‘I Wept, when I read about Onnoghen’s Trial’

THISDAY - - LAWYER - ‘I WEPT, WHEN I READ ABOUT ONNOGHEN’S TRIAL’ CON­TIN­UED ON PAGE 11

Her list of firsts, seems al­most in­ex­haustible. The first fe­male Com­mis­sioner in West­ern Nige­ria, first fe­male Chair­man of the Board of West­ern Nige­ria Tele­vi­sion and Broad­cast­ing Ser­vice, first fe­male Se­nior Advocate of Nige­ria, first non-Cau­casian to be elected Pres­i­dent of Zonta In­ter­na­tional. She is fondly re­ferred to as, ‘Queen of the Bar’, ‘Lady SAN’, ‘Lady Silk’, ‘Grandma Silk’. Amongst her nu­mer­ous honorary doc­tor­ate de­grees, is the one which she re­ceived with pride in 2013 from the Nige­rian De­fence Academy, Kaduna, Doctor of Let­ters, and Doctor of Laws, which she re­ceived from Bayero Univer­sity, Kano, last week. In a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion with Onikepo Braith­waite, Chief Fo­lake Solanke, SAN who turned 87 re­cently, went down mem­ory lane on her jour­ney to be­com­ing the first fe­male Se­nior Advocate of Nige­ria, shared her thoughts about Nige­ria, and re­vealed why she shed tears when she read in the news­pa­per that, the former Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria, was fac­ing pros­e­cu­tion. She gave an in­sight, into why there are fewer fe­males at the Inner Bar. She also ex­plained, why she named her Law firm,‘Alabukun Cham­bers’

Since your el­e­va­tion into the Inner Bar in 1981, less than 20 fe­male Lawyers have man­aged to at­tain the rank. What does this say about the le­gal pro­fes­sion in Nige­ria? What mea­sures can be put in place, to en­sure that more fe­male Lawyers get into the Inner Bar?

You know, we are now in what I call, the ‘selfie’ gen­er­a­tion. That is, ev­ery­thing must be in­stant. Peo­ple don’t wait to grow and de­velop. That can­not hap­pen, in the le­gal pro­fes­sion. Af­ter leav­ing the Univer­sity and the Law School, prac­tic­ing law is ex­tremely dif­fer­ent. I al­ways tell the new wigs that, their cer­tifi­cate and de­grees are only pass­ports to knowl­edge and that, it is when you now start to prac­tice law, that you will know that the the­ory is dif­fer­ent from the prac­tice of law. Not only fe­male Lawyers, many Lawyers are in a hurry, in this selfie gen­er­a­tion. Ev­ery­thing must hap­pen now, now. For ex­am­ple, when I qual­i­fied as a Lawyer in the last cen­tury, in 1963, I spent one year with my brother in-law — Mr. M.A. Ode­sanya — who later be­came a La­gos State High Court Judge. I also spent one year with Chief FRA Wil­liams, SAN in pupil­lage. I spent those years try­ing to un­der­stand the in­tri­ca­cies of law prac­tice, be­fore I es­tab­lished my own Cham­bers in 1966.

Many Lawyers, in­clud­ing fe­male Lawyers, like to go to cor­po­rate or­gan­i­sa­tions for em­ploy­ment. That way, they are not re­ally prac­tic­ing law, in the law courts. I would ap­peal to them that, Rome was not built in a day. They must be ready to learn in pupil­lage, and to be at­tached to rep­utable se­niors who will teach them and show them how to prac­tice law. I am hop­ing that, we will have more

“WHEN I BE­CAME THE FIRST FE­MALE SE­NIOR ADVOCATE OF NIGE­RIA IN 1981, IT TOOK AN­OTHER EIGHT YEARS BE­FORE MY LEARNED FRIEND OF THE SILK, CHIEF PHOEBE CHIADIKOBI AJAYI OBE, SAN BE­CAME THE SEC­OND FE­MALE SAN. FROM 1981 TILL TO­DAY, YOU HAVE ABOUT 20 FE­MALE SANS! I AM HOP­ING THAT, MORE WILL BE AD­MIT­TED TO THE INNER BAR”

“I CON­SIDER IT AN ABOM­I­NA­TION, THAT AS­PIR­ING JUDGES NOW HAVE TO FILL AP­PLI­CA­TION FORMS TO BE CON­SID­ERED FOR THE SA­CRED JU­DI­CIAL PO­SI­TIONS”

fe­males at the Inner Bar.

