Tuesday, June 28, 2016

THE JUSTICE LAWAL ORDER

THE ORDER OF JUSTICE LAWAL today in the OGUNLANA vs NBA& ORS CASE . Tomorrow will be the litmus test of how the Defendants in this case, particularly the 4th Defendant may care to obey court orders. Tomorrow is when the 4th Defendant states when he will swear in Prince Dele Oloke — with Saheed Adebayo and 2 others.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lagos court frees robbery suspects

THE GUARDIAN MARCH 26 2009

CITING the inability of the state counsel, Mrs. A.A Olorunfemi, to produce the prosecution witness (PW1), Judge Benedicta Shitta-Bey of Lagos High Court yesterday set free two armed robbery suspects standing trial before her.

The suspects, who were on bail, have been standing trial at the court in the past six years.

At yesterday's hearing, Olorunfemi told the court that the witness spoke to her a day earlier, saying that he would not be in court because of some official engagements outside the state.
The prosecution counsel then requested an adjournment to enable her produce the witness or other witnesses for the start of the defence.
But defence counsel, Adesina Ogunlana, opposed the prosecutor's application on grounds that it has taken the state more than three years to produce its witness.

He also argued that in the interest of justice and record purposes, PW1 should be excused from the trial while Olorunfemi should call other witnesses to move the case forward.

Ogunlana told the court that the suspects have been attending its proceedings from Badagry for six years, draining their resources.
He also argued that if it would take three years for Olorunfemi to produce a witness who had earlier testified in court, it might then take nine years to produce three other witnesses.

But Olorunfemi, in her objection, told the court that she could not compel the witness on national duty outside the state to come to court.
Citing the gravity of the charges, she also prayed the court to grant her another adjournment to get the second witness since PW1 was not immediately available. In her ruling, Judge Shitta-Bey closed PW1's testimony and upon close examinations of the number of adjournments taken on the case, cautioned the accused to steer clear of the circumstances that brought them before her and struck out the case.

I’m Into Magazine Publication to Fight Corruption in the Judiciary – Ogunlana

National Mirror – November 20 2008

Unionist, Lawyer and Publisher, Adesina Ogunlana is an interesting personality. In the Lagos State Judiciary, the fear of his weekly magazine, the Squib, is the beginning of wisdom. In this interview with our Reporter, Adeyemi Adebanjo, he explains the rationale behind the setting up of the magazine. Excerpts:

How long have you been in practice?

I was called to the bar on March 14 1996. so I am just 12 years old. I am a young lawyer.

How has the practice been so far?

Interesting! I enjoy the practice of law. By nature I am an agitator and so in practice I’ve been essentially an advocate. I don’t think I have even incorporated a company, that is I have not dabbled into commercial practice. I don’t think I have sold a piece of land. I don’t think I have sold any house for people. People say that there is a lot of money in those kind of practice but I have not dabbled into it. I do not have interest in that. My interest is in the traditional aspect of lawyering; going to court and defending the interest of my client. And I find that rewarding. Rewarding emotionally, rewarding mentally and I also think rewarding financially.

Are you saying that you’ve never been approached to handle land matters, or that you simply don’t take such briefs?

Maybe both ways. You know the way legal practice is. It’s that it is what you are interested in or what you are doing that you continue to do. There are lawyers who sell properties, they call them property lawyers and that’s what they continue to do, searching for buyers or for sellers, perfecting documents of properties and all those kinds of work. There are people that look for briefs from banks, recovery of loans, they go to the legal departments of the concerned banks and all that and you go to court for them.

There are various aspects, many aspects of the legal profession but I am not interested. But I am not saying if somebody should bring such briefs to me I will reject them outright, but it is not my first love. I am a traditional value lawyer, litigation. People say there is no money in it but that’s what makes me happy.

You are also a publisher. What informs your decision to dabble into newspaper publication?

Well, thank you. I am not just the publisher of a magazine. I have actually written four books on the profession. One is ‘Understanding the Secrets of Successul Lawyers’ I have also written a book on ethics and jurisprudence entitled, ‘Why Lawyers Are Angels but Other People Say No.’ I have written on the late legendary lawyer, Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams, and I think I wrote a book on the election of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in 2006 which saw Olisa Agbakoba SAN emerge as the president of the association. That book is titled, ‘The Stranger Who Became King.’

As for the magazine, it is called The Squib. It is a weekly magazine and it has been on the newsstands since 2001. and Squib was a reaction, my reaction to the massive and widespread corruption and conduct in the judiciary and the legal profession when I joined it, when I became a lawyer in 1996. You may not know it, but I will say that in 1996 when I became a lawyer that was 11 years after I became a graduate, law was my second degree and I graduated first in 1985 and I was a teacher, a secondary school teacher until 1990 when I got into LASU to read law. And I read law as an adult. I was 26 years old when I started reading law and I became a Students Union leader, an activist. I finally graduated in 1995, because of student union problems and temporary expulsion from the university which lasted for almost two years.

So when I came in here, what I found was that we had a situation of bribery, widespread bribery and corruption and extortion. The bribery thing was from the lowest cadre to the highest cadre in the judiciary. That’s my personal experience which I endured for about three years. You know when you are a new lawyer, people toss you about, you want to file papers they will demand bribe or gratification.
In the court rooms, registrars you want to collect some papers, documents, they will demand bribe. And there were judges and magistrates who collected bribe. It was widespread and the NBA was not doing anything about it, at least not to the level someone like myself wanted.

So by year 2000 I had started writing articles and I would just produce about 300 articles and circulate them myself. And I think the next week I did it, somebody called me, Olanrewaju; I have forgotten his first name now and he said these your pieces are so good, why don’t you turn it into a magazine – as I was raising issues. And the one of the issues that bothered me then was that there was a judge, the late Justice Victor Manuwa who was eventually dismissed from service. Information was rife then that he had been suspended from office, and yet the judge continued to sit. And I wrote an article about that. I remember another…Karibi Whyte was reported in the international press that he was dozing at the International Court of Justice at the Hague, that the Nigerian judge was dozing while the court was in session and I wrote an article about that. And you could see that I was getting worried and concerned about the judiciary and the legal profession.

And so as a reaction to the corruption that was going on then, I started the Squib on March 21 2001. and the Chief Judge at that time, Justice Christoper Segun left in June and Ibitola Shotuminu came in, and that was it.

So the Squib was set up to fight corruption. Nobody was ready to rock the boat. People would complain in the quietness of their rooms and safety of their chambers; there was a lot of gossip and all that but nobody was ready to bell the cat. So I adopted a motto for the magazine which is “The Heavens Will Not Fall” and our modus operandi is to get to the bottom of corruption and misconduct, investigate it and expose it irrespective of the fact that you are a CJ, whether a fake lawyer, whosoever you are as long as you are in the judiciary sector and you’ve not done well.

Looking back now, do you think you’ve been able to meet the goal of setting up the magazine?

Maybe I may not be the proper person to answer that question since I am the publisher and the editor-in-chief of the magazine.

Have there been periods when you sat down and said to yourself, yes we are forging on?

Why not? I have never relented. I said earlier that it’s a weekly magazine. It is neither monthly nor quarterly. I don’t just want to talk much on that because I don’t want to be seen as blowing our own trumpet. But I can tell you that the Squib is the longest legal journal. By far wealthier lawyers, more respectable lawyers have floated one lawyer’s magazine or the other, but none was a weekly magazine. When we started, even professional journalists, judicial correspondents would tell me that it would not last, that after about six months or one year, that the magazines don’t live long in Nigeria. But seven and a half years on, the Squib is still on. And if we’ve not been embraced by the people, the Squib would have died. And for you to think that the Squib survived various persecutions, my workers were arrested more than five times, brutalized more than 5 times, charged to court. I have also been taken before the disciplinary committee of the body of benchers and the Squib is still on. And like I used to say, up till date nobody has dared take my magazine to court for libel.

