers are suffering. Correctional programmes have always been there but never well implemented or managed. Let there be attitudinal change also through proper education and reorientation.

 

 

 

“There is a need for a well-tailored programme for rehabilitation of ex-convicts and their reabsorption into the society. There must indeed be a paradigm shift. I practice in the criminal justice section among other sections of legal practice and I must confess, the prisons are in a sorry state. Until we address these salient issues, there will be nothing in that new name,” Asemudara said.

 

 

A rights activist, Mr. Chris Ekemezie, demanded a total overhaul of the nation’s prison system.

 

 

He said: “The problem we have in Nigeria is cosmetic. We do not need a change of name. What is needed is reformation. All the prisons in Nigeria are still made of mud. They were originally made for fewer inmates. Today a prison meant for just 450 inmates house over 6,000. In most cases they consist of more awaiting trials than convicts.

 

 

 

“Changing a name does not make a difference. Take a bottle of beer and change its name to Sparkling Water, you did not alter its chemical composition. It remains beer notwithstanding the change of name.

 

“Let it bear any name what is needed is reformations. Modern housing facilities need to be put in place which will include new concrete buildings, beddings, modern toilet facilities, two or three inmates to a room, feeding and recreational facilities.

 

 

“Presently the prison facilities in Nigeria are eyesores. It is meant to dehumanize inmates. The change of name without corresponding upgrade of the facilities is a fallacy,” the lawyer said.

 

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‘Clients’ trust, confidence bane of new wigs’ prospects’

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‘Clients’ trust, confidence bane of new wigs’ prospects’

Oluwadamilare Awokoya read law at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. Awokoya was called to Bar on 25th November, 2014. In this conversation, he shares his foray into the legal profession with JOHN CHIKEZIE

 

Background

I am Oluwadamilare Awokoya. I am the last child of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Awokoya. I am an indigene of Ijebu Ososa, Odogbolu Local Government Area of Ogun State. I had my primary school education at Y & Y Nursery and Primary School, Odo-Ona, Ibadan before proceeding to Government College, Ibadan for my Secondary School education and graduated in 2003. I studied Law at the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. I was called to the Nigerian Bar on the 25th day of November, 2014.

 

Why Law?

When I was growing up, I understood that the legal profession wasn’t just respected but a profession adorned by noble men in the society. It was not a daunting task for me to aspire to join the league of these noble men. But more importantly, Law is a tool of social engineering and lawyers are social engineers, who are at the nucleus of the development of any society. I also saw the legal profession as a veritable platform to defend the defenceless in the society and be the voice of the voiceless. The legal profession gave me that opportunity.

 

Pupilage

I actually started my internship at Adekola Kareem & Co. From my university days each time we had a break in school, it was an opportunity for me to be at the firm to continue my training. We had a Principal, Adekola Kareem Esq., who did his pupilage under the Late Jibola Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and this gave him a good understanding of the essence and importance of pupilage. He was always taking me to court, giving me an opportunity to ask questions on the proceedings and dole out necessary advice. Those experiences prepared me for the challenges I was to face at the Nigerian Law School.Immediately I completed my service year at the Ministry of Justice, Nasarawa State, I joined the Law firm to continue my training. My pupilage experience was awesome and I learnt a lot because I had a Principal who doesn’t hoard knowledge and would always throw challenges at you. This bolstered my learning process.

 

Challenges

I have actually faced challenges as a young lawyer. The first was the meagre salary which I was paid at the early stage of practice until I opted out of collecting salary, although, the situation was ameliorated when my Principal permitted me to handle personal briefs. This became a good source of income to cushion the effect of the insufficient salary. The second challenge is that of client’s trust and confidence. We are in a society where people trust so much on grey hair; they christen we young lawyers as “baby lawyers” who are bereft of sufficient legal knowledge and experience. It is common belief that old lawyers are masters of law and are rich in experience. I remember a client fighting my boss for not handling his case personally and for allocating his case to me. My boss had to build confidence in him over my courage and expertise before he gave me the benefit of the doubt. We eventually won the case and since then the client now has so much confidence in my sense of judgement. Another challenge is the undue influence which our seniors wield in court. The law gives the judge latitude of discretion to exercise in certain circumstances but such must be exercised judicially and judiciously. However, I have experienced situations in which, when our judges are caught between the option of exercising their discretion in favour of either a senior or a junior lawyer in a particular case, they usually tend to favour the senior as against the junior and some situation, if the junior is rich in advocacy skills, he may utilize it to persuade the judge but not in all circumstances. Some seniors are also not accommodating and on the mission of discouraging young lawyers in the practice of law although a few are always there to give the needed encouragement

Memorable event while in the practice

It was the day I won a case for a community, Eda Oniyo Ekiti at the Supreme Court in a case of Oba J. A. Awolola vs. The Governor of Ekiti State (2018) LPELR – 46346 (SC) over an illegal relocation of the headquarters of Ilejemeje local government. It was on the 14th day of December, 2018 and two communities (Eda Oniyo Ekiti and Iye Ekiti) were waiting for the outcome of the judgment. The Supreme Court was to deliver about 35 judgments that day and our matter was listed as No. 3 on the Cause List. When the conclusion of the judgment was read, we won with a cost of 1 million naira awarded against the respondents. I quickly jumped up to my feet and appreciated the noble Justices. I was very elated to relay the message to my clients, who were far away in Ekiti State, which I was told led to jubilations. It was really a defining moment in my career and I still, hitherto, relish the experience.

 

Evaluation of the judiciary in terms of independence and justice delivery

The judiciary has been effective in terms of the performance of its function and justice delivery. I believe when the issue of financial autonomy of the judiciary is finally addressed, it will further enhance its productivity. The judiciary has in recent years faced deluge of challenges to wit, the raid of the residence of the judges, prosecution of some judges on issues of corruption, bribery and the suspension of former Chief Justice of Nigeria through a questionable ex-parte order, barring of a judge in a Northern State from accessing her court to deliver judgment by a Civil Defence official and most importantly, the flagrant refusal by the government of the day to obey court orders, etc. I must state here that I stand with the government of the day with its stance to rid the judiciary of corruption but it is important that due process of the law must be observed.

Judiciary needs to engage in internal cleansing to save itself from ridicule.

 

Collapse of justice system and increased crime rate, insecurity

I really do not understand what could be meant by collapse of justice system. As far as I am concerned, we have a functional and virile justice system. It is pertinent to state that it is not the duty of the court to checkmate the increase of crime rate and security. That duty is within the purview of the powers of the security operatives. The judges themselves can be victims of crime and insecurity. It is the duty of the law enforcement agents to rise up to the task of curbing these problems ravaging the country. And when culprits are arrested, they should ensure proper investigation before prosecution. Our law enforcement agents have lost huge number of cases not because the prosecutors are not proactive but for shoddy investigation. The task of the prosecution in a criminal case is herculean, which of course, is to prove the guilt of an accused beyond reasonable doubt. Once the prosecution is unable to discharge this duty, there is nothing the court can do than to discharge the accused person.

Lawyers and unending physical attack by security agencies

This issue has become a recurring decimal and unfortunately we young lawyers are usually the victims. Let me say that this brutalisation of people by security agents is not limited to lawyers. When innocent citizens are brutalised and security agents get away with it, it will definitely transcend to lawyers. Security agents usually see lawyers as their enemies in the society because it is the lawyers that can question them when they act ultra vires an whenever a lawyer outwits them and make mockery of their knowledge, the next thing they resort to is physical assault. I have experienced a situation where a trigger-happy police officer under the influence of alcohol, pointed gun at me at a Special Anti-Robbery Squad office and ordered me to leave the Station. I had to leave immediately before he made good his threat as I will not have the opportunity to witness the case after my death. I believe our Police Officers need to be trained on how to relate with people with utmost civility and courtesy in a sane society as ours. It is also important that people, lawyers inclusive, reciprocate these gestures with respect to our law enforcement agents.