When I be­came the first fe­male Se­nior Advocate of Nige­ria in 1981, it took an­other eight years be­fore my learned friend of the silk, Chief Phoebe Chiadikobi Ajayi Obe, SAN be­came the sec­ond fe­male SAN. From 1981 till to­day, you have about 20 fe­male SANs! I am hop­ing that, more will be ad­mit­ted to the Inner Bar. We must spend time in the prac­tice of law to be­come SAN, not in cor­po­rate or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Fe­male Se­nior Ad­vo­cates should men­tor and en­cour­age promis­ing young fe­male ad­vo­cates to stay in prac­tice in the law courts, in or­der to be­come el­i­gi­ble can­di­dates for the pres­ti­gious rank of Se­nior Advocate of Nige­ria. I now re­peat my usual plea, that learned se­niors should pay ad­e­quate re­mu­ner­a­tion to the new wigs. Only slaves are not paid for their work. Lawyers are not slaves.

As an ac­tive Mem­ber of the NBA for over 50 years, are you sat­is­fied with the NBA as it is to­day? Do you agree with the zon­ing pol­icy for as­pi­rants to po­si­tions in the NBA? What are your views about the re­cent is­sue be­tween the EFCC and the NBA Pres­i­dent?

There is no sit­u­a­tion, that is per­fect. I ap­prove of the sys­tem of vot­ing by del­e­gates in the NBA elec­tions. What I do not agree with, is that there is a lot of money in­volved now in NBA elec­tions. I am op­posed to that. There should not be any fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tion, be­fore you vote for a can­di­date. You vote for a can­di­date whom you know has char­ac­ter, pro­fes­sional knowl­edge, and all that the pro­fes­sion ex­pects of the can­di­date, in­clud­ing pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence. We have to make sure we do not bring pol­i­tics and money, into NBA elec­tions.

Zon­ing re­minds me of Sec­tion 14(3) of the Con­sti­tu­tion on Fed­eral Char­ac­ter. Fed­eral Char­ac­ter has dras­ti­cally di­min­ished the quality of ser­vice, in all sec­tors of the coun­try. We have sac­ri­ficed ex­cel­lence, on the al­tar of medi­ocrity. I have never agreed with the con­cept of Fed­eral Char­ac­ter.

In that con­text, for me, there should be less power at the cen­tre, and more au­ton­omy for the States. That is what I con­sider, as fed­eral char­ac­ter. Con­se­quently, you have the same as in the NBA now, whether you call it zon­ing or fed­eral char­ac­ter, it is the same. You are sac­ri­fic­ing ex­cel­lence, for zon­ing.

What are your views on the Hi­jab and Call to Bar/Wig and Gown con­tro­versy of last year? Should Lawyers be al­lowed to be called to the Bar in their re­li­gious at­tire?

I do not agree. In ev­ery institutio­n, there are rules and reg­u­la­tions. If you want to join that institutio­n, you must be pre­pared to abide by the rules and reg­u­la­tions. Can you imag­ine if we al­low every­body to come for the Call to the Bar, in their re­li­gious at­tires? I can­not imag­ine it. I don’t want to men­tion any par­tic­u­lar reli­gion, but even our Ba­bal­a­wos, if you al­low them to come in their at­tires, it will cause chaos in the courts! If we al­low ev­ery reli­gion to be dis­played in ‘what we wear at the Bar’, it will cause con­fu­sion! Can you imag­ine peo­ple com­ing with feath­ers in their wigs, and all types of ag­badas? It has noth­ing to do with reli­gion, but with the pro­fes­sion and what we know it to be.