I agree that we libel people but there is a defence to the law of libel, justification. Anything you read in The Squib you can be sure it is the truth, it may seem so strange. If a Chief Judge is corrupt like I have exposed two before, we just published and we prove. We don’t just keep quiet. The magazine monitors Lagos State High Court and about 80% of them are being monitored, that is the judges in the state high courts. We send staff there everyday to monitor when they sit, when they rise and we publish all these. And this has forced many judges to be more punctual and there is a popular saying in the state judiciary that the fear of The Squib is the beginning of wisdom. Before we came on board, corruption was brazen, but now nobody can dare to be corrupt and be open about it because there is a Squib factor in the Lagos State Judiciary and the legal profession. They will say, oh The Squib will hear about it and will publish. Not only about judges, so many lawyers, we have exposed lawyers who are fake, who have been practicing for so many years. We have exposed lawyers who have misconducted themselves. That is The Squib. I believe that the mere fact that we are on the news stands every week and lawyers buy it, judicial workers buy it and litigants; these are favourable responses to us. Letters are also written to us. The Squib is as factor in the Lagos State Judiciary because everybody knows that there is one platform where instances of misconduct can be reported and published fearlessly. And you know that when you are an administrator, you wouldn’t want your misdeeds to be openly reported and so you amend your ways. To that extent, The Squib has affected the quality of our administration of justice in Lagos State.

From your account of what your paper is into is it not likely that you will be rather unpopular amongst your colleagues?

If you say so that will mean that these are people who are corrupt. If you are a judge and you don’t like my magazine, you don’t like me, it is most likely that you are corrupt. If you are a lawyer and you don’t like what we are doing, it’s most likely that you are involved in several instances of misconduct.

Has there been any instance of your being harassed either physically or otherwise by your colleagues?

Let me say this…my colleagues, I don’t think so. Of course there are people that have…you can’t stop people from making snide remarks, uncomplimentary remarks mostly behind your back; oh, is he the only one, what does he mean and all that.

On the other hand, there are many people who appreciate our service, our courage, our sacrificial commitment. And they say this to our face that but for you this profession would have gone badly. Now as for attack, in the course of producing the Squib I have been physically attacked in the office thrice. Gun men came to my office about two years ago, I escaped that. People have broken into my office twice in two days through the roof and destroyed my computers looking for documents.

As for judges, I do my cases but for one or two incidents when to my face no judge has dared to harass me. I am simply not harassable in court. But about two weeks ago when I was not in court, judge, Funmilayo Atilade, a justice of the Lagos State High Court sitting at Igbosere was making uncomplimentary remarks about my chambers when I was not there. A junior colleague had gone to represent us in a case and when the judge heard my name, she was said to have asked my colleague: oh young lady, what are you doing in that chamber? You can’t gain anything from there, that trash, and all that. And on account of that, our client later came to say that he was not comfortable with retaining us as his counsel and I sympathized with him; I understand with him. We handed over his brief. He is not an activist, he is a businessman. He has the option of saying Mr. lawyer, try and get our case from that judge because the judge is biased against you, it’s going to affect me. But his own perspection is that instead of changing the court, he changed us; but that happens everyday, people for one reason or the other change their lawyers. They have their constitutional right to do so.

So, but if I were in that court, believe me that judge will not dare say that. I have never lost a case on account of the Squib. People used to fear, oh you will lose cases, the judge is going to be annoyed and all of that. But me as the editor of the Squib, is different from me as the owner and principal of the Winners Don’t Quit Chambers.

What should Lagosians be expecting from you vis a vis The Squib in the area of innovation or even extension of the magazine to Lagosians generally, that is not restricted to lawyers and the court?

It is lawyers magazine. I have no…I use the magazine as a critique. And let me say this, if at the risk of sounding as blowing my own trumpet, there is nothing like The Squib. This is the only magazine that is profession specific and profession critical. There is no magazine…My magazine is unique and peculiar in the sense that it is not talking about the principles of law, it’s talking about the operators of the administration of justice and criticizing them, and evaluating them. It’s like having a teacher’s magazine, criticizing and exposing corrupt principals, randy lecturers. Or you have a doctor’s magazine which says oh in so and so hospital there is a killer nurse, in so and so hospital there is a corrupt doctor and all that.

I do not intend to extend it as to the people and say…People who are not lawyers are free to buy it but…There was a time we were thinking of extending it to cover the parliament but we don’t have the resources yet, I realized that we may be over-stretching ourselves because my first love now is law and Squib and it is tasking. Though I am not prepared to become a full time journalist, I have to restrain myself within the ability and capacity that I can cope with.
So Lagosians are free to come to the court and buy it. If you want to know what is happening within the Lagos State Judiciary, how it’s being run, that’s the magazine to buy. In fact, it is the only magazine, we have no rival. All the other magazines, they come maybe twice a year but for you to know how judges behave, how lawyers react, what is happening; The Squib is the way to go.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Court Boycott By Lawyers is in Nigeria's Interest

The Nation Monday May 21, 2007 p.37

APRIL POLLS


Court boycott by lawyers is in Nigeria’s interest


Adesina Ogunlana read Law as a second degree at the Lagos State University (LASU) and was called to the Bar 13 years ago. He obtained his first degree – a Bachelors of Arts in English Studies from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife in 1985. Ogunlana spoke with FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE on the court boycott by lawyers to protest the outcome of last month’s elections, the judiciary and sundry issues.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) boycotted the courts over what it called “political robbery” of the April polls. Do you support such protest from an association that is not a trade union?

I support the action, I support the NBA for doing that. Who says NBA is not a trade union?

Essentially, what do you do as a trade union? You try to fight and protect the interest of members.

The NBA, as an association of lawyers, must give direction to the country in line with the dictum of the first Nigerian lawyer, Sapara Williams, who said: “in a developing country, such as ours, a lawyer must live for the direction and guidance of his people.”

The NBA is a pressure group and in boycotting the court, they are even making sacrifice. That day, we are not going to earn money.

If lawyers are, indeed, leaders of their community, then, it is proper for them to show or exhibit or at least reflect the views of the majority of reasonable people in their community.

While we go on strike, attention will unnecessarily be drawn to the issue of gross electoral banditry that was afflicted on the Nigerian nation last month.

Don’t forget, the NBA is not endorsing riot or asking people not to go to tribunal. But as a group of leaders in their community, they are showing to the world their displeasure on what happened during the April general elections.

The late Chief FRA Williams SAN) said in 2002 “that strike, in whatever form by lawyers, is a breach of contract.” Do you not see the symbolic strike by the lawyers’ umbrella group as a betrayal of the trust of clients?

The late FRA Williams, may his soul rest in eternal peace, was indeed a great man. But people like him are entitled to their opinion. What is the calling of a lawyer? It is essentially to see that justice is done. Not only beyond winning cases, but to ensure that justice and conflict are resolved through legal means.

Is there any law that says that strike is illegal? No! the most important thing is to conduct your self well.

Apparently, the advice of the late legal icon was not relevant as you can see from lawyers’ protest in Pakistan.

In other words, political and legal protests are legal. It will be improper for anybody to condemn it, the planned protest as a mode of thuggery. For instance, when a former Chief Judge banned The Squib publication in the court premises, I could go to court against her or I could choose to resist.

But I chose resistance and at the end of the day, they backed out. Would you call that thuggery? No!

If you choose the legal option, there may be an elite conspiracy.

In other words, Chief Williams’ position is wrong. We are fighting for Nigeria.

On the consequence of the strike being a breach of contract as the late FRA put it. I strongly disagree with the late legal icon. What did he mean by a breach of contract? We embarked on strike in 2002 because the filing fees were too high. How our clients now complain when we protested against the fees then. Those clients, let me ask you, when client did not sue the court? Even when he died, courts were closed in his honour for about three days.