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Asagba: Women lawyers’ll oppose death penalty for rapists

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Asagba: Women lawyers’ll oppose death penalty for rapists

Mrs. Amanda Justina Asagba is an activist, gender researcher, mediator, arbitrator, notary public and President of African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA), Nigeria Chapter. In this interview with JOHN CHIKEZIE, she speaks on role of women lawyers’ association in nation-building, rape cases, women empowerment and sundry issues

 

 

What is AWLA all about?

 

 

AWLA is a non-governmental, non-profit, non-sectarian, professional organization of women lawyers in Nigeria and Africa generally.

 

 

Our vision and mission is promoting, preserving, protecting and enhancing the rights, interests and welfare of women and children to see a society free from abuse and indignity for women and children.

 

 

The goal is to ensure a society free from abuse, discrimination and indignity of women and children.

 

 

We are aimed at strengthening existing legal frame works, networking between African women lawyers, increasing the involvement of women in power and in decision making.

We also support and network opportunities for African lawyers while empowering women and children.

 

 

What are the activities or operations of AWLA?

 

 

The association has been in existence since 1997 but the Nigerian chapter was inaugurated in 2003.

 

 

We, however, organise an annual event for our members here in Lagos, Nigeria. This year’s annual event, a parley, would be coming up on the 27th of August, 2019.

 

 

The AWLA parley is aimed at creating the opportunity for us, as female lawyers, to come together, discuss our challenges on the field and find a probable means of making progress.

 

 

During the meeting, we would also be discussing about the challenges or issues faced by women and children in the society in order to provide efficient services that could support them live better.

 

 

The theme for this year: “Zero Tolerance for Child Abuse” focuses on tackling the issue of rape, defilements, sexual assaults and molestation of minors.

 

 

The association is also involved in providing empowerment programs, mentorship and counselling for women and young girls.

 

 

We also engage in public education and advocacy. We have also been involved in a good number of campaign and actions to end violence and discrimination against women and children.

 

 

How would you describe the achievements recorded by AWLA since its inception?

 

 

I would say that between 2015 till date, we have had a lot of skyrocketing progress since I came into power; meaning we have executed some speedy projects.

 

 

 

For a long time, the association was dragging, maybe because it had not been registered at that time. But we eventually got registered in 2016. And with the help of the leadership style we have now, we have been able to do a lot of things. Now, we are reaching out to the whole world.

 

 

We have made so much progress that Nigeria has now become the head center of the international body.

 

 

Our activities in Nigeria, more or less, awoken the other chapters or rather promoted the audacity of the association.

 

It was as though the others went to sleep but when they saw our activities here in Nigeria, they all woke up.

 

 

The founder and pioneer President of the association is a Ghanaian, Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu, a former Attorney-General and Minister for Justice of Ghana. The headquarters was formerly in Kenya but moved to Nigeria in November 2018.

 

 

Over the years, one thing we have done that has impacted so many young girls and women is our school, market, hospital, prisons and widows’ outreach.

 

 

Through these outreaches; like the school outreach, members of the association would visit schools to sensitise young girls about their rights and their access to justice.

 

 

AWLA also uses this medium to provide pro bono services or litigation for women, especially those who cannot afford legal representation, in court.

Who are your partners?

 

 

We have quite a number of partners in Nigeria. Our partners include; Mirabel Centre, Ministry of Justice (States & Federal), Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Ministry of Youth and Social Development, Ministry of Education, National Human Rights Commission, United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team, Citizens’ Mediation Centre, Office of the Public Defender, Female Leadership Forum FLF, etc.

 

 

We also have some non-governmental organizations like Pastor Bimbo Odukoya Foundation (PBO), Sese Yera Foundation and Cleen Foundation as partners.

 

 

Any peculiar experience or case encountered during these outreaches?

 

 

You will never know what is going on among children until they open up to you.

 

 

During the school outreach, for instance, we sometimes ask the children (both boys and girls) to anonymously write about something, they would like their parents or us (AWLA) to intervene on their behalf.

Just right there, we discovered a lot of alarming reports.

 

 

In a school, one of the outgoing students, a 13-year-old boy had once told us that his mother’s friend was pregnant for him. The mother’s friend was a lady in her late thirties.

 

 

It was shocking information. You could imagine the psychological and emotional trauma that boy was going through. He couldn’t even tell his mum.

 

 

We had to calm him down to sensitize him on the fact that the woman actually abused him.

 

 

The most frustrating part was that we couldn’t get justice for the boy because he was unwilling, out of fear, to identify the woman. The boy was afraid that his mother would kill him if she found out about the lady. According to him, the woman had also threatened to kill him should he attempt to expose her. So, it was such a bad case.

 

 

There was also another student, a young girl, who told us that her biological father would always have sexual intercourse with her and her sisters before he agrees to pay their school fees.

 

 

This question came up after we had educated the students on their rights to preserve and protect their bodies from sexual abuse and harassment.

 

 

We informed them that nobody has the right to touch them in a sexual way.

 

 

Then one of the girls wanted to find out if it was right for her father, who has turned sexual intercourse with her as a habitual event, to do so.

 

 

She asked: “My father sleeps with me before he pays my school fees, is it right?” Immediately, I replied with a big no.

 

 

You can also imagine a class where lessons are going on and someone is busy fingering another student. This shows you the level of moral decadence in our society. It’s that bad and these are secondary students we are talking about. It’s terrible!

 

 

We also have a case of a school teacher who was habitually molesting primary school pupils, between 5 and 7 years of age although the teacher has been arrested and now standing trial in court.

 

 

A lot of things happen during these sensitisations and outreaches.

 

 

Do you share the view that death penalty be made as punishment for rapist and defilers?

 

 

For me as a person, having been in the field and working on these cases, I don’t think that is a good idea.

 

 

 

I say so because oftentimes, the rich would always bribe their way through and the charges against them would vanish.

 

 

I mean, if the perpetrators are rich, their case won’t even get to court because they have a way out of it.

 

 

So, mostly, it is the poor ones that suffer much more. It now becomes a law only applicable to the poor man on the street.

 

 

Even for those who have adopted the Child’s Rights Act and Domestic Violence law which stipulate life imprisonment as punishment, there is still a problem with such punishment.

 

 

This is because these rich people, who already know what punishment awaits them, would definitely find a way out of it at the police station.

 

You will find situations where the perpetrator would offer to pay money to the victim through the police.

 

 

These people would threaten the victims to collect the money or risk losing their lives. So, it’s such a bad case.

 

 

Meanwhile, most of the cases that end up in the court are just cases of the poor, who cannot bribe their way through.

 

 

So, the question still remains are these laws only targeted at the poor and we are suggesting that they should be killed?

 

 

 

We all know that in Lagos, even when you are not guilty of an alleged offence, but for the fact that you have not been able to bribe your way through, something would be hung on your neck.

So, we have to be careful, especially with the type of forensic examination done here, sometimes they are not able to link the perpetrators to the victims.

 

 

For instance, if there are a group of people alleged to have defiled or raped a victim and they are caught, obviously, the ones who can bribe their way through would do so. While others who couldn’t, will be charged to court.

 

 

You know this is Nigeria, we are not there yet. For me, I would say, the thicker the punishment, the more lucrative the business would be for the authorities involved.

 

 

Let’s say that life imprisonment is okay, at least once the person is still there, something might happen. Maybe the person can go for an appeal and something might come up. But if the person is sentenced to death, once he is dead, he is dead.

 

So, if you’re able to prove later that he was innocent or not the culprit, there is no way you can change that situation.

 

Personally, I would suggest that first offenders should be given maybe 10 years imprisonment.

 

Second offenders should be given maybe 20 and above in prison. Then third offenders should now be sentenced to life imprisonment.

 

I don’t believe life imprisonment or death penalty should be the number one thing because a lot of convicted persons are not even actually guilty as charged.