The tra­di­tional court out­fit to wit: wig & gown and black & white at­tire, should be re­tained. Ag­badas, bubas, ba­ban­ri­gas, coral beads, caps and hats and geles “et cetera”, should not dis­place the wig and gown as court wear. Oth­er­wise, the court room will be turned into a pan­tomime stage for court jesters. It must not hap­pen. The court room is too se­ri­ous, for this land of ri­otous mix of cos­tumes and colours. A Lawyer who ap­pears in court, not wear­ing his wig and gown, is NOT vis­i­ble to the court and will not be heard. On one oc­ca­sion in the Ibadan High Court, as “am­i­cus cu­riae”, I re­spect­fully di­rected the at­ten­tion of the Hon. Court to the “in­vis­ble” Lawyer. He was not heard by the Court. The wig and gown tra­di­tion, en­hances the dig­nity of the Bar and the Court.

For about a decade or so, you have con­tin­ued to express con­cern over the fall­ing stan­dards in le­gal ed­u­ca­tion and ethics of the pro­fes­sion. The sit­u­a­tion ap­pears to be wors­en­ing, as noth­ing ap­pears to have changed. What mea­sures would you sug­gest can be ap­plied, to en­sure im­prove­ment? The poor stan­dard of the Bar and else­where in the Nige­rian so­ci­ety, is some­thing that causes me a lot of pain.

No coun­try can progress, with­out its peo­ple re­ally at­tain­ing cer­tain stan­dards. I think that we have to go back, to the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem that we have. I have been hor­ri­fied to hear that in uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges, they are now ac­cept­ing 40%, 45% as pass mark! For me, that is fail­ure!

I used to teach Math­e­mat­ics and Latin, in Eng­land and Nige­ria. Any­thing below 50%, is fail­ure. I was aghast when I was told that the Na­tional Uni­ver­si­ties Com­mis­sion (NUC) has ad­vised that, 120 out of 400 should be ac­cept­able. That is 30%! NUC ad­vised that uni­ver­si­ties can ad­just it as they want, but I think that the NUC should be in the fore­front, of mak­ing sure that a higher stan­dard is ex­pected of stu­dents. I am look­ing for­ward to an op­por­tu­nity to meet with the Sec­re­tary of the NUC — Prof. Abubakar A. Rasheed — to en­gage him in a con­ver­sa­tion. I used to teach Latin and Math­e­mat­ics. So, for me, 120 over 400 is a dis­mal fail­ure. That is where we must start, and it touches ev­ery dis­ci­pline, not only law. If you al­low them to progress ed­u­ca­tion­ally with such poor grades, that trans­lates into the poor stan­dards which they bring into the pro­fes­sions, in­clud­ing law.

Some grad­u­ates can­not con­struct simple English sen­tences, and that hor­ri­fies me! How can you ex­pect to prac­tice law, if you can­not put to­gether simple sen­tences in English — the lan­guage of the Court? Thus, we must start at the be­gin­ning. The Law School should re­ex­am­ine the cur­ricu­lum, and pre­pare stu­dents for the IT age. The in­fra­struc­ture at the Law School must be ad­e­quate, so that the stu­dents can study law and be pre­pared for the Bar with a mea­sure of com­fort, con­stant wa­ter sup­ply and elec­tric­ity, and other ameni­ties.

The Alabukun Pow­der (I take it when I have a headache), which your late father in­vented, re­cently marked its 100 year cen­te­nary. Your of­fice is named Alabukun Cham­bers. As a Scion of the late Chief Jacob Odu­late dy­nasty, how do you feel about your father’s en­dur­ing legacy?

