Law

‘My unjust arrest by police spurred my passion to protect indigents’ rights’

Obi Ginikanwa is an indigene of Ikeduru Local Government Area in Imo State. Ginikanwa who obtained his LL.B from University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, was called to Bar in 2017. He tells JOHN CHIKEZIE about his passion to protect the rights of the downtrodden

 

Background

 

I am Obi Ginikanwa. I am from Ikeduru Local Government Area in Imo State. My primary education was at different schools but the entirety of my secondary education was at Ngwa High School, Aba.

 

Thereafter, I proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, where I obtained my LL.B. I attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus, for my B.L. After six long years of studying to be a lawyer,

 

I was called to Bar and licensed to practice in Nigeria in the year 2017.

 

Why law?

 

I could attribute my choice of law to diverse reasons such as my consideration of law as the most prestigious course available to a brilliant student who is helpless at maths but I would cite the primary reason to be my inherent sense of justice and my father’s influence. In recent times, however, the necessity of studying law has been made more manifest.

 

It puts you, naturally, at the forefront of nation building and open the door to diverse and inter-disciplinary opportunities.

 

This advantage enjoyed by lawyers makes them, in this battered economy, by logical comparison, the highest paid professionals or makes law the most financially rewarding profession in Nigeria.

 

Specialization

 

Currently, as an Associate at a top-rated Law Firm, CLP Legal, I specialize in corporate advisory and commercial litigation. Occasionally, I engage in pro-bono services where I help with securing the release of prisoners or unlawfully detained persons. If survival was not an issue, constantly helping indigent persons navigate Nigeria’s criminal justice system would be the focus of my career.

 

I am currently working towards making that the focus of my legal career coupled with life in service of the public. This ambition of mine was inspired by my personal experience of the injustice of the Nigeria’s justice system when as a teenager just spending his time at a Video Game Centre, I, alongside others, were picked up by some policemen during a random raid, kept in a cell for a period until our parents paid “ransom.”

 

That Nigeria is horrible is obvious to a newborn but the horror of Nigeria is more manifest and magnified when you come in contact with our justice system. It is abominable and dispiriting

Access to justice setbacks

 

There are peculiar setbacks for either the criminal or civil justice system but common for both are corruption and delay in justice dispensation. In Nigeria, it takes at least ten years for a matter to advance from the trial court to final determination at the Supreme Court.

 

This delay is debilitating. It not only affects those whose rights are affected; it is bad for the lawyering business. The effect is immediately felt by litigation lawyers because people lose faith in litigation and the courts. They now seek alternative means to justice. Transactional lawyers, too, are affected.

 

Any investor would consider dispute resolution and since he cannot trust disputes to be resolved here efficiently, he would prefer a foreign forum. But, the essence of justice is enforcement, therefore, an investor would like to deal only with Nigerian business partners with assets in foreign jurisdictions. Only few can boast of that. This will limit investors’ interest in Nigeria and reduce transactional briefs.

 

Criminal procedure for awaiting trial inmates

 

The text of our laws which include the laws providing for the criminal procedure are quite elegant and in line with modern practice but the issue is with implementation. To that extent, the awaiting trial inmates have not gotten much reprieve from our revamped criminal procedure laws.

 

We still have cases where you have to wait endlessly for the advice from the office of the Director of Public Prosecution for matters that are to be tried at the High Court. If eventually bail is granted to a defendant, the conditions are always  stringent and cumbersome to fulfill. I must also tell you that to secure the release of an inmate to whom bail has been granted is an uphill task.

 

The process is riddled with deliberate delays which are just made to force one to start taking compromising actions. All these things are what you see on ground, the criminal procedure laws are not of much help in this regard.

Law banning parade of suspects

 

Media parade is like Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Multitude of persons witnessed the crucifixion but few were there to witness the resurrection and some, whom were even told by eye- witnesses, doubted.

 

In the same manner, many witness media parade and formed  negative opinions about the alleged offender but if eventually no case is proven against him, it hardly make news and the person’s reputation is forever damaged.

 

This makes the step taken by the Assembly very commendable. However, I like practicability; so, the question is, considering that the police is a Federal Government agent, how would the LAHA enforce its will on the police?

 

Nonetheless, the police should really stop parading suspects before the media especially when they have not even gathered sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute the case.

 

Growing human rights’ abuse

 

Rule of law is now an illusory concept in Nigeria. From my perspective, which I believe is the prevailing perception of events in Nigeria, fundamental human rights is totally abused in Nigeria, generally by the relatively powerful and particularly, by government at all levels.

 

Things have gotten worse under the current dispensation but it has always been the law in Nigeria that before you enforce any judgement against a Federal Government’s agency, you would require the consent of the Attorney- General of the Federation. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eyes of a needle than to obtain that consent. If one cannot enforce judgement against his aggressors, it would embolden the said aggressors.

 

It is that boldness and knowledge that punishment will not visit reckless and antihuman rights actions that led to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s abduction, the raid on Igboho’s residence and the gruesome, heart-rending massacre of Nigerian youths at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.

 

That black Thursday portrayed the abyss of Nigeria’s soul. Deep down that abyss, lies the respect for fundamental human rights in Nigeria.

 

 

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