 

 

Besides, rape, despite being a serious offence, is not a capital offence.

 

 

Plus a lot of sensitization on these offences and its punishment should also be made to the public so they can be aware. Some people don’t even know the punishment that awaits them when they get involved in such acts.

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Lagos unveils plans to tackle crime with Forensic DNA Analysis

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The Lagos State Government has disclosed its plans of equipping its Forensic Centre with Chemistry and Toxicology units to strengthen criminal investigations in the state.

 

 

Solicitor General/Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Funlola Odunlami made the disclosure at the 4th Lagos Forensic Symposium at Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.

 

 

According to Odunlami, the unit which would be operational by 2020 would help the government to uncover illegal use of controlled substances and drugs in the state.

 

 

“The inclusion of the forensic chemistry and toxicology checks will enhance criminal investigations in the state and also speedy up the identification and conviction of perpetrators of cases related to intake of poisonous and harmful substances in the body,” Odulami said.

 

 

She added, the Lagos State DNA and Forensic Centre located at Odunlami area of Lagos Island had played significant role in investigating over 100 cases of deaths, identification of exhumed human remains, rape and burglary since commencement of operations in 2017.

 

 

The Lagos State Solicitor-General further noted that the forensic centre had also investigated about 300 cases of paternity and other heredity related issues.

 

 

Odunlami posited that Nigeria “has finally joined the international community’s efforts in applying scientific methods to prosecution, defence, law enforcement, criminal investigations, national security and disaster management.”

 

 

She said the symposium was aimed at providing the public with information on the role of forensic science in criminal investigation and its importance to law enforcement agencies and the judiciary on mass fatalities, sexual assault, and other issues.

 

 

Lagos Police Commissioner, Zubairu Muazu said the introduction of forensic science had helped in utilising Criminal Speciality Law in investigating criminal identities and exonerate the innocent persons.

 

 

Muazu, represented by the deputy commissioner of Police CIID, Mrs. Yetunde Alonge said investment in forensic investigation had shown the visionary leadership of the Lagos State Government.

 

 

He urged the participants to tap into the wealth of knowledge of the professionals that spoke at the symposium.

 

 

Also, the Centre Director of Lagos State DNA and Forensic Centre, Dr. Richard Somiari, disclosed that Lagos State DNA and Forensic was the only laboratory accredited for Forensic DNA analysis in Nigeria.

 

 

He added that the database would accelerate the process of identifying victims of crimes, linking crimes to one another and also identifying serial offenders.

 

 

While commending the Police Force collaboration effort with the Lagos State Forensic Centre, the Director said forensic services are also available to NGOs, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors and other members of the public.

 

The Lagos State Forensic Centre was established in 2017 to aid criminal investigation through DNA analysis.

 

 

Participants at the 4th Forensic Symposium includes Judges, Magistrates, Lawyers, Legislators, Police, Immigration, Customs, Investigators, Forensic Pathologist/Scientists, Medical practitioners, Emergency Responders, Fire Brigade, Investigative Journalists, Students and the Press.

 

 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has begun a two-day sensitization programme on the benefits of plea and sentence bargain for inmates in Ikoyi, Kirikiri (medium & maximum) Prisons.

 

 

According to the Director of Public Prosecution, Ms.Titilayo Shitta-bey, plea bargain was a criminal initiative that permitted defendants to plead guilty and get a reduced charge for a more severe sentence.

 

 

Shitta-bey said Sections 75 and 76 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State (ACJL), 2015 granted inmates an access to plea bargain.

 

 

According to the Director Public Prosecution, who was represented by a deputy director in the Directorate, Mrs. Oluwafemi Adenike further noted that the sections of the law helps defendants reduce time spent in custody while awaiting trial and also decongest the prisons.

 

 

Shitta-bey stated that Attorney-General of the State determined beneficiaries of plea bargain based on recommendations given by a Plea-Bargain Committee set up by the  Directorate of Public Prosecution.

 

 

The Director urged the inmates to beware of fraudulent lawyers who demand for money before filing application for plea bargain on behalf of defendants. She said is free and accessible to all as contained in the Criminal Law.

 

 

While receiving the counsel at the Ikoyi prison, the Deputy controller of prison, Tolu Ogunsakin appreciated the Lagos State Government initiative towards decongesting the prisons and quickening the trial process for inmates with pending cases in Courts.

 

 

Ogunsakin urged government to explore other ways of reducing congestion in courts and prisons through Parole System and Community Service Sentencing.

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Uzoma: Collapse of justice system responsible for increased crime

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Uzoma: Collapse of justice system responsible for increased crime

Esther Uzoma is an activist lawyer and co-convener of the Situation Room, a body comprising over 72 civil societies. Uzoma, who plies her trade in Abuja, speaks on graft war, protest march and sundry issues. TUNDE OYESINA met her

 

 

What is your view on emerging #RevolutionNow# and its convener’s 45 days detention?

 

 

There is no magic to the word Revolution. It is not a creative word. For instance, look at how our transportation system has been revolutionized; my ancestors used to trek from South-East to Lagos, and transportation revolution came.  They now fly. It used to take weeks to come from South-East to Lagos, but now it takes less than, perhaps 45 minutes. Look at the amazing revolution that has occurred in the communication sector, and formerly whenever you wanted to summon people, you will come to the village square and start sounding the gong. But now if you want to call anybody from any part of the country, including outside the state, it is easier.  There is no word revolution in the police or political context.

 

 

Revolution is just a word. If you are now bringing it down to legal specifics, there is nowhere in our criminal jurisprudence that the word revolution is criminalized; nowhere.  And you cannot begin to criminalize people’s utterances.

 

 

Whatever people say, you must bring it subject to the law. And for any action to form a crime, two things have to meet.  That is the mental intent (mens rea) and the action so commit (actus rea).

 

 

All that Sowore did was to call people to come, and in that calling people to come, he brought out a chattered of demand. We must judge his intention by those chattered of demand.

 

 

In totality, he was asking that the social inequality, so apparent in our society should be breached. That does not mean he wanted to lead war against the Federal Government. No, he just wants to have a better country.

 

 

There are so many things that incite in Nigeria. Insecurity is inciting, Hunger and joblessness is inciting. Do you know how many persons have died in this country as a result of insecurity this week alone? That is inciting. Beyond all that, it was an ex-parte motion that was filed by the DSS.  What it means was that the other party was not heard.  And so, the courts are bound by laws and rules written down.

 

 

They asked for 90 days, the court gave then 45 days. But now, there is an entry point for the other party to bring his case to be heard and determined.  It is not over. Sovereignty belongs to the Nigerian people, and that is what the Constitution says.

 

 

The judge simply applied the law.  The law says that the agencies of state can approach the court ex-parte without the other party. So, the judge simply applied the law, but then, again, this time we are in, we need huge level of judicial activism; the likes that we saw in 1984 era. This is the time for out judges to rise and save the soul of the judiciary. Democracy is under threat.  Let me tell you, free speech is one of the basic civil liberties. It is inalienable.  You cannot take it away because you did not give it. In this Sowore’s case, all he did was to talk and who can legislate on what you talk about?  All he did was to recap the failing state of amenities in this country. When has that become criminal?  It will come to a point where we can no longer complain when things are not going right. If we come to a point where we can no longer tell our leaders that you promised something and you are not doing it.  When Swore made the statement that caused his arrest, what did he do?  Did he levy war against the federal government? Without war, terrorism can’t be proved. If this government is truly afraid of free speech, then it means it is not a popular government. Giving the impression that the agencies of state are working for a particular people is not right. The security prosecution must stop.  Prosecution agency does not exist for the pleasure of the government in power. Today is APC, tomorrow who will it be?  These are agencies that are funded with tax payers’ money.  You must give the impression that you are impartial so that this country can move forward. Nigeria is all that we have.  I would have expected the government to engage the conveners on an intellectual basis.  This method used was very crude and unpopular.