I am very proud of my father. He was a ge­nius! That is why, I named my law cham­bers af­ter him. He for­mu­lated about 150 med­i­ca­tions, for dif­fer­ent ail­ments. Un­for­tu­nately, there are no writ­ten records. What has sur­vived him is the Alabukun Pow­der for the re­lief of pain, which is ev­ery­where now. There is also an­other medication, the Alabukun Men­tho­line Balm. Some­how, through his staff, it be­came Aboki and then later, Aboniki. Its ori­gin was Alabukun Men­tho­line Balm. The “bot­tles” of Aboniki on sale on the streets and in the mar­kets in Nige­ria, are ex­actly the same kind of glass bot­tles which my father im­ported from the United King­dom for his Alabukun Men­tho­line Balm. In my up­dated Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy: “Reach­ing for the Stars”, in the in­dex, I pub­lished his lec­tures and pa­pers. He had tremen­dous fore­sight. The pam­phlet ti­tled “Golden Pre­cepts: A Col­lec­tion of Es­says”, is on the Rule of Life. Of course, the Rule of Life is syn­ony­mous with the Rule of Law. I featured it, in the re­vised edi­tion of my book. The price of the pam­phlet was 1 Shilling! It had a pref­ace and had many in­ter­est­ing ar­ti­cles like, “Help Your­self, Oh Africa, Be Hon­est Oh Africa, Wake Up Oh Africans, Africa Shall Rise: When? United We Stand Oh Africa.” I re­mem­ber read­ing all these. He used to pub­lish, an an­nual Alabukun Al­manac. I am still try­ing to get a copy, of one of the al­manacs. I have been to the Alake of Egba, and I have not been able to find a copy.

So, the reign­ing Ooni of Ife, Kabiyesi Adey­eye Eni­tan Ogun­wusi Ojaja II recog­nised my father’s cen­te­nary. The Ooni has also given me an award, “Ira­woNla”, “Big Star”. My father was a ge­nius, and I am very proud of him.

What are your rec­om­men­da­tions, about the mode of ap­point­ment of Ju­di­cial officers in both Fed­eral and State High Courts? In the past few years, lots of crit­i­cisms have trailed ju­di­cial ap­point­ments.

The mode of ap­point­ment for el­e­va­tion to the Bench, should be what it used to be. That is, you were in­vited to be­come a Judge. You were in prac­tice, you ap­peared in court, judges ob­served you, knew your char­ac­ter, your knowl­edge and your rep­u­ta­tion. You were then in­vited, to come to the Bench.

I was in­vited to come to the High Court Bench in Ogun State, the La­gos State and the Oyo State, but I de­clined, be­cause of my love for ad­vo­cacy. In 1987, af­ter we com­pleted an as­sign­ment, of which I was a mem­ber of a Tri­bunal re­view­ing the colos­sal sen­tences im­posed on some politi­cians. I sat on the Tri­bunal headed by Hon Jus­tice Bello. At that time, Chief Jus­tice Bello of the Supreme Court, and Jus­tice Nasir, Pres­i­dent of the Court of Ap­peal, in­vited me to come to the Court of Ap­peal. I told them to give me time, to think about it. Af­ter a lot of de­lib­er­a­tion, I went to La­gos to meet the Jus­tices. I thanked them, for the in­vi­ta­tion. I told them that I did not have the “Divine push” to go to the Bench, be­cause of my love for ad­vo­cacy. As soon as I said that, Jus­tice Bello said ‘nobody can counter that!’ That was how it ended.

Now, ap­pli­cants are fil­ing ap­pli­ca­tion forms, to be el­e­vated to the Bench! How did we get to that? I pray that the prob­lems of the Ju­di­ciary will be ad­dressed, be­cause con­fi­dence in the Ju­di­ciary, has been mas­sively eroded.

I con­sider it an abom­i­na­tion, that as­pir­ing Judges now have to fill ap­pli­ca­tion forms to be con­sid­ered for the sa­cred ju­di­cial po­si­tions.

Let me say this at once, not all the Judges are cor­rupt. There are Judges who labour day and night, to abide by their oath of of­fice, and de­liver judge­ments purely on law and facts. I have no other rec­om­men­da­tion, than to say that peo­ple with char­ac­ter, knowl­edge, schol­ar­ship, im­pec­ca­ble

rep­u­ta­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence, should be ap­pointed to the Bench. Noth­ing to do with who was your father, noth­ing to do with where you come from, or who you know! Noth­ing to do with ex­tra­ne­ous or po­lit­i­cal mat­ters, but pure law, in­tegrity and abil­ity.