JUSAN went on strike for a whole month. Why did the clients not sue the judiciary? That argument, with due respect to the late legal icon, is not tenable.

Are you saying because the clients neither sued the judiciary nor the lawyers, JUSAN’s boycott was right?

Chief FRA Williams, I am telling you could not have been right. Put yourself in the position of a client. The contract you have with your lawyer is to go to court to litigate. The lawyer has not said he id not going to court. He is only going on strike for a day. He does not say that he is not representing you.

But what he is saying is that on so-so date(s), he will not go on with the case because for your sake, we are taking a political stance. Even the planned strike is for your own sake because your mandate has been stolen. Democracy has been ridiculed and Nigeria’s future, sabotaged. Anybody that has committed political robbery is worse than an armed robber and unless it is checkmated, the court and justice system will be useless in the long run. So, lawyers are saying let us have a symbolic protest, you are saying it is illegal. Left to me, the strike should go on for two weeks. But our leader, Chief Olisa Agbakoba, is a “velvet” activist and moderate. Otherwise, I would have preferred two weeks for the symbolic protest to have the desired effect. We are leaders with responsibilities to the people.

We are talking of nation building here. We are talking of sacrificial patriotism. We are talking of checkmating political brigandage and bastardization of democratic norms which a section of the political leadership inflicted on the country. At that level, we should be talking of political redemption of our country and not private comfort. Private comfort cannot come first. Of course, we cannot deny the fact that boycott will cause discomfort in some quarters. We cannot make omelettes without breaking the eggs.

Our clients understand and they know that the planned strike is not selfish. It is for the benefit of us all. So, the question of betraying their trust does not arise.

Of course, assuming there is no strike, some cases could not have gone on due to a number of reasons, such as the absence of trial judge absence of witnesses, litigants, power outage, etc.

In such instances, the clients won’t die! Therefore, the short delay of one day strike would not injure justice so substantially.

Was anything wrong with the election that would propel lawyers to embark on a strike?

Yes, the organization was poor in the sense that election materials were not enough, did not come early, elections did not start early. Despite high condemnation by foreign observers, INEC Chairman rated it 80 per cent alright.

In fact, there was no election substantially except in places such as Lagos which happened to be the most peaceful in the South-West, if not the whole country. It was a charade.

Hearing of election petitions have begun. But there are fears that justice may be sacrificed on the altar of technicalities at the tribunals. Do you nurse such fears?

The problem is that of the attitude of election tribunals in Nigeria, where, usually, they have difficulties overturning rigged elections.

For instance, in the Buhari vs. Obasanjo election matter in 2003, at the end of the day, the court ruled that President Obasanjo won.

The system, under the new rules, is front-loading and filing. How do you establish proof that elections were rigged?

It is not enough to make claims. You must prove them. I made a prediction on a television programme that despite widespread complaints that there were irregularities during the elections, only a few politicians will go to tribunals because very few of them have proof or people who can come up to say what they saw or experienced during the elections. That is the problem.

Another problem is that INEC may hide documents on falsified results. These are, however, just challenges. Any serious contender will have people who can depose to affidavits or statements of what they saw.

If INEC proves uncooperative, the court is there to compel the agency to cooperate.

How would you assess the judiciary and the rule of law in the past eight years of Obasanjo’s administration? I mean what legacy is he leaving behind?

The judiciary has really thrived very well. In fact, we have legislative rascality and executive mischief. But, we have always been having judicial stability. Unlike other arms of the government, the judiciary had striven to flush out bad eggs.

The Eso panel was implemented and horrible judges have been flushed out, although some of them are still there. It is not yet uhuru. But we must commend the judiciary, Belgore,, Uwais and Kutigi. They have all put in their best into the development of the judiciary.

But for the judiciary, democracy would have been aborted. People should have confidence in the tribunals. The judges are afterall Nigerians. They knew what happened. They are not living on the moon. Those things happened in their presence.

I only ask lawyers to do their cases very well. I believe the tribunal will not rely on technicalities to strike out cases. Lawyers should package their cases very well.

I have faith in the tribunal. The whole world is watching them. So, they cannot afford to fail. We know that the integrity of the judges is at stake.

For instance, those we sent from Lagos – Adefope-Okojie, Olateru-Olagbegi, Okuwobi, and Ipaye are judges of high integrity. They cannot afford to disappoint and let their families, the Bar and the Lagos State Government down. If they do, they would return to Lagos.

Barrister Adesina Ogunlana attended the University of Ife, Ile-Ife for Bachelor degree in English Studies between 1981 and 1985. thereafter, he proceeded to Lagos State University (LASU) for his LLB in Law between 1989 and 1993.

Lawyers call themselves learned friends, but they behave like adversaries

Daily Sun Friday January 19 2007 p.30

Online Reference:

http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/columnists/bar/bar-jan-19-2007.htm


Life in the Bar
Ekechukwu M. Chioma


Lawyers call themselves learned friends, but they behave like adversaries


Background
My name is Adesina Ogunlana. I am 43 years old. I am married. I attended two universities, University of Ife, where I studied English in 1985 and Lagos State University, where I studied Law in 1995. I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1996. Since then, I have been in active practice in Lagos State.

Why Law
I was made to study Law by a lady. I was a teacher then and I took my students to a debate and we came first. I was in Kano State then. After the competition, a female teacher just walked up to me and said: ‘What are you doing being a teacher? If you could speak so well like this, you will make a good lawyer. I decided to take up the challenge to study Law. That was how I became a lawyer.

Role model in the profession
I admire Chief Gani Fawehinmi for his courage. I also admire Chief G.O.K Ajayi for his competence and firmness; Mr. Lawal Pedro who is the director of civil litigation at the Ministry of Justice, Alausa, Lagos State. I also appreciate all those lawyers who have contributed positively to the development of our legal system.

Areas of specialization
Most lawyers in Nigeria are general practitioners. I am a general practitioner, like most of my colleagues, but I can say that I have bias for criminal law, employment law. People call me a criminal defence lawyer because I handle many criminal matters. I also handle contract cases.

What I treasure most as a lawyer
I treasure my knowledge of the law and the respect that other members of the society have for lawyers. People respect lawyers. Wherever you go to, as a lawyer, you are looked upon as somebody who is wise. Even in your family, they want to hear the lawyer’s opinion. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or not. I also appreciate the fact that as a lawyer, you know your right and you know what to do at any given time. I equally treasure my books and I also treasure honesty because that is what gives you a good name as a lawyer. If you are not honest, people cannot trust you. So, it pays to be honest not only because you are a lawyer but in whatever field of human endeavour you find yourself.

Partnership
Partnership is the coming together of two or more persons with a common objective of making profit. Lawyers coming together to form partnership is ideal, but in Nigeria, partnership in law practice does not flourish because so many factors work against it. Currently, I am not into any partnership. As much as it is desirable, it is not easy because a partnership is like marriage. Of course, when you look at the good aspect of partnership, such as increased versatility, mutual assistance and heightened competence, one will say partnership is good, but then because money is involved you must have core values with your partners. when you form a partnership, the families of the partners become like one and all these can bring complications. Partnership is good if it can work. It can create a good atmosphere for tolerance, leadership development and communication.

Lawyers and lies
Yes I believe that most lawyers are liars like most Nigerians are liars, they are big time liars without conscience.

Standard of legal education in Nigeria
Just like the standard of education in Nigeria is falling, that of legal education is also. The problem is that most people who enter universities now did ‘jankara.’ Some of them didn’t pass JAMB and WASC examinations. Also the quality of lecturers has diminished. We now have lecturers who do not even speak good English. So, when you have situations like that what do you expect from the students. Also, the attitude of law students to dressing and ethics is poor. For us to have a dynamic legal education, all hands must be on deck. The lecturers in our universities should be empowered. Chambers should also endeavour to send lawyers to conferences, seminars and workshops. Learning should not end at the Law School.