 

 

Corruption and insecurity are on the rise. What do you think is the cause and the way out?

 

 

Nigeria, under the Constitution should be a country that promotes social justice.  And in the face if social injustice, people are duty-bound to at least complain about it.  Social inequality and perceived social injustice is when an accused person is granted pardon and after granting pardon, he also gives that person an executive post in the cabinet. This gives an impression to the Nigerian citizens that these are the people not us. Everything must be done to bring back that quotient of social justice in the affairs of the state.  It must happen. I mean again, the minimum wage for instance.

 

 

In the ancient Rome, there is always a time for bread and secuses. The Nigerian citizen feels wounded.  It is either somebody is being killed extra-judicially or other thing.  So, who gives support to the Nigerian citizen? Where do we get succor?  You go the court,  it is as if nothing is happening. That is why insecurity is increasing.  We must not demystify the power of the state so that justice can always be executed timeously. People will know that our government is still in charge.  If you commit wrong, they will know that you are subjected to the law.

 

 

Rapists are on the loose, what is the way out?

 

 

It is the perception of the collapse of the criminal justice system is what is driving people to commit more crime. If the good book says, if the evil man is not punished timeously, evil will multiply in the land even as the perception that ‘even big people commit this crime.  If you have money you will have your way’.  It is such feelings that make people to continue in the criminal act. It makes people to flagrantly rape minor, rape older women, rape people’s wife and go scot free.  And another thing also is the proliferation of drugs. We saw a documentary on sweet codeine. But beyond sweet codeine, there are so many substances, performance enhancing drugs,  they  have infiltrated the market.  And there is no restriction to age.  People buy this and are prone to crime.

 

 

How can you assess the anti-corruption fight of the Federal Government?

 

 

More can still be done. The politicisation of the trial of some people must stop.  Some people who are facing criminal trial have graced the cabinet of Mr. President. Yes, granted that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  I think those people standing trial should for a little while step aside, particularly because of the standard Mr. President has professed with his own mouth.  Those people should step aside.  At least, let other people who do not have extra-luggage serve this country.

 

 

Lawyers are now the object of physical attack by security agencies. What is your take on this? 

 

 

It is that same system-collapse.  It took the President through the National Human Rights Commission to institute a committee to mandate the police to obey court judgement. That is the extent to which court judgement are despised. So, when they think that what will happen, go to court now. Nobody is being punished.  That is what gives them that leverage.  So, it is still that perception of a weakening justice system.

 

 

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In defence of protest marches

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In defence of protest marches

Lawyers: Protest marches not treasonable offence

 

Do protest marches amount to treason and an act of terrorism? Lawyers say no. AKEEM NAFIU reports

 

“D

ancing on the street saying we don’t want bad governance. How does that amount to treason?  One said.

 

 

Another asked: “How can protest marches amount to terrorism? Are the protesters carrying gun or bombs?

 

 

These were among many questions dotting lips of some senior lawyers in response to claims by the police that Monday, last week’s protest march embarked upon by ‘RevolutionNow’ group amounted to treason and an act of terrorism.

 

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu had warned organisers of ‘RevolutionNow’ protests to shelve their planned actions as it amounted to a treasonable felony.

 

 

The warning was contained in a statement posted on the Force verified Twitter account @Policeng less than 48 hours to the scheduled day of the protest.

 

 

In the statement, the police chief urged Nigerians to steer clear of any activities in the name of ‘RevolutionNow’, saying the Force will not “stand idly by and watch any individual or group in the society cause anarchy in the land.”

 

 

Adamu further argued that the planned protest which aims to force “a regime change in the country” is “treasonable felony and acts of terrorism”.

 

The statement reads: “The attention of the Nigeria Police Force has been drawn to a video circulating on the social media by the ‘Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria and others’, inciting Nigerians, home and abroad, to join a planned ‘revolution’ march against the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Monday, 5th August, 2019 with the sole aim of forcing a regime change in the country.

 

 

“The Force wishes to state unequivocally that the call amounts to treasonable felony and acts of terrorism and will therefore not stand idly-by and watch any individual or group in the society cause anarchy in the land.

 

 

“While acknowledging the rights of Nigerians to embark on protest, the Force wishes to note that such rights should not translate to a violent and forceful change of government which clearly is the meaning of ‘revolution’.

 

 

“Needless to state that Nigeria is a democratic republic and has well-defined processes for change of government exercised periodically during various cycle of elections.

 

 

“The Force therefore warns the organizers, sponsors, allies, supporters, associates and sympathisers of the group ‘Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria’ to, in their own interest, steer clear of any such planned protest, demonstration, acts of incitement and proposed “revolution”, as the full wrath of the law will be brought to bear on any individual or group engaged or found participating in the above planned criminal act.

 

 

“Parents and guardians are therefore enjoined to impress on their children and wards not to allow themselves to be used in whatever form by any person or group of persons to cause breach of law and order in the country.

 

 

“The police will work with other Law Enforcement Agencies and positive minded Nigerians to protect, defend and secure our public peace and space.”

 

 

Sowore’s arrest

 

 

Prior to the police warning, the Convener of ‘RevolutionNow’ group, Omoyele Sowore, was earlier picked up by security operatives in a hotel room around 1.25a.m. on 3rd August, 2019.

 

 

Although a day after, the Department of State Services (DSS) had informed the nation that it had taken Sowore into custody because ‘he called for a revolution in Nigeria,’ DSS’ spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, informed journalists in Abuja that the agency was aware that Sowore had been in touch with some foreign actors to destabilize Nigeria.

 

 

He added that Sowore’s words were all the evidence the secret police had of his purported violent revolution plot.

 

 

Crackdown on protesters

 

 

Despite Sowore’s arrest, the ‘RevolutionNow’ group pressed ahead with its planned protest across the country.

 

 

The group demanded an economy that would work for the masses; an effective and democratic end to insecurity; an end to systemic corruption and for total system change; the immediate implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage; including free and qualitative education for all”.

 

 

However, the protests were met with stiff resistance from security operatives.

 

 

In a broadcast on Facebook at midnight on the day of the protest, a rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, revealed that 56 protesters were arrested by security operatives in the ‘RevolutionNow’ protest across the country.

 

 

According to Effiong, who is also a lawyer to Omoyele Sowore, the figure included journalists already reported to have been arrested by security agencies at various venues of the protests.

 

 

Some of the states where protesters were arrested included Lagos, Cross River, Ondo and Ogun. The crackdown was condemned by many     Nigerians,whioe many of the arrested protesters have been charged to court.

Sowore’s 45 days detention

 

 

The Department of State Services (DSS) has also secured a court order to keep the Convener of ‘RevolutionNow’ group, Omoyele Sowore, in custody for 45 days.

 

 

Justice Taiwo Taiwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja made the order in a ruling on an ex-parte motion filed by the DSS seeking to keep Sowore for 90 days to conclude its investigation about allegation of terrorism against Sowore.

In his ruling, the judge held that the detention order would be renewable after the expiration of the first 45 days on September 21.

 

 

 

 

The security agency had anchored its motion on the provision of Section 27(1) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act.

 

 

Sowore’s appeal

 

 

The Convener of ‘RevolutionNow’ group had in the meantime lodged an appeal against the court’s ruling allowing the DSS to keep him in custody for 45 days.

 

 

In the appeal filed through his lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), Sowore argued that the remand order infringed on his fundamental human rights as well as the rules of the court.

 

 

According to him, the detention order not only contravened provisions of the Constitution but was also to legalise his “illegal” detention.

 

 

He consequently asked the appellate court to overturn the lower court’s decision.

 

 

Lawyers 

 

 

Some members of the Inner Bar have countered police claims that the protest march called by ‘RevolutionNow’ amounted to treason and an act of terrorism.

 

 

The senior lawyers while speaking on the issue at the weekend noted that security operatives have so far failed to establish the intention of the ‘RevolutionNow’ group to overthrow Buhari’s government.