Some Se­nior Ad­vo­cates are cur­rently fac­ing tri­als, for cor­rupt and un­eth­i­cal prac­tices. For the first time in his­tory, a Se­nior Advocate was con­victed on sev­eral counts of try­ing to per­vert the course of Jus­tice. What is your opin­ion about this? In the past few months, some have ei­ther been sus­pended from the Inner Bar or have had their priv­i­leges to­tally with­drawn. Does this sug­gest that Ap­pli­cants for Silk are not prop­erly screened? What can be done about this?

Those who en­gage in cor­rupt prac­tices, pol­lute the stream of jus­tice and they break my heart. It’s a be­trayal of the law, a be­trayal of the trust re­posed in them to prac­tice law, as it should be prac­ticed. To en­gage in cor­rupt prac­tices, is a huge be­trayal of the pro­fes­sion. Now, many peo­ple say all Judges are cor­rupt, all Se­nior Ad­vo­cates of Nige­ria are cor­rupt. Well, I am not cor­rupt! It is not good, that they should stain all of us. Their bad be­hav­iour, stains the law and the pro­fes­sion. They should not bring dirt to every­body, through their own cor­rupt prac­tices. The rank of Se­nior Advocate of Nige­ria, is a very el­e­vated and pres­ti­gious po­si­tion. I am very proud that God en­abled me to be­come the first fe­male Se­nior Advocate of Nige­ria in 1981, and I have al­ways been and will al­ways abide by the ethics and tra­di­tions of the pro­fes­sion, “Deo Vo­lente”.

What I will say is that, ev­ery sin­gle Lawyer, what­ever sta­tus, whether a SAN, a Judge or a Ju­nior, must be cor­rup­tion free. The le­gal pro­fes­sion now, is in trou­ble, be­cause of what is hap­pen­ing. Se­nior Ad­vo­cates who cor­rupt their learned pro­fes­sion, are in vi­o­la­tion of the dig­nity and no­bil­ity, hon­our of their cho­sen pro­fes­sion, and bring shame to the le­gal pro­fes­sion. Cri­te­ria for be­ing el­e­vated to the pres­ti­gious rank should be strictly ap­plied, in or­der to el­e­vate can­di­dates only on merit, with­out any ex­tra­ne­ous con­sid­er­a­tion. The Body of Se­nior Ad­vo­cates should be ex­tremely con­cerned about the cor­rupt prac­tices of some of its mem­bers, and ini­ti­ate some in­ter­nal mech­a­nisms to call them to ac­count to the Body, in or­der not to dam­age the pres­ti­gious rank irrevocabl­y. The lead­er­ship role of the SANs must not be com­pro­mised, as they are ex­pected to be ex­cel­lent ex­am­ples for the Ju­niors.

Do you agree that the Oc­to­ber 2016 raids on Ju­di­cial Officers, has had a pos­i­tive ef­fect on cleans­ing the le­gal pro­fes­sion in Nige­ria?

I do not like, nor sup­port that kind of Gestapo tac­tics. Due process must be fol­lowed. Due process can­not per­mit you to go and break down the doors of a Judge in the dead of night, or at any time. No! The Na­tional Ju­di­cial Coun­cil, is there. That is where a com­plaint should start. I do not agree with what they did. And I don’t think it has done any­thing, to cleanse the Ju­di­ciary or the le­gal pro­fes­sion. In fact, the noc­tur­nal as­sault, has dam­aged the in­de­pen­dence of the Ju­di­ciary. How would you rate the 2019 elec­tions? Well, I don’t know. But, the turnout was abysmally low. It cre­ated the impression that peo­ple were unim­pressed, and a lot of money was in­volved. While I will not con­demn all politi­cians, there are some who only care about their pock­ets. They do not care about the peo­ple. I was ex­tremely sad that, peo­ple have lost faith in the elec­toral process. We must sit down as gov­ern­ment, and see what can be done. We must re­duce the in­flu­ence of money, in our po­lit­i­cal process. Money can be a cause of cor­rup­tion, be­cause af­ter spend­ing such huge amounts of money, the politi­cians would like to re­cover “in­vest­ments” when they get into of­fice, and that is cor­rup­tion.