A day in the life of a lawyer
Life of a lawyer is a busy one. A day in the life of a lawyer is full of activities. For a lawyer, who is in active practice, you go to court in the morning to conduct your case after which you return to your office to attend to clients and other issues. For those of us who combine our practice with journalism, it is hectic because you have to go the extra mile to ensure that you satisfy your clients and also your esteemed readers.

Challenges on managing a law firm
Managing a law firm, just as any other business is a systematic application of potentialities and skills of both the lawyer and the support staff go reach the optimal goal. The challenges of managing a law firm are great. Capital is usually the biggest challenge and once you overcome it, the next is how to organize your business to enable you employ good workforce, and consequently increase productivity, thereby maximizing profit. A law firm must be ready to acquire the best technological facilities that increase output. This is because the era of using obsolete technology is gone. We are in the era of competition and branding. A law firm must equip itself with modern facilities.

Assessment of the judiciary
At the peak, the judiciary is okay (Court of Appeal, Supreme Court) but at the high court level, I will just say 60 percent. We have judges who are ignorant. We have judges who are timid and we have judges who are lazy. We also have judges who are brilliant, sound and are industrious. At the magistrate court level, corruption is prevalent. At the lower level of the judiciary, it is not really laudable, but at the higher level, it is good.

Temptations at the Bar
Most of my clients are ancient women, so I am not tempted. I have not seen anybody, not even the junior colleagues can tempt me. The truth is that most people see me as fearsome. So, to that extent, I can say that I have not been tempted, at least, not yet.

Friendship at the Bar
That is a big concept that most people don’t understand. Friendship at the Bar is a big concept that many people find difficult to understand. When you say you are my learned friend, there is jurisprudence behind it. Even though we represent different sides of an argument, what makes us friends is because we are serving one end and that end is to see that justice is done. If you are in pursuit of justice and I am in pursuit of justice and really I see myself as your comrade, most of the problems we are having in cases could be eliminated. What we see rather is that lawyers call themselves learned friends but they behave like adversaries. As learned friends, they are supposed to pursue one end and that is justice. Lawyers, as a matter of necessity, must cross one another’s path in the law court. This is not unexpected. What is unexpected is making the matter personal. Courtroom battles should not go beyond the courtroom. I am of the opinion that lawyers should approach cases more like sports people. Do your utmost and put up a sound argument in defence of your client and be ready to accept the outcome at the courtroom, as far as you wish to go. Thereafter, a hand shake with your learned opponent should follow.

Squib magazine and me
It is glamorous being known as magazine publisher, but it is not glamorous to my pocket at all. It is tough because cost of production is always rising and because of the radical blend of the medium, we don’t seem to attract adverts. Squib enjoys wide readership, but patronage is law. The only thing is that we find it much easier to get reports and stories. People have come to trust us. They send in information. They know that we have courage. To that extent, it is okay and we intend to continue. Squib magazine was born as a rebellion against corruption in the Lagos State Judiciary.

When I started practicing, Lagos State Judiciary was very corrupt right from the lowest clerk to the judges. We lawyers are victims of extortion. They collect money from the bailiff section, they collect money, left, right and centre and I was not comfortable with that. Many people compromised and I told them I was going to fight it. Many of the judges were lazy and I decided to expose them, using the platform of the Press because then it appeared the Nigerian Bar Association had compromised. Initially, I was afraid, but I was more interested in publishing it. People say I am fearless. That is a lie because I fear as any other Nigerian. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, I will not stop publishing Squib.

Continuing legal education for lawyers
I support continuing legal education for lawyers because it enables us to sharpen our skills. It keeps lawyers abreast of the law and also refreshes our knowledge of the law. Lawyers should know that learning does not end at the Law School and that the law develops everyday. There is need to constantly sharpen our legal skills, hence the need for continuing legal education. A lawyer must constantly keep the letters of the Law on his lips. Law is a dynamic profession and its practitioners must keep pace with it or be left behind.

Pupilage in legal practice
I support pupilage because it is a good thing. Occasionally, you find lawyers who did not serve under people and they do well, but then it is not the best. You must be extraordinarily resourceful and brilliant for you to survive like that. Usually, you get people to lead you, teach you and show you the ropes so that you can climb. Every profession has its little tricks, which are not taught in schools. You can only learn this by watching the masters at work. This is why pupilage is necessary.

The Nigerian Bar AssociationThe future is bright and colourful. If visionary leaders, people of integrity and committed men hold offices, the future is great because lawyers are crucial to the development of Nigeria.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Internet Bar Interview

Internet Bar Interview


Online Reference:
http://www.internetbar.org/PrintArticle33.html


November 2, 2005

Interview with Publisher of the Squib Magazine whose motto is "The Heavens will not fall" on the 17th October 2005 – It’s Explosive - Lets hear from Mr. Adesina Ogunlana


Q1. Please tell us how Squib Magazine began?

A1. It started as a result of my personal reaction to the deep level of corruption and misconduct both in the legal profession and Lagos State Judiciary. When I started practicing in 1996 by the end of 1999 I was disturbed enough to start writing articles on a weekly basis copies of which I gave out to fellow legal practitioners in the court complaining about one thing or the other that was wrong in the system.

The very first article was on one JUDGE .M……. now dismissed. Despite the fact of his dismissal, he continued to sit. The Bar kept quiet. I distributed it and people thought it was a daring thing to do. After about two weeks of such effort I was advised by Ayoola Jacobs to turn my pamphleteering into a proper magazine. The funny thing is that my article then used to be called the Learned Squib. So when I began the magazine, I named it the SQUIB. The Squib is an old English word for “fireworks” and we adopted a fighting motto” the heavens will not fall”. As journalists say “publish and be damned.

”Mr Ogunlana gives me (10) complimentary copies of this week’s Squib Magazine.I became very excited and he continues by telling me the story about how the Squib magazine started. He was selling the magazine for N 20.00 a copy with only 4 pages when he first started. He then increased the cover price to N 50.00 with 16 pages. People were complaining and somebody wanted to buy 3 of the magazines at N 50. Whilst in the Ministry, Mrs Toun Disu (the Secretary of the Internetbar.org organizing committee) bought 1 magazine for N 200 and the immediate Solicitor General bought 1 magazine at N 500. He said that really energized him.

Q2. How is the Squib Magazine funded?

A2. The Squib Magazine is funded by the Publisher. In the early days I sued to borrow to publish. However, in the last 4 years I have not had to. I received about N 15,000 donation by well meaning lawyers. I went for a loan and they said don’t pay us back, that’s our contribution. Our colleagues think that it is profitable and that’s why I have kept at it. But it is not. We don’t attract advertisements and until recently we were seen as anti establishment. It is expensive to run because we also monitor judges on a daily basis.

With a staff strength of 10 people we don’t break even. I’ve never been paid as editor neither are the deputy editors. It is only the monitors, correspondents and cartoonists that are paid.

Q3. What is the readership strength of the Squib?

A3. It can not be less than 5,000. Even though the number published is less than 500 we actually have about 1 magazine to about 10 to 15 people. I know that non lawyers read it, children, wives of non lawyers. Mrs Toun Disu’s son, Akinola always reads it for the cartoons. Akinola is 10 years old. It is also read outside Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Makurdi. When we meet quarterly during NBA meetings I usually get requests to sell to vendors outside Lagos.

Q4. What has been your greatest challenge in publishing SQUIB?

A4.Finance and Time. Finance in the sense that I don’t think that I have spent less than N 5,000,000 and I am just 9 years at the bar. Last year we calculated that we spent N 584,000 on lithography and every week I spend no less than N 33,000 to N 36 000 to get the magazine produced, marketed, pay salaries .We pay about N 70,000 every month to our people. It is especially difficult at the end of the month. I have to dip into the Chambers for the money. My workers receive three levels of salary- basic, daily transportation and bonus if they attain their targets.Time is also a great challenge because it’s part time. I am a lawyer and I go to court every day. I am the main writer. For the past 4 weeks I have been sleeping every weekend in the office and it has affected my church going. Despite the fact we control 50% of production, we do the editing, formatting in house. In contrast with the past when we did everything except the editing outside.Those are the two greatest challenges. It has affected my family and personal life. I can’t go to parties or weddings or socialize .