 

 

They were also of the view that it was not within the purview of the police to categorize protest march as either treason or act of terrorism, saying only the court was capable of making such description.

 

 

 

The lawyers further noted that the police’s claim was an attempt by government to extend the ambit of the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act to cover individuals and organisations critical of official policies or perceived marginalisation within the federation.

 

 

Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Chief Mike Ozekhome, noted that Sections 39 to 43 of the Criminal Code and Section 410 of the Penal Code which criminalised treason envisioned a dire situation where an intention to overthrow a government, or overcome the President or Governor of a State (called “mens rea”) was accompanied by overt acts such as stockpiling and possession of arms and ammunition.

 

 

He said: “That allegation is most plural, most damning and most illogical from the government or security spokespersons.

 

 

 

 

“What is treason? For the definition of treason, you have to look at Sections 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43 of the Criminal Code which applies in the Southern part of Nigeria.

 

 

“Then you must look at Section 410 of the Penal Code that applies in the Northern part of Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Treason is the act of overthrowing the sovereign government of a state.

 

 

“Do mere uttered words “we will cause a revolution” by Nigerians who are singing, dancing and carrying placards on the streets, shouting “aluta continua, victoria acerta” without more, constitute treasonable felony especially by Nigerians who are protesting against bad governance and have carefully itemized their grievances in writing? 

 

 

“Does this amount to treason or treasonable felony? Do you announce a revolution if not for the mischief of some people deliberately reading the word literally rather than figuratively?

 

 

 

 

“Dancing on the street saying we don’t want bad governance, how does that amount to treason or treasonable felony?

 

 

“This government is allergic to plurality of voices. This government is allergic to criticism; this government is allergic to opinions. This government should know that Nigeria is a country with many colours.

 

 

 

“You cannot sample opinions. We cannot all sleep on the same bed. This government should learn to be tolerant.”

 

 

Ozekhome was corroborated by another silk, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, who also viewed the protest march as nothing near treason or act of terrorism.

 

 

Adedipe said: “How can a protest march amount to terrorism? Are the protesters carrying gun or bombs? Are they shooting at people? Are they destroying property? Are they carrying placards? Even if they are carrying placards, are they injuring people with them? It is certainly an abuse of language to say that protest amounts to an act of terrorism and treasonable felony.

 

 

“So, I do not agree with the police on that and I think they are giving this government a very bad image. That is not how to defend the Constitution.

 

 

“These police officers should recognize that their duty is to defend the nation. However, they are sadly interpreting their role to mean that they are to defend the government of the day and its interest. Therefore, in my humble opinion marching and protest can never amount to an act of terrorism or treasonable felony.”

 

 

 

 

To Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), the claim by the police was an attempt by the Force to criminalize the protest.

 

 

He said: “Protest marches in Nigeria are not treasonable offences. No doubt, the Nigeria Police Force has capitalized on the use of the word “revolution” to criminalise the protest.

 

 

“If revolution has become a criminal offence in Nigeria why were the leaders of the APC not charged for claiming to have carried out Nigeria’s democratic revolution which terminated the 16-year rule of the PDP in 2015?

 

 

“Why was Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, the Presidential Candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) not threatened with treason when he asked Nigerians to rise up for revolution via the 2019 general election?

 

 

“Did all Nigerian senators led by APC members not commit treason or terrorism when they spent one and a half hours on May 14, 2019 to debate Senator Chukwuka Utazi’s timely motion on “Bridging the gap between the haves and have-not to nip in the bud the seeds of a looming violent revolution?

 

 

“It is worrisome that the Buhari administration has decided to extend the ambit of the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act to cover individuals and organisations that are critical of official policies or perceived marginalisation within the federation.”

 

Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN) said only the court can make any categorization of protest march.

 

 

“The police is not in a position to decide whether a protest march is treasonable or not. It is the court that can make such declaration”, he said

 

 

Dr. Biodun Layonu (SAN) also believed the police tag on the protest march by ‘RevolutionNow’ was a ploy to use something against the Convener, Omoyele Sowore.

 

 

He said: “The police claim is not correct. It’s a ploy to hang something on the man.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Court resolves rift over IPMAN’s election

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Court resolves rift over IPMAN’s election

Disputes over modalities to be adopted in the conduct of executive elections for Mosimi Depot under the Western Zone of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) have been resolved.

 

 

In resolving the dispute, Justice Chuka Obiozor of a Federal High Court in Lagos adopted the template used in resolving the disagreement which arose over the conduct of Executive election for the Satellite Depot of IPMAN’s Western Zone.

 

 

The Registered Trustees of IPMAN, IPMAN’s National President, Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo, National Secretary, Alhaji Danladi Pasali as well as three Executives of IPMAN Western Zone have dragged eleven members of the zone to court over the Satellite Depot election.

 

 

The three Executives of IPMAN Western Zone who are co-plaintiffs in the matter are: HRH Oba Obafemi Ogbaro, the Zonal Chairman IPMAN Western Zone; A8lhaji Adetunji Oloko, Zonal Secretary, IPMAN Western Zone and Alhaja Olayiwola Omotayo, Zonal Organizing Secretary, IPMAN Western Zone.

 

 

Some of the respondents in the suit are; Alhaji Debo Ahmed, Alhaji Ayo Alanamu, Chief Olatunji Aderoju, Mr. Lukman Olaogun, Elder Sanya Aluko and Bashorun Akanni Oyewole.

 

 

Others are; Kunle Bamigboye, Alhaji Dele Tajudeen, Prince Kunle Oyenuga, Pastor Gbenga Ilupeju and Mr. Lakin Olukanmi.

 

 

Parties in the suit later come together and reached a compromise on how to resolve the dispute over the Satellite Depot election. They agreed that each party shall nominate five persons each to conduct the election. The 10-man committee was chaired by HRH Oba Obafemi Ogbaro.

 

 

The resolution was subsequently adopted by the court as its ruling on the matter and the Satellite Depot Executive election was later successfully conducted on 22nd July, 2019.

 

 

The Mosimi Depot Executive elections scheduled to hold on 14th October, 2019, will now be conducted using the same template.

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‘Lawyers’ remuneration not commensurate with work’

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‘Lawyers’ remuneration not commensurate with work’

Subair Omorolayo Suliat is an alumnus of the Lagos State University. She was called to Bar on 29th November, 2016. She shares post called-to-Bar experience with JOHN CHIKEZIE

 

 

Background

 

My name is Subair Omorolayo Suliat and I am an indigene of Odiolowo Local Government Area, Ikeja, Lagos State. I attended Omoleye Children School, Ikorodu road Lagos State and Tunyo Comprehensive College, Isheri Igando, Lagos for both elementary and Secondary Schools education. I obtained a Bachelor of Law Degree (LL.B) from the Lagos State University. And thereafter proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Abuja Campus, where I was called to the Nigerian Bar on 29th November, 2016.

 

 

I currently work as a Legal Registrar/Judicial Assistant to a Judge of Lagos state.

 

 

Career choice

 

 

I had actually wanted to become a pharmacist. Honestly, I never intended to study Law. However, when I went for my holiday Summer school, my mind changed. I was always getting the-you-speak so well, you will do well in art class as a Journalist or some sorts.

 

 

I really didn’t pay attention to all that until when I was about applying for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

 

 

Law became my first choice. I do not think the change was caused by any feeling or by a desire to define a path for my life. Honestly, because at that time, it was really about gaining admission into the university to study a prestigious course.

 

 

However, when I began to study Law, I realised I could be much more and I could do more. I am really thankful because being a lawyer has exposed me to deeper issues that have gone a long way in defining who I am today.

 

 

How has the journey been so far in terms of challenges being faced as a young lawyer?

 

 

Honestly, the journey has not been particularly easy especially being a young lawyer with little over 2-4 years’ experience at the Bar. I graduated with a Second Class upper. And taking myself as an example, before I completed my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) program in 2017, I applied to nothing less than 50 law firms. I think just about 10 firms called me back.