How would you rate the per­for­mance of the Buhari Ad­min­is­tra­tion in its first term, es­pe­cially in re­la­tion to the fight against cor­rup­tion? Now that he has com­menced his sec­ond term, what steps do you think he should take to ful­fill his pri­mary cam­paign prom­ises of fight­ing in­se­cu­rity and cor­rup­tion, and fix­ing the Nige­rian econ­omy? What do you ex­pect from the ad­min­is­tra­tion this sec­ond term?

Last week, I was so dis­turbed when I read por­tions of a re­port, which was pub­lished in THE ECON­O­MIST. It gave such a damn­ing as­sess­ment, of the first term of Pres­i­dent Buhari. It re­ally made me sad. I do hope that, in his sec­ond term, the Pres­i­dent will look into the grievances of the peo­ple such as cor­rup­tion, se­cu­rity and poverty of ameni­ties. Un­for­tu­nately, peo­ple are not happy. If you can­not get rid of cor­rup­tion, we can­not make progress as a na­tion. How many suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tions have promised to re­solve the power sup­ply de­ba­cle, for in­stance?

Now, take the La­gos-Ibadan Express Way, which suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tions have been re­pair­ing for over 20 years. Take a look at the rail­ways, for an­other ex­am­ple. We do not know how many times, dif­fer­ent ad­min­is­tra­tions have promised to re­sus­ci­tate the rail­ways. We do not know how many bil­lions or trillions of dol­lars, have been paid to Chi­nese com­pa­nies to re­pair our rail­ways. When I was a pupil at Methodist Girls High School in La­gos last cen­tury, I was travelling from La­gos to Abeokuta by train. I used to en­joy the train jour­ney. It went through Lafenwa Sta­tion where I dis­em­barked, and would con­tinue to the North of Nige­ria.

Those are ex­am­ples, of what the new ad­min­is­tra­tion should do some­thing about. Power prob­lem should be solved. How can you ex­pect in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, when you do not have power? It will not hap­pen. With­out power, tourism is a joke. Now, I do not want to for­get what the former Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Kemi Adeo­sun in­tro­duced, namely the “Whis­tle blower” Pol­icy, be­cause Kemi Adeo­sun is no longer there. Ev­ery cit­i­zen must be in­volved, in pre­serv­ing this pol­icy. I re­mem­ber in a lec­ture I gave in 2017 in Abuja, at the Chief JK Gadzama SAN 10th An­nual Lec­ture, I spoke about the Whis­tle Blower Pol­icy, and rec­om­mended that gov­ern­ment should not just im­ple­ment it as a pol­icy. If the pol­icy is trans­lated into law, it will con­tinue and sur­vive ev­ery other ad­min­is­tra­tion, to re­duce cor­rup­tion for the progress of the na­tion.

I ex­pect the Buhari Ad­min­is­tra­tion, in its sec­ond term, to re­view its per­for­mance dur­ing the first term, and ini­ti­ate novel poli­cies and pro­grammes to im­prove their per­for­mance, by cor­rect­ing pre­vi­ous er­rors of his gov­er­nance. The Pres­i­dent should de­mon­strate to the peo­ple, his gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to: jus­tice,

and en­sure the se­cu­rity of the peo­ple.

An Abuja High Court presided over by Hon Jus­tice Dan­lami Senchi, re­cently, im­posed a rather huge fine on the Lawyer who filed a suit over the al­leged fal­si­fi­ca­tion of age of the Act­ing Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria, Hon. Tanko Muham­mad, JSC. There has been an out­cry, over the N10 mil­lion fine the court im­posed on the Lawyer. What does this say about the rights of cit­i­zens to ap­proach the courts over their grievances?

Let me say that, it is part of the law that we should all have ac­cess to the courts. But, the N10m fine is ex­ces­sive. I know those con­cerned, will ap­peal. But, you do not treat the courts with lev­ity. I do not have the facts of the case, but I read that af­ter fil­ing it, when the case was in court, the ini­tia­tor of the case was not there. That is what I read, in the print me­dia.