However; on the other side getting stories is easier now. People trust us, they know that we have the courage to stand by our conviction and we protect our sources. They now call us, so that aspect is easy. It is just the time, turning the story into publication. We call a spade a spade. Some say it isn’t nice calling a judge a thief. But the magazine says it as it is. We libel people every week but we are yet to be sued because we have a defence of justification. That is our greatest joy, we have never been sued.

Q5. How do you assess the performance of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice and Attorney General of Lagos State?

A5. It has been transformed under the incumbent Attorney General, Professor Yemi Osibajo. It is easily the largest Chambers in Nigeria with 280 Lawyers. They have people friendly organs like the Citizens Mediation centre, Office of Public Defender and for the first time in many years we have an Attorney General who goes to court especially in Criminal Prosecution. They have won many cases against the Federal Government in taxation, land charges, etc. The lawyers have become more professional. The Ministry has done well in introducing the 2004 Civil Procedure Rules which has as its objective fast tracking the justice delivery system.Q6. Where do you feel improvements can be made in the administration of Justice and Judiciary in Lagos State?A6. I think that the generality of workers are marginalized. The approach has been elitist. There have been three strikes by JUSAN (Judiciary Staff Association of Nigeria).They paralysed the court because they protested that the non judicial staff have been marginalized. They are susceptible to bribery and corruption because of their low income. If the welfare of the staff is improved upon, we will see better performance .Another thing is that the electronic recording device should be installed in our courts. Judges record in long hand and it is ridiculous. It is more important than cars. 16 million people live in Lagos State. There are 50 High Court Judges, 105 Magistrates. It is probably the biggest Judiciary in Africa. For years they’ve been making promises but they have not done it. The judges will be happier if you could eliminate long hand writing and it eliminates corruption in the judicial process. As of now it is what the judge writes down that is the record of the court not what you say or canvassed.

Q7. What do you mean by Non Judicial Staff?

A7. Workers who are not Judges. 99% of them are not lawyers. I mean the clerks, bailiffs, registrars, administrators.Q8. Do you mean that Registrars are not Lawyers?A8.Yes, both in the High Court and Magistrate Court. Only the Chief Registrar who is the Sheriff and Deputy Shefiffs are Magistrates.A lawyer would probably see it as an insult to be a Registrar. Many of the Registrars are not graduates; they can just speak English but don’t appreciate the legal issues.

Q9. How do you spend your spare time and unwind?

A9. I unwind by working. I used to read lots of books and magazines. Nowadays I buy newspapers late in the night and when I have money I force myself to watch DSTV so that my N 300 a day will not be wasted. I enjoy exposing people when they are corrupt. I have been attacked in my office, threatened that I would die in 8 days if I don’t apologise - the mother of one of the victims threatened me. As a result of one of the stories a Magistrate was removed from office. I am still alive. We had threats from authorities. My workers have been beaten up 5 times but they are always released. I have been taken to Police Stations on allegations that I am managing and selling a banned magazine.

Q10. A banned Magazine?

A10. Yes, CHIEF JUDGE OF LAGOS then brought out a notice that Squib should not be sold in the premise of the Lagos State Courts - that it was an illegality. My workers were beaten, I was beaten, lawyers reading the Squib were beaten on November 28 2001. We refused and continued until they were tired. It helped in promoting the magazine because people were curious.After they failed they tried to disbar me from the legal profession. The Chief Judge then wrote a Petition to the Disciplinary Committee of the National Body of the Bar Association and the matter was referred to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee for trial. I went there on October 14 2003 with my Lawyer Chief G.O.K Ajayi (Senior Advocate of Nigeria), Mr Bisi Ademuwagun (Chairman of my Branch), Adekunle Ojo (the present Chairman of the Branch), Mr Ajibola (a legal practitioner) and 4 other lawyers. I had 7 lawyers. The charge was that I was insulting Judges of the High Court of Lagos. I was proud because other lawyers were charged with theft and other terrible allegations.

Q12. What happened during the trial?

A12.There was no due process. They didn’t tell me my offence. They said that the charge was insulting judges of Lagos High Court. They didn’t mention the judges. The Petitioner never came and I have not heard from them since. Under the Legal Practitioners Rules, the Complainant must come because it is a trial. They said that I should wait till I receive a summons. The Petitioner has since left office.He goes back to the question of challenges he faced."Some old lawyers called me aside. One of them said to me "Nigeria is a difficult place". I thanked him and said I am ready to die. The situation is bad and it needs a radical solution. My joy is that I have successfully established a platform outside the NBA. It is evidence that one man can make a difference. People wanted to stop their their kids from reading law because the image had been so battered. Now people write petitions to Squib and we investigate the matter. We need something outside the system to clean it. Someone criticised me and I published it. I am not Squib. It has helped the Authorities to know what is going on. The Chief Judge collects it. This is an autonomous bourgeoisie revolution. It is better than a peasant revolution where Lawyers and Judges are assassinated.My only fear is continuity. Most Lawyers are not agitators. They are not radicalized enough and those radicalized enough don’t have the ability. If I am sick or leave the country it will be difficult for Squib to continue. That is my fear. I should have disciples by now. I am trying to form a club - Integrity Club - Lawyers League For Integrity (LLI) – a fan club.

Q13. What if you received financial support from the Internetbar.org.

A13. I don’t like external funding. Mary Slessor came to Calabar, Richard Lander, these missionaries came to our country because they believed in something and were supported by their mission. If I am a Nigerian why don’t I spend my resources - put your money where your mouth is.After Jesus Christ, Paul the evangelist used his nil resources (he was also a lawyer)

Equitable Distribution of Resources is solution to political domination

The Comet Monday August 29, 2005 pp.22, 23


‘Equitable distribution of resources is solution to political domination’


Adesina Ademola Ogunlana, publisher of The Squib, a weekly judicial magazine, studied English at the Obafemi Awolowo University and Law at the Lagos State University. A former students’ union leader, Ogunlana, 41, was called to the Bar nine years ago. He spoke with FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE on his antecedents and other issues.

After about three months of work, the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC), has submitted its report to the government. Would you say the confab truly addressed the nation’s problems?

The main national questions since 40 years ago are partly political and partly economic. The first question is, should Nigeria remain in the same geographical expression created by the colonial masters?

Two, what are the best and acceptable ways of appropriating the wealth of the country among its component parts?

These two questions were not answered by that political confab. In fact, the confab ended in a fiasco without really addressing the core issues before it, when a whole region- South-south, staged a walk-out; that is, the region of Adara Boro, Ken Saro-Wiwa, self-styled Mujahedeen Asari Dokubo. That says a lot.

Resource control, vis-à-vis derivation, topped the confab’s agenda, yet, it ended in a stalemate. What would you see as a way out?

The issue of resource control is itself subsumed in the larger question of the compatibility of the various nations that make up Nigeria. The agitation for resource control came about because various people, particularly the minorities, feel cheated by the existing arrangement where it appears that what is derived from some parts of the country is appropriated by political leaders to develop other parts of the Nigerian state. This looks like an internal colonization. There are two types of political domination in Nigeria. The first is the general northern domination over the southern part of the country. Secondly, there is majority tribe domination over the minority tribes.

Honestly, the way out is a more equitable distribution of the national wealth. But I doubt whether the normal political arrangement we know in this country can achieve that.

People want to stay in the country if they feel catered for. But how can they be catered for when the government is solely located in Abuja and Abuja is the source of all political goodies and power.