 

 

I remember an interview with a firm where the interviewer asked who my father was and who was my source of coming to the law firm. I was shocked.  The challenge here is based on the fact that you do not know anyone or you aren’t well connected enough.                     

Another challenge is the way young lawyers are being overworked with little or no pay. Inadequate remuneration is one of the basic challenges faced by young lawyers in Nigeria.

 

 

I remember a firm told me categorically that I had to work for 3 months with no pay. It clearly wasn’t even an issue of months of probation. I was livid.

 

 

Most young lawyers are exploited under the popular statement, “Gain The Experience”. A young lawyer must feed, pay his or her transport fare, change his or her dresses, at least, once in a while, recharge his or her phone, etc. But when a young lawyer lives on a very low income, it makes it very difficult for such a lawyer to cater for his or her needs.

 

 

Do you have any business you combine with your career?

 

 

Well, I own a fashion line called Rilamscloset.

 

 

At first it was hectic combinining both law and sewing. Double hustle, but it later became easier. I have two support staff that have made it easy for me to focus on work and also do what I love.

 

 

How did the love for sewing emerge?

 

 

I would say, initially, i just wanted to sew for myself as a lot of tailors weren’t really getting the styles I wanted. I wanted to be able to create anything for myself & the fact that I don’t have to spend much on clothing but then I stopped sewing for a very long time until a friend asked me to explain how I did a certain dress. She did it the exact way and got a lot of money, for a skill that I just gave away. Since that day I decided to start making extra cash from my skills.

 

 

How would you evaluate the judiciary in terms of justice delivery?

 

 

In terms of justice delivery the process is rather too slow.

 

 

Firstly, the delay in the justice system, doesn’t really settle well in terms of rapid Justice. The process is rather too long, exhausting and sometimes you end up spending so much time in court without justice. Take for example, in a land dispute where a claimant takes a defendant to court and litigates an action which could probably linger for more than 10years with no justice. How is that of a great effect?

 

 

The delays are not solely due to any particular organ in the Judiciary but also on the lawyers.

 

 

 

 

Imagine in the criminal justice system, where a suspect is awaiting trial in court and languishes in prison custody for years. How is that an effective Justice system? 

 

 

But kudos to the Lagos State Judiciary with the New 2019 High Court Civil Procedure rules, and its practice directions to help speed up the process to achieve effective delivery of justice.      

 

 

Secondly, judicial corruption has reduced public confidence in the country’s justice system. A layman who sees different issues about judicial officers being prosecuted would never see the Judiciary as a place to get justice. This is simply because, to them, most judges are corrupt; a narrative the system is attempting to change.

 

 

Lastly, the Judiciary needs to do more in terms of rendering legal services to indigent who can’t afford lawyers in court. The Legal Aid, honestly, are not doing much in this realm. Rich offenders afford well skilled lawyers, who can devise different strategies to delay or prevent successful prosecution. Poor offenders don’t have this benefit. Therefore, the system doesn’t really care much about individual who can’t afford a lawyer to defend them in court.

 

 

What are your thoughts on death penalty on rape and defilement by lawmakers?

 

 

Honestly, because of the issue in this country and the fact that nothing works, our laws really do not hold water. So, I would say that I am not for or against the death penalty.

 

 

Sentiments apart, would death penalty serve as a solution or preventive measure?

 

 

Well, in Nigeria, we do not have a sexual offenders’ list, where the public can access and view names of those listed as sexual offenders.

 

 

What are the measures on those raping and defiling kids? I would say doom them for life, no working in parks, schools or anywhere connected to where kids are located. We certainly lack the ability to keep records in Nigeria, that is why sexual offenders and rapist still go to jail and come out roaming the streets like nothing ever happened.

 

 

Finally the legislature also needs to do more in terms of limitations and time to institute an action against a person who is being accused of defilement, as it is clearly stated in Section 218 of the Criminal code. The section states that, “Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of thirteen years is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for life, with or without caning. A prosecution for either of the offences defined in this section shall begin within two months after the offence is committed. A person cannot he convicted of either of the offences defined in this section upon the uncorroborated testimony of one witness”.

 

 

From the above, the law is clear that after 2months, you are not allowed to go after the rapist. That’s a bit too unfair. you are only allowed to bring an action against such a person within 2 months of the commission of the offence.

 

 

Future ambition

 

 

I aspire to lecture someday, Maybe not for long but I would really love to impact lives across the globe.

 

 

And lastly, I hope to become a judge and contribute immensely to justice administration in the country.

 

 

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Law

In search of solution to Edo Assembly crisis

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In search of solution to Edo Assembly crisis
  • Lawyers push for judicial resolution

 

AKEEM NAFIU writes on the crisis rocking the Edo State House of Assembly which has not only hindered smooth legislative business but also pitched Governor Godwin Obaseki against the National Assembly

 

 

F

or the umpteenth time in five years, the Edo State House of Assembly which was embroiled in crisis is at it again. The crisis, this time around, centred on the inauguration of 9 of the 24-member Assembly on 18th June, 2019 by Governor Godwin Obaseki.

This is the second time within five years legislative business in the Edo State House of Assembly will be disrupted.

 

 

In 2014, the crisis which was allegedly triggered by the then ruling party at the national level, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), resulted in the emergence of two parallel leaderships that sat separately.

 

 

The then Deputy Speaker, Festus Ebea, an APC member representing Esan South-East, and three other APC members who defected to the PDP were  suspended for alleged misconduct and violation of House rules. They had earlier lost a legal battle to retain their seat in the House.

 

 

The four suspended APC members later teamed up to elect Festus Ebea as Acting Speaker. They also suspended the Speaker, Uyi Igbe, and six other APC members for allegedly bringing the reputation of the House into disrepute.

 

 

The 15 APC legislators of the Uyi Igbe-faction who were then backed by Governor Adams Oshiomhole, relocated from the Assembly complex at the King’s Square to the Old Assembly Chamber inside the Government House, due to police restrictions at the complex.

 

 

The PDP lawmakers however gained entry into the complex and had a plenary session with Festus Ebea presiding.

 

 

At the session which was conducted with the mace, the lawmakers re-validated the suspension of the eight APC members and formalised the election of the suspended Deputy Speaker as Acting Speaker. The rest of the story is now history.

 

 

Return of crisis in 2019

 

 

Five years on, the Edo State House of Assembly is on the spotlight again for the wrong reason.

 

 

It all started on June 17, 2019, when 19 out of the 24 Edo Assembly members-elect, expressed their displeasure at the failure of Governor Godwin Obaseki, to inaugurate the 7th Assembly, ten days after the expiration of the previous one.

 

 

Addressing a press conference, the spokesman for the lawmakers, Washington Osifo, alleged that the governor’s refusal to issue a proclamation to inaugurate the 7th Assembly as required by law, after the expiration of the 6th Assembly on June 7, 2019, has created a vacuum.

 

 

He said: “The governor by virtue of Section 105 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), is constitutionally required to issue a letter of proclamation for the inauguration of the new Assembly to avoid vacuum.

 

 

“All states of the federation have inaugurated their Houses of Assembly; Gov. Obaseki has deliberately refused to allow the Assembly to function, thus usurping the powers of the legislators”.

 

However, 48 hours after the 19 lawmakers’ outburst, the Special Adviser to Governor Obaseki on Media and Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, issued a statement notifying the public that his boss has indeed inaugurated the 7th Assembly on June 17, 2019.

He said the new assembly was inaugurated at 3pm on the said day and that the nine members in attendance had elected Hon. Frank Okiye as Speaker.

 

 

“The much-anticipated inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly took place in Benin around 3 p.m. on Monday, June 17, 2019.

 

 

“The Clerk of the Edo House of Assembly, Alhaji Audu Omogbai, ushered the members-elect into the chamber and read out the letter of proclamation transmitted to the Office of the Clerk by the Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki.