You can­not take any­thing friv­o­lous, to the court. If you take a case to the court, and for any rea­son you are un­able to at­tend court, it’s a mat­ter of cour­tesy that you write a let­ter to the court, as to why you are un­able to come. But, if you feel strongly about your claim, you must go and pros­e­cute your case in court. Ap­par­ently, the Lawyer was not there, and nobody was there. Why did he file the case? That prob­a­bly ir­ri­tated the Judge. The time of the court is too pre­cious for friv­o­lous claims, which you are not go­ing to pur­sue. But, that should not put off lit­i­gants, who have se­ri­ous and gen­uine claims.

For the first time in the his­tory of our coun­try, we saw a Chief Jus­tice docked (be­fore a Mag­is­trate) on al­le­ga­tions of false dec­la­ra­tion of as­sets. What did you make of the whole saga? Which side of the divide do you be­long to - the side that in­sists that it was a witch hunt and that Gov­ern­ment did not fol­low due process, or the side that ap­plauded Gov­ern­ment for its ac­tions in this mat­ter?

I must say to you that, I have prac­ticed law for 56 years, and I have en­deav­oured to serve the course of jus­tice. Then, when the Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria was sus­pended, I was trau­ma­tised. I was calling every­body on the phone. The first time I heard about it, I was with my 96 years old sis­ter — Chief Mrs. S.O. Ode­sanya. She called me on the phone on a Satur­day evening, and told me that she had heard on the tele­vi­sion that, the CJN was be­ing pros­e­cuted. I told her ‘Sis­ter, please, it can­not hap­pen. I don’t know what you heard on tele­vi­sion’. And, I thought she was say­ing ‘court one, court two, court three’ and so on. In­deed, she was say­ing ‘count one, count two, count three...’ I told her ‘Sis­ter, please, noth­ing like that can hap­pen. Go and have a glass of red wine, and go and sleep, to­mor­row is an­other day’. So, I went to bed. The next day be­ing Sun­day, I came out of Church and bought news­pa­pers. I looked at it, page 1, it was there ‘Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria be­ing pros­e­cuted be­fore the Code of Con­duct Tri­bunal on six (6) counts’. I wept in the car, on my way home. I re­mem­bered my sis­ter calling me the pre­vi­ous night, and I couldn’t call her that morn­ing. But, in the evening I strug­gled to call her. I apol­o­gised to her, that I didn’t un­der­stand what she was say­ing the pre­vi­ous day. She said to me ‘it is al­right, now you go and take a glass of red wine, and go to bed’.

Then for the Pres­i­dent to say he had sus­pended the

“THOSE WHO EN­GAGE IN COR­RUPT PRAC­TICES, THEY POL­LUTE THE STREAM OF JUS­TICE, AND THEY BREAK MY HEART. IT’S A BE­TRAYAL OF THE LAW, A BE­TRAYAL OF THE TRUST RE­POSED IN THEM TO PRAC­TICE LAW, AS IT SHOULD BE PRAC­TICED. TO EN­GAGE IN COR­RUPT PRAC­TICES, IS A HUGE BE­TRAYAL OF THE PRO­FES­SION”

‘I WEPT, WHEN I READ ABOUT ONNOGHEN’S TRIAL’ “....I WAS SO DIS­TURBED WHEN I READ POR­TIONS OF A RE­PORT, WHICH WAS PUB­LISHED IN THE ECON­O­MIST. IT GAVE SUCH A DAMN­ING AS­SESS­MENT, OF THE FIRST TERM OF PRES­I­DENT BUHARI. IT RE­ALLY MADE ME SAD. I DO HOPE THAT, IN HIS SEC­OND TERM, THE PRES­I­DENT WILL LOOK INTO THE GRIEVANCES OF THE PEO­PLE, SUCH AS COR­RUP­TION, SE­CU­RITY AND POVERTY OF AMENI­TIES”

Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria on an ex­parte or­der, I don’t know how to de­scribe it. “Ex­parte” is a Latin phrase, which means ‘from one side.’ The per­son who was go­ing to be af­fected by the or­der, was not present. Ap­par­ently, they had ad­journed the mat­ter in the af­ter­noon, only for peo­ple to wake up in the morn­ing, and be told about the noc­tur­nal or­der ad­vis­ing the Pres­i­dent to sus­pend the Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria. I still can­not get over it. It is a dis­grace of the law. It is a dis­grace of the le­gal pro­fes­sion, and a dis­grace to the coun­try. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity would say ‘don’t take your in­vest­ments to Nige­ria. Their Chief Jus­tice is in the dock and has been con­victed. They do not have a cred­i­ble le­gal sys­tem. I can­not imag­ine any­thing worse, hap­pen­ing to the Chief Jus­tice of a coun­try’.

I am not talking about mis­con­duct, no. I am talking about breach of due process. I do not re­joice, when any­body falls from the top to the bot­tom. The sus­pen­sion and sub­se­quent con­vic­tion of the former Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria, con­sti­tutes a dag­ger in the very heart and soul of the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice. This na­tional and pro­fes­sional tragedy, is soulde­stroy­ing. The law must sur­vive, be­cause if the law fails, the coun­try be­comes a failed State. I was trau­ma­tised by the tragedy. May the na­tion be healed. “Deo Vo­lente”. I ag­o­nise when a per­son falls from grace to grass, and crashes down from a pin­na­cle to the ground. No one should ju­bi­late, over an­other hu­man be­ing’s catas­tro­phe.

The Pres­i­dent of the Nige­rian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion is be­ing tried in court by the EFCC, over al­le­ga­tions of money laun­der­ing in ex­cess of N4.5 bil­lion. Many have de­manded that Paul Usoro, SAN should step aside un­til the trial is con­cluded. But, he has re­fused. Do you sup­port such a call , or do you be­lieve that those who are mak­ing the call, should wait for the fi­nal out­come of the case?

The trial ini­ti­ated by the EFCC (Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion) of my learned friend of the Silk, Paul Usoro, SAN, the NBA Pres­i­dent for al­le­ga­tions of money laun­der­ing, is “sub ju­dice”. Suf­fice it to say, that his de­clared de­fence is that, the money was pro­fes­sional fees for a num­ber of Lawyers, in­clud­ing him­self, for pro­fes­sional ser­vices ren­dered to clients. Un­der the rule of law, a per­son is pre­sumed in­no­cent un­til proven guilty. We have to await, the verdict of the court.

The na­tion is presently on the boil, as ev­ery part of the coun­try is fac­ing one form of se­cu­rity chal­lenge or the other, ter­ror­ism, in­sur­gency, kid­nap­ping and rit­ual killings. Is this the Nige­ria of your dreams? What panacea would you prof­fer, to these in­tractable prob­lems be­dev­illing our na­tion?

Any gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to se­cure the safety of its peo­ple, and to de­sign pro­grammes for their wel­fare. But, to­day, this doesn’t seem to be the case. A month ago, one of our Ibadan Lawyers was go­ing to the Akure Di­vi­sion of the Court of Ap­peal, and he was way­laid by ban­dits along the way, who took him and his driver away. They walked miles in the wilder­ness, and there was an alert sent ev­ery­where. He was with them, for over 24 hours. That kind of ex­pe­ri­ence, can kill a per­son. And I un­der­stand that, money passed be­fore they were re­leased. This has be­come a coun­try, where you can­not travel safely. Now, the herds­men are ram­pag­ing farms and ev­ery­where. Women are be­ing raped ev­ery day. May God help us! The gov­ern­ment has to do some­thing about the in­tol­er­a­ble high level of in­se­cu­rity, in the coun­try. I rec­om­mend that: be sub­mit­ted to the Pres­i­dent, on how cor­rup­tion will erad­i­cated in the Min­istry.

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Pho­tos: Ko­la­wole Alli

Chief Fo­lake Solanke, SAN

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