Many have concluded that the controversial confab was initiated by the Federal Government to deceive Nigerians especially as problems confronting the masses were neglected. (To what extent would you say is the relevance of this belief?)

The belief is very sound as the composition of the confab is suspect. It is the usual faces that were re-cycled. Certainly from the South-west, the people that went there were not the very best materials. They were the usual crowd of the conservative old timers. The confab’s leadership was suspect. It was a poor choice. With due respect to Justice Niki Tobi, most of those at the confab were garrulous and too opinionated.

Justice Tobi, being a judicial officer, was grossly unsuitable to be the head of a political conference. And that was why the confab ended like that. It was purely a gathering of the elite who used the confab as a platform to strategically position themselves for future advantages. Certainly, the average Nigerian interest was neglected. It did not excite the feeling of the masses unlike the Oputa panel.

At any rate, the confab could not have been greater than the vision of its creator, who is a well known polical peacock who exclusively believes that he is the one that loves Nigeria the most and knows, if not all, the answers to our problems.

Recently, the Paris Club slashed the country’s $34 billion foreign debt by 60 per cent. This has generated a mixed feeling among Nigerians. As a lawyer, are you thrilled by the debt relief?

I am not only going to react as a lawyer but also as a citizen of the country. I want to say straight away that there has not been any slash and anybody peddling this false claim, knowing fully well that is it’s not true, is a political fraudster. There is no slash and what we have at best is an arrangement towards a slash. There are still several conditions to fulfil before attaining that slash.

But you will see Gen. Obasanjo, claiming that there has been a slash. The slash could also be likened to the case of the so-called engagement of Phillip Troussier as coach of Super Eagles, who NFA went to town shouting that they have engaged. Three days later, the man debunked the claim peddled by NFA as a false claim.

Apart from all these, there is nothing to rejoice about on the debt relief.

One, if Nigeria is going to pay $12 billion at a go to gain the so-called relief, I wonder where the relief is. I cannot forget the parable of my father which says: “Agbatan ni a gba ole…if you want to help, you help outright, why putting onerous condition?

Secondly, even if the entire debt of Nigeria has been forgiven by the creditors, the sadness is that the ordinary man on the street and that includes me, will never have their conditions of living changed, for the better. They will not even know because a political leader led by General Obasanjo will continue to appropriate the commonwealth of our people to only themselves, their children and family while paying lip service to good governance and communal responsibility.

Paris Club countries like Belgium, Germany and a few others developed cold feet about this xmas offer of debt relief, harping on its moral hazards. Sir, which perspective would you have seen it as a lawyer?

To me, it is a scam. The Paris Club is fooling Nigeria as a nation because they believe that Nigeria has money. Look at Ghana, the country got its own without any condition.

A veteran columnist and public analyst, Mohammed Haruna, described the debt relief as “counting chickens before they hatch.” Do you share this view?

I share his view 100 per cent. I liken it to a young man said ordinary hi to a beautiful lady who afterwards went to town telling people that he was marrying the beautiful girl when nothing actually transpired.

I am completely in agreement with Mohammed Haruna who described the debt relief as “counting chickens before they hatch.”

Would you again share Haruna’s view that it is the President’s desperation to prove that all these past six years of democracy under his leadership,have not been without any significant dividend, decided to count his chickens even before the eggs were laid?

Yes, debt relief purportedly granted, was an attempt to justify President Obasanjo’s numerous junketing abroad and millions of dollars on extacode all in the name of investors. Since he announced the scam, what has changed in your life?

Look at what Kwara State governor is doing in the state.
President Obasanjo never created this kind of environment. I want to be sure that by the time the President leaves the office, you find out that his hands are soiled. What has happened to Abacha’s loot? Of what significance has been been.

In other words, there are no significant democracy dividends since the President assumed office?

I will not say that, because even if it is the devil that is there since he assumed office six years ago, will not say that there are no democracy dividends.

First, since 1999, there has been improved freedom of expression, the print and electronic media have faced less danger of embarrassment from the government forces. From time, the Nigerian press has been robust and critical but under the military, such an attitude attracted harsh punishment and sensation. Unlike now, press freedom is taken for granted. Secondly, there is greater respect for the rights of the citizens generally unlike before when there were prisoners of conscience oppositions were being clamped into into jail. But today, these have drastically reduced. You feel an atmosphere of freedom.

Sir, there is a new revenue allocation law now, stipulating direct disbursement of councils’ allocation from the Federation Account. Would you see this, if strictly followed, as curbing excesses of some governors?

The law will not change anything even though it is meant to bring sanity, reduce bureaucratic bottlenecks and political overlordships by governors on counsel chairmen, this direct funding will only give chairmen greater opportunity to “chop and wipe mouth.” The political class in Nigeria can only be likened to a pool of sharks, when they see money, they smell blood. When they smell blood, they attack. What they attack and devour is money meant for the benefit of the people.

At the federal level, there is direct funding from the Federation Account, and what do you have, “direct chopping,” same goes for the state. How would it be any different at the local level. It is not the system that is bad, but the operators. It is the people that matter and not the system.

Former International Court of Justice, at the Hague, Netherlands, jurist, Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN), was the first to set a precedent. He was followed by Chief Clement Akpamgbo (SAN). Now, it is the turn of Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), to pick up a ministerial appointment while serving as NBA president. What does this portend for the Bar?

Yes, thank you for your question. Bola Ajibola (SAN). Clement Akpamgbo (SAN), became Justice Ministers under the military and these appointments cumulatively were considered by the NBA as having destabilizing effects on the Bar. Hence, the creation of a new constitution which forbids serving members of the national executive committee from taking up appointment with government. Before Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN) broke this constitution, there had been three presidents of the NBA before him to wit: Okpoko (SAN), Okocha (SAN), Olanipekun (SAN). But when Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), who ironically paraded himself during election as Barman to the core, came to power, he succumbed to the seduction of President Obasanjo to become the latest Attorney General and Minister of Justice in complete disregard of the constitution of the Bar.

Well, that constitution provides a punishment for such an errant officer of the Bar. And the punishment is that such an officer can never again address any gathering of the association. Of course, supporters of Chief Bayo Ojo, like Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN), have argued that Ojo was not a serving officer as at the time he picked up the appointment and according to him that, shows that “Ojo was a clever young man.” But to me and with due respect to the ‘Baba,’ Ojo was not clever but being merely a smart alec and that is not good enough. An AG worth his salt, must be a man of integrity and upright and not a man who will be courting political corners to achieve personal gains.

Well, mercifully, his exit that engineered a succession crisis in the Bar, has been contained and a new president found for the NBA. To me, and I was a staunch supporter of Ojo, his departure from the NBA presidency is a betrayal of trust, a display of shocking opportunism and a cynical use of men to ride to a hidden political goal. One can only hope now that the new president, will not abandon us in the manner of Chief Bayo Ojo.

How did you contain the succession crisis engineered by Chief Ojo’s exit?

When Chief Ojo left, two men wanted to become president Joseph Biodun Daodu (SAN) and Lanke Odogiyan, the 1st vice president. Some people felt that Odogiyan should not be president partly because he is from the western part of the country, while the presidency of the NBA for 2004-2006 has been zoned to the north. Interestingly enough, though Odogiyan who is from Ondo State, is a Kaduna-based lawyer, J.B. Daodu himself, from Kogi State, is also a Kaduna based lawyer. Then the issue of status was another factor. Some felt that it is only SAN that is eligible to occupy the office. Daodu is a SAN, Odogiyan is not.

At the end of the day, on July 29, majority of NEC members present at the recently concluded NEC meeting at Aba, voted for Odogiyan to replace Chief Bayo Ojo. But all these tensions would not have come up if the Chief had been true to the spirit of the constitution which he swore to come up when he became president in 2004.

How do you think your constituency, the Bar can checkmate this phenomenon?