 

 

“After reading the letter, the clerk proclaimed the House and the members-elect began the process of electing the House leadership, with Frank Okiye of Esan North-East Constituency I, emerging as Speaker, w8hile Yekini Idiaye of Akoko Edo Constituency I, was elected as Deputy Speaker.

 

 

Other lawmakers said to be in attendance at the inauguration ceremony were: Nosa Okunbor, Henry Okuarobo, Uyi Ekhosuehi, Marcus Onobun, Ephraim Anehbosele, Roland Asoro and Eric Okaka.

 

 

The other 19 lawmakers left out of the inauguration exercise were however dissatisfied and have vowed that the ‘illegality’ would not stand.

NASS intervention

 

In a bid to resolve the logjam, the House of Representatives on 9th July, 2019, set up a probe panel.

 

 

The panel was put up by the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, after the adoption of a motion moved by three members from Edo State, Messrs Julius Ihonvbere, Peter Akpatason and Johnson Oghuma.

 

 

The 13-member probe panel was chaired by the immediate past spokesman for the House and former speakership aspirant, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas.

 

 

Moving the motion, Ihonvbere said, “The House notes with concern the improper, clandestine and nocturnal inauguration of the 7th Edo State House of Assembly on the 17th of June, 2019, wherein nine out of 24 members-elect were purportedly sworn in without the knowledge of the other 15 members-elect.”

 

 

Members of the Green Chamber later adopted the probe panel recommendations on 17th July, 2019.

 

 

In adopting the recommendations, the lawmakers handed down a week ultimatum to Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation for the Edo State House of Assembly.

 

 

The house also directed that all actions taken by the current assembly in Edo State should be declared null and void pending proper inauguration.

 

 

The lawmakers also called on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Director-General (DG), Department of State Service to shut down the Edo State House of Assembly and provide adequate security to allay further fears of intimidation and threat as alleged by members-elect.

In a similar fashion, an enquiry was also launched into the crisis by the Senate through an ad-hoc Committee.

 

The Committee’s report was subsequently adopted by the Red Chamber on 30th July, 2019.

 

Like the House of Representatives, the Senate also gave Governor Godwin Obaseki a week’s ultimatum to issue fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly.

 

In doing this, the governor was mandated  to formally inform all the 24 members-elect of the new proclamation via print and electronic media platforms.

 

 

Failure to do so, the Senate said it will invoke Section 11(4) of the Constitution which allows it to take over the functions of the state assembly.

 

Obaseki reacts

 

In his reaction to the Senate’s directive, Governor Obaseki accused the lawmakers of illegally dabbling into an issue that is currently a subject of litigation in court.

 

 

The governor speaking through a statement by Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, said he is not unmindful of political pressure on the Senate by highly placed and powerful persons who are intent on foisting their will and choices on Edo people.

 

 

“This is borne out by the record statements made by one Seid Oshiomhole (a Member-elect and younger brother of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Comrade Adams Oshiomhole) wherein he boasted that both the Senate President Senator Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila have been instructed on what to do in this matter.

 

 

“The Government of Edo State wishes to observe that the Chairman and Members of Ad-Hoc Committee of the Senate which visited Edo State were made aware of the existence of at least three suits pending before various Courts wherein the factual and legal dispute regarding the Edo State House of Assembly inauguration have been submitted to the Courts by both contending parties for resolution.

 

 

“The Ad-Hoc Committee also failed to inform the senate of the existence of a valid injunction in Suit NO FHC/B/OS/70/2019 wherein the Federal High Court restrained various parties from interfering in any manner with the activities of the Edo State House of Assembly which said order had been brought to their attention in the course of their visit to Edo State.

 

 

“It is unfortunate that the Distinguished Senate would act in flagrant breach of these various court orders and purport to come to factual and legal conclusions concerning a matter in which the parties are already before the courts and therefore subjudice”, the statement reads.

 

 

Lawyers proffer solutions

 

 

Some senior lawyers concerned about the crisis rocking the Edo State House of Assembly have equally been speaking on the way out of the quagmire.

 

 

Majority of the lawyers while speaking on the issue at the weekend believed it is only the court that can calm frayed nerves. They asked aggrieved parties to seek legal redress.

 

 

In his comments, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Biodun Layonu, was of the view that it is better to invite the court to adjudicate on the matter because political solution has been elusive.

 

 

He said: “The ultimate solution is court when political solution fails. The governor or those members who wish should quickly preempt by going to court if the matter is not already in court”.

 

 

A former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani, also believed only the court can resolve the dispute.

 

 

“Now that the Senate has toed the line of the House of Representatives in ordering Governor Godwin Obaseki to re-issue the letter of proclamation to the State House of Assembly within a period of one week or risk the National Assembly taking over the legislative function of the State House of Assembly, it is obvious that this matter has defied political solution.

 

 

“I am reinforced by this line of thought due to the prompt response of the state governor to the directive of the Senate by insisting that the National Assembly is clearly in breach of the principles of federalism and separation of powers by issuing these directives.

 

 

“According to him, the National Assembly cannot, and will not dish out orders to the state governor in a federation contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. Indeed the provisions of the constitution was very specific as to the level of intervention or involvement of the National Assembly in the state where the State House of Assembly cannot be in a position to enact laws for the good order, governance  and peace of that state.

 

 

“My observation and conclusion, I may be wrong, is that this crisis will eventually be decided by court as APC, the National Assembly, the Edo State and the major stakeholders have jettisoned wisdom over this crisis”, Ubani said.

A former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mazi Afam Osigwe, also called on parties involved in the dispute to seek judicial intervention.

 

 

He said: “If a governor has done a proclamation in law, he lacks power to do a second one. This is because those asking the governor to do another one have acknowledged that he had previously done one.

 

 

“Besides, if the House of Assembly has convened, the governor cannot dissolve it until after four years and the power of the National Assembly to make laws for a state is only activated when the House of Assembly cannot sit.

 

 

“I think the National Assembly ought to have sought legal advice before coming up with the resolutions. Sadly, the Edo State House of Assembly is entirely made of APC members and one would have expected that any differences among them would be resolved politically amicably.

 

 

“So, if some people believed that there was no proper proclamation and that notice of such activity was not given, then, I think those who are making such should go to court so that the issue can be decided one way or the other. It is not for the National Assembly to throw its weight into what has become a judicial matter”.

 

 

However, a rights activist, Mr. Kabir Akingbolu, opined that the only way out of the logjam is for Governor Obaseki to heed the National Assembly’s directive and re-issue the proclamation.

 

 

“Constitutionally, the National Assembly has the power to make law for the good governance of any state if the State House of Assembly is not functional. I think we ought to have surpassed this stage of anarchy in our democratic experiment.

 

 

“The governor should heed the voice of logic and apply wisdom; otherwise anything can happen that may lead to a breakdown of law and order which may be a fertile recipe for the declaration of state of emergency.

 

 

“How can less than one third of the House constitute a quorum on the first day when the proclamation of the house is to be made.  It is disgusting and I know people of other climes will be laughing at us. This thing should stop now and I think the National Assembly should be more serious in pursuing this to a logical conclusion.

 

 

“The state governors always believe they are above the law. Fayose did it in 2014 when he used seven members to chase away 19 under this same president but when the anomalies were allowed to stand, this is the consequences. We must nip it in the bud and the time to do it is now. So the National Assembly is on the right track”, he said.

 

 

A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Gabriel Uduafi, also demanded for a fresh inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly saying this is the only way out of the problem.

 

 

He said: “The situation of things regarding the Edo State House of Assembly is quite unfortunate. If I recall very well, the Edo Assembly is a 24-member House. If the governor is making a proclamation for the Assembly’s inauguration, I want to believe he is not unaware of the number of members elect.

 

 

“My expectation is that for the effectiveness of the proclamation, all the elected members should have been duly informed of the exercise by the clerk.