I think we have to tinker with the constitution and make it tighter the more in such a way that no smart alec office holder can dump his NBA position at the drop of hat. For example, you may require such an ambitious fellow to give a three months notice to the association and resign a whole three months earlier before taking up any position. And another thing is that, at the political level, the Bar electorate may demand a written undertaking from such officers that they will not abandon the NBA for government appointment. Finally, the present man who has treated us shabbily should not be allowed to escape this sanction prescribed by the constitution.

Virtually all the branches of the NBA in the country applauded Chief Ojo’s appointment as the federation AG by congratulatory messages in the dailies. Why has this branch – Ikeja, refused to join the wagon?

That advertisement was fraudulent. Our colleagues said they were not aware of such a thing. I’ve just arrived from Aba and members said they were not aware. The adverts were sponsored by Chief Ojo’s loyalists.

If it is true, would the NBA so soon thereafter in Aba condemn the resignation and be sending letter, of query to the Attorney General?

What is your dream of the judiciary in the next decade?

My dream of the judiciary is one, it will be much more independent of the executive arm of government. Secondly, internal oppression and sheathing and discrimination of non-judicial staff will end.

And thirdly, great judges will increase tremendously in the judiciary while those corrupt, ignorant and lazy judges and magistrates will come to grief.

What advice do you have for aspiring lawyers?

Young lawyers coming into practice should approach the profession with courage and a winning attitude. They should not give in to despair and should learn good manners and professional practices from worthy seniors. They should resolve that they will not join the ranks of those who corrupt and pollute the judiciary and spoil the name of the legal profession.

Equitable Distribution of Resources is solution to political domination

The Comet Monday August 29, 2005 pp.22, 23

‘Equitable distribution of resources is solution to political domination’

Adesina Ademola Ogunlana, publisher of The Squib, a weekly judicial magazine, studied English at the Obafemi Awolowo University and Law at the Lagos State University. A former students’ union leader, Ogunlana, 41, was called to the Bar nine years ago. He spoke with FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE on his antecedents and other issues.

After about three months of work, the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC), has submitted its report to the government. Would you say the confab truly addressed the nation’s problems?

The main national questions since 40 years ago are partly political and partly economic. The first question is, should Nigeria remain in the same geographical expression created by the colonial masters?

Two, what are the best and acceptable ways of appropriating the wealth of the country among its component parts?

These two questions were not answered by that political confab. In fact, the confab ended in a fiasco without really addressing the core issues before it, when a whole region- South-south, staged a walk-out; that is, the region of Adara Boro, Ken Saro-Wiwa, self-styled Mujahedeen Asari Dokubo. That says a lot.

Resource control, vis-à-vis derivation, topped the confab’s agenda, yet, it ended in a stalemate. What would you see as a way out?

The issue of resource control is itself subsumed in the larger question of the compatibility of the various nations that make up Nigeria. The agitation for resource control came about because various people, particularly the minorities, feel cheated by the existing arrangement where it appears that what is derived from some parts of the country is appropriated by political leaders to develop other parts of the Nigerian state. This looks like an internal colonization. There are two types of political domination in Nigeria. The first is the general northern domination over the southern part of the country. Secondly, there is majority tribe domination over the minority tribes.

Honestly, the way out is a more equitable distribution of the national wealth. But I doubt whether the normal political arrangement we know in this country can achieve that.

People want to stay in the country if they feel catered for. But how can they be catered for when the government is solely located in Abuja and Abuja is the source of all political goodies and power.

Many have concluded that the controversial confab was initiated by the Federal Government to deceive Nigerians especially as problems confronting the masses were neglected. (To what extent would you say is the relevance of this belief?)

The belief is very sound as the composition of the confab is suspect. It is the usual faces that were re-cycled. Certainly from the South-west, the people that went there were not the very best materials. They were the usual crowd of the conservative old timers. The confab’s leadership was suspect. It was a poor choice. With due respect to Justice Niki Tobi, most of those at the confab were garrulous and too opinionated.

Justice Tobi, being a judicial officer, was grossly unsuitable to be the head of a political conference. And that was why the confab ended like that. It was purely a gathering of the elite who used the confab as a platform to strategically position themselves for future advantages. Certainly, the average Nigerian interest was neglected. It did not excite the feeling of the masses unlike the Oputa panel.

At any rate, the confab could not have been greater than the vision of its creator, who is a well known polical peacock who exclusively believes that he is the one that loves Nigeria the most and knows, if not all, the answers to our problems.

Recently, the Paris Club slashed the country’s $34 billion foreign debt by 60 per cent. This has generated a mixed feeling among Nigerians. As a lawyer, are you thrilled by the debt relief?

I am not only going to react as a lawyer but also as a citizen of the country. I want to say straight away that there has not been any slash and anybody peddling this false claim, knowing fully well that is it’s not true, is a political fraudster. There is no slash and what we have at best is an arrangement towards a slash. There are still several conditions to fulfil before attaining that slash.

But you will see Gen. Obasanjo, claiming that there has been a slash. The slash could also be likened to the case of the so-called engagement of Phillip Troussier as coach of Super Eagles, who NFA went to town shouting that they have engaged. Three days later, the man debunked the claim peddled by NFA as a false claim.

Apart from all these, there is nothing to rejoice about on the debt relief.

One, if Nigeria is going to pay $12 billion at a go to gain the so-called relief, I wonder where the relief is. I cannot forget the parable of my father which says: “Agbatan ni a gba ole…if you want to help, you help outright, why putting onerous condition?

Secondly, even if the entire debt of Nigeria has been forgiven by the creditors, the sadness is that the ordinary man on the street and that includes me, will never have their conditions of living changed, for the better. They will not even know because a political leader led by General Obasanjo will continue to appropriate the commonwealth of our people to only themselves, their children and family while paying lip service to good governance and communal responsibility.

Paris Club countries like Belgium, Germany and a few others developed cold feet about this xmas offer of debt relief, harping on its moral hazards. Sir, which perspective would you have seen it as a lawyer?

To me, it is a scam. The Paris Club is fooling Nigeria as a nation because they believe that Nigeria has money. Look at Ghana, the country got its own without any condition.

A veteran columnist and public analyst, Mohammed Haruna, described the debt relief as “counting chickens before they hatch.” Do you share this view?

I share his view 100 per cent. I liken it to a young man said ordinary hi to a beautiful lady who afterwards went to town telling people that he was marrying the beautiful girl when nothing actually transpired.

I am completely in agreement with Mohammed Haruna who described the debt relief as “counting chickens before they hatch.”

Would you again share Haruna’s view that it is the President’s desperation to prove that all these past six years of democracy under his leadership,have not been without any significant dividend, decided to count his chickens even before the eggs were laid?

Yes, debt relief purportedly granted, was an attempt to justify President Obasanjo’s numerous junketing abroad and millions of dollars on extacode all in the name of investors. Since he announced the scam, what has changed in your life?

Look at what Kwara State governor is doing in the state.
President Obasanjo never created this kind of environment. I want to be sure that by the time the President leaves the office, you find out that his hands are soiled. What has happened to Abacha’s loot? Of what significance has been been.

In other words, there are no significant democracy dividends since the President assumed office?

I will not say that, because even if it is the devil that is there since he assumed office six years ago, will not say that there are no democracy dividends.

First, since 1999, there has been improved freedom of expression, the print and electronic media have faced less danger of embarrassment from the government forces. From time, the Nigerian press has been robust and critical but under the military, such an attitude attracted harsh punishment and sensation. Unlike now, press freedom is taken for granted. Secondly, there is greater respect for the rights of the citizens generally unlike before when there were prisoners of conscience oppositions were being clamped into into jail. But today, these have drastically reduced. You feel an atmosphere of freedom.

Sir, there is a new revenue allocation law now, stipulating direct disbursement of councils’ allocation from the Federation Account. Would you see this, if strictly followed, as curbing excesses of some governors?