 

 

“The office of a governor is not a comedy theatre. Governance is serious business. As a human being, I was embarrassed by that inauguration, as a lawyer, I was scandalized and as a democrat, I think the exercise was undemocratic.

 

 

“It is undemocratic for the governor to inaugurate only five members in a House of 24 members. Can the five members validly and legally passed a resolution that will be binding on the House? We all have to agree that the inauguration was improper, otherwise we have a problem.

 

 

“If that inauguration was improper, is it something that we should promote? The governor was elected as a politician and if he has a political problem, he must solve it politically. So, irrespective of the party affiliation of members of the House, there was a constitutional infraction regarding their inauguration. In my view, that House was not competently inaugurated. What happened was a shame on our democracy.

 

 

“Even if you go by a simple majority, it means we must have at least half of the entire House members inaugurated. With this, there can be a basis for discussion. There is a popular saying that whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well, I think the inauguration has to be properly done again. The governor should do what is right”, the lawyer said.

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Law

‘I read law to champion cause of fairness, equity, justice’

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‘I read law to champion cause of fairness, equity, justice’

Abimbola Adekoya, an indigene of Ijebu-East Local Government of Ogun State, was called to Bar on 13th December, 2017. in this encounter, she shares her experience in the noble profession with JOHN CHIKEZIE

 

 

Background

 

My name is Abimbola Adekoya. I am from Ogun State, Ijebu-East Local Government Area. I had my elementary school at Tifedayo International School Alagbado, Lagos and Owen Thomas College, Alagbado, Lagos for my secondary school education.

I obtained a Bachelor of Law Degree (LL.B) from the Lagos State University in 2016. I thereafter proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Enugu Campus, where I finished with a First Class (Honours). I was called to the Nigerian Bar on 13th December, 2017.                                                                                               

Choice of career

 

As a cliché as it sounds, my desire to study law and to be a legal practitioner was borne out of my passion for fairness, equity and justice for the voiceless and oppressed.

 

I remember back in secondary school, I was always in trouble for standing up for people and fighting other people’s battle. In fact, I became so notorious that one of my teachers used to call me a ‘Human Rights Activist’. Law seems to be the perfect profession for me to express my passion and love for equity, fairness and justice.

 

Also, with years of legal education, I realized that the legal profession is all about training people to be problem solvers. So wherever I find myself, I am expected to proffer solutions to difficult issues and give life to hopeless situations, whether I am  advising a  business entity or representing a person whose fundamental right has been breached, I believe I am solving a problem in my own way and law has given me a platform to do so.

 

International, human rights and criminal law

 

I love International law, Human Rights Law and Criminal law but I have recently developed an interest in Corporate Commercial law, Energy law and Labour law.  Business is the heart of the economy, and I have come to appreciate the vital role the law plays in ensuring the success of businesses and companies. I find Corporate Commercial law particularly interesting because it is one area of law that is dynamic and challenging. This area of law allows for creativity and resourcefulness in providing pragmatic solutions to complex legal issues.

 

Law school experience

 

I had one of my best learning experiences at the Nigerian Law School. I met awesome and intelligent people from across the country and I was exposed to the practical aspect of law during the Court and Chambers Attachment. 

 

 

Contrary to dreadful popular opinion, law school is not as bad, sacred or mighty as people think. I think law school is one of the best learning institutions in Nigeria. Compared to most Law faculties in Nigeria, the Nigerian Law School is more structured and organized. Students know what to expect in every lecture and they have compulsory study group meetings to prepare adequately for the class. Also, there are unending learning resources available to students beforehand.

 

Reforms in the Nigerian Law School, including Law Faculties in Nigeria

 

The only issue I have with law school is the volume of work. Students are expected to absorb so much information within a very short time. This accounts for the high failure rate in law school.

I suggest that the duration of study in law school be increased to 18 months to 2 years. This will provide students with more time to learn and undergo pupilage before the Bar Exams. I honestly feel that the 5 years period of study for Bachelor of laws Degree (LL.B) should be reduced to 4 years. We need to spend more time teaching the technical side of the law.

 

 

The Nigerian Law faculties also need to do better in terms of the method of teaching, structure and organization as the teaching method adopted by most Nigerian universities are outdated. Nigerian Law Faculties should embrace the use of technology to make learning easier. Teaching should be student focused and not lecturer focused. Also, Nigerian Law Faculties should encourage and make Internship programme compulsory for Law Undergraduates. This will go a long way in preparing students for the Nigerian Law School and practice.

 

 

Embarrassing moments

 

I can’t remember having an embarrassing first time court experience. But I had an embarrassing and memorable first time meeting experience with a client. I was instructed to attend a negotiation meeting with a client a few hours before the meeting. I knew next to nothing about the case, I was scared and confused because I was barely 3 months at the Bar at the time. The client was disappointed when she found out I was going to represent her at the meeting. At the end I made it through the meeting and all our propositions were accepted by the other party. I sincerely can’t explain how that happened.

 

 

Evaluation of justice system

 

 

The Nigerian Legal system which includes the laws, courts, personnel of law and the administration of justice system in Nigeria has not recorded much development compared to the Legal system in western countries.

 

 

The stunted growth experienced by the Nigerian Legal System can be attributed to the extant laws in Nigeria. Most of our laws are obsolete and are no longer relevant to the needs of the 21st Century Nigerian Citizen. For example, the Land Use Act 1978, the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990, the Criminal Code etc. Isn’t it surprising that the statutes of general application such as the Sales of Goods Act 1893, Partnership Act 1890 and the Bill of Exchange Act 1882 which were in force in England on January 1, 1900 are still the extant laws in Nigeria even when some of these laws have been re-enacted in England.

 

 

Also, another problem facing our Legal system is the will power to implement the laws enacted. The Administration of justice system in Nigeria has made enforcement of laws difficult. As long as we don’t enforce our laws, the Nigerian Legal System will not develop even if we make the best laws.

 

 

It is pertinent to state that the Superior Courts in Nigeria have also not helped in the development of our jurisprudence in recent years. There are conflicting decisions of the superior courts particularly the Court of Appeal due to the unnecessary focus on technicality rather than seeking to do substantial justice.  In recent times, the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court hardly give judgment on the substance or merit of the cases before them instead most cases are decided or dismissed based on non-compliance with procedural laws. For instance the recent Supreme Court’s judgement on the election petition appeal in Osun state.

 

 

Insecurity

 

 

I consider the idea of using licensed vigilante Fulani herdsmen as security agents across the country demeaning and an affront to Nigeria’s security apparatus. It is indeed disappointing that we are considering the idea of resorting to non-state actors in securing lives and properties when the motion to introduce state policing was vehemently opposed.

 

 

What is the aim and objective of establishing and licensing Fulani Vigilante Group? Is it for the purpose of providing support to the security agencies in the states or to protect Fulani Herdsmen from reprisal attacks from members of the host community? The underlying motive for the implementation of Licensed Fulani Vigilante Group by the government is tainted with folly as it seeks to advance sectional or vested interests as against the common interest of all the citizen.

 

 

First, the Federal Government has in time past made efforts to ban and disarm local Vigilante Groups across the Country, licensing Fulani Vigilante group in the states where local vigilante groups have been disarmed would mean that the government is acting in the interest of the fulani herdsmen.

 

 

Secondly, some Fulani Herdsmen have been a threat to the security of communities in the Northern Part of the country, licensing them to act as security agents in the states could lead to a monumental national tragedy seeing that they have been empowered by the government, they can take laws into their own hands, engage in extra judicial killing and dispense justice as they see fit.       

 

 

Also, using untrained groups as security agents is detrimental to the security of any state as they could evolve into an ethnic militia or be used to promote political agenda.

 

 

In the interest of the public, the federal government and the state government should not in any way adopt this proposition as in the short to long term, will do more harm than good to the peaceful existence of citizens across the country and National Security as a whole.

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