The law will not change anything even though it is meant to bring sanity, reduce bureaucratic bottlenecks and political overlordships by governors on counsel chairmen, this direct funding will only give chairmen greater opportunity to “chop and wipe mouth.” The political class in Nigeria can only be likened to a pool of sharks, when they see money, they smell blood. When they smell blood, they attack. What they attack and devour is money meant for the benefit of the people.

At the federal level, there is direct funding from the Federation Account, and what do you have, “direct chopping,” same goes for the state. How would it be any different at the local level. It is not the system that is bad, but the operators. It is the people that matters and not the system.

Former International Court of Justice, at the Hague, Netherlands, jurist, Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN), was the first to set a precedent. He was followed by Chief Clement Akpamgbo (SAN). Now, it is the turn of Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), to pick up a ministerial appointment while serving as NBA president. What does this portend for the Bar?

Yes, thank you for your question. Bola Ajibola (SAN). Clement Akpamgbo (SAN), became Justice Ministers under the military and these appointments cumulatively were considered by the NBA as having destabilizing effects on the Bar. Hence, the creation of a new constitution which forbids serving members of the national executive committee from taking up appointment with government. Before Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN) broke this constitution, there had been three presidents of the NBA before him to wit: Okpoko (SAN), Okocha (SAN), Olanipekun (SAN). But when Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), who ironically paraded himself during election as Barman to the core, came to power, he succumbed to the seduction of President Obasanjo to become the latest Attorney General and Minister of Justice in complete disregard of the constitution of the Bar.

Well, that constitution provides a punishment for such an errant officer of the Bar. And the punishment is that such an officer can never again address any gathering of the association. Of course, supporters of Chief Bayo Ojo, like Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN), have argued that Ojo was not a serving officer as at the time he picked up the appointment and according to him that, shows that “Ojo was a clever young man.” But to me and with due respect to the ‘Baba,’ Ojo was not clever but being merely a smart alec and that is not good enough. An AG worth his salt, must be a man of integrity and upright and not a man who will be courting political corners to achieve personal gains.

Well, mercifully, his exit that engineered a succession crisis in the Bar, has been contained and a new president found for the NBA. To me, and I was a staunch supporter of Ojo, his departure from the NBA presidency is a betrayal of trust, a display of shocking opportunism and a cynical use of men to ride to a hidden political goal. One can only hope now that the new president, will not abandon us in the manner of Chief Bayo Ojo.

How did you contain the succession crisis engineered by Chief Ojo’s exit?

When Chief Ojo left, two men wanted to become president Joseph Biodun Daodu (SAN) and Lanke Odogiyan, the 1st vice president. Some people felt that Odogiyan should not be president partly because he is from the western part of the country, while the presidency of the NBA for 2004-2006 has been zoned to the north. Interestingly enough, though Odogiyan who is from Ondo State, is a Kaduna-based lawyer, J.B. Daodu himself, from Kogi State, is also a Kaduna based lawyer. Then the issue of status was another factor. Some felt that it is only SAN that is eligible to occupy the office. Daodu is a SAN, Odogiyan is not.

At the end of the day, on July 29, majority of NEC members present at the recently concluded NEC meeting at Aba, voted for Odogiyan to replace Chief Bayo Ojo. But all these tensions would not have come up if the Chief had been true to the spirit of the constitution which he swore to come up when he became president in 2004.

How do you think your constituency, the Bar can checkmate this phenomenon?

I think we have to tinker with the constitution and make it tighter the more in such a way that no smart alec office holder can dump his NBA position at the drop of hat. For example, you may require such an ambitious fellow to give a three months notice to the association and resign a whole three months earlier before taking up any position. And another thing is that, at the political level, the Bar electorate may demand a written undertaking from such officers that they will not abandon the NBA for government appointment. Finally, the present man who has treated us shabbily should not be allowed to escape this sanction prescribed by the constitution.

Virtually all the branches of the NBA in the country applauded Chief Ojo’s appointment as the federation AG by congratulatory messages in the dailies. Why has this branch – Ikeja, refused to join the wagon?

That advertisement was fraudulent. Our colleagues said they were not aware of such a thing. I’ve just arrived from Aba and members said they were not aware. The adverts were sponsored by Chief Ojo’s loyalists.

If it is true, would the NBA so soon thereafter in Aba condemn the resignation and be sending letter, of query to the Attorney General?

What is your dream of the judiciary in the next decade?

My dream of the judiciary is one, it will be much more independent of the executive arm of government. Secondly, internal oppression and sheathing and discrimination of non-judicial staff will end.

And thirdly, great judges will increase tremendously in the judiciary while those corrupt, ignorant and lazy judges and magistrates will come to grief.

What advice do you have for aspiring lawyers?

Young lawyers coming into practice should approach the profession with courage and a winning attitude. They should not give in to despair and should learn good manners and professional practices from worthy seniors. They should resolve that they will not join the ranks of those who corrupt and pollute the judiciary and spoil the name of the legal profession.

As Sotuminu Bows out...

'Daily Independent' Thursday March 4 2004 Page B3


As Sotuminu bows out…


One lawyer Mama, as the CJ is jocularly called, may not forget too soon is Barrister Adesina Ogunlana, publisher of “The Squib” magazine, a critical judicial activities weekly. Adesina who is something of a gadfly of the Judiciary had consistently used the magazine to attack Justice Sotuminu’s tenure, to the extent that she had to issue an order banning the sale of “The Squib” in the court premises.

Recently one other issue became a sore point for the CJ: the reported misappropriation, by the office of the CJ, of the 264 million naira NJC grant to judges in Lagos State. Almost all the serving judges in the state had taken on the outgoing CJ, on the whereabouts of the money, being the sum total of monthly grant approved for judges by NJC, since January 2002

Mr. Squib

'Justice Watch' Vol 2 No 4. January 2004 Page 25

PERSONALITY

Mr. Squib

It is the Bible that said that our children will dream dreams. Surely the babies in the legal profession are determined to cleanse the legacy of rot inherited from our older generation of lawyers who have allowed the profession to slide gradually into decay. One man who represents the new generation of dreamers is our personality of the month Adesina Ogunlana.

Mr. Ogunlana, popularly known as Mr. Squib can easily pass as a lover boy, black, handsome, debonair and always neatly dressed. But that casual look hides an uncompromising caste of character that will not tolerate corruption. He does not just preach against corruption; he tries in his little way to live it and to fight it. His magazine, Squib, revolutionalised the justice system in Lagos State. Judges who treated casually their duties saw their action in print few days after. Those that sit by 11 a.m. and rise by 12 noon were confronted in print with their lackadaisical approach to work. Gradually and surely, the attitude of judges began to change and today in Lagos State a judge came into court 9.02 a.m which is two minutes late and apologized to lawyers for coming late.

In this interview with Justice Watch, Mr. Ogunlana revealed to us the genesis of his dream, the struggles and the challenges faced and still facing. Enjoy Mr. Squib.

WHO INFLUENCED YOU IN LIFE?
My parents were the major influence in my life. My mother who died when I was 12 years old was very strict and never allowed me to misbehave. But my greatest influence was my father. He took great interest in our education. Even though he was not well off he made sure that we received good education. I remember the time he set out to teach me. I learnt the multiplication table by heart when I was seven years old and he did things I do not think I will do for myself to ensure that I receive a good education.

When I was thirteen years old and he wanted to change school for me, he actually knelt down for the principal while begging that they should accept me in their school. I was there looking and wondering why he should do that. I think to some extent the honourable Attorney-General of Lagos State Professor Osinbajo also influenced me. He was my teacher and I was touched by his gentility, brilliance and progressive mindedness. My wife has also been a comfort. She is very honest and sacrificially loyal.

But beyond these people I will say that my life has been shaped a lot by the books I have read. Before I studied law, I graduated in English studies from the University of Ife. The study exposed me to the classics, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austin, Somerset Maugham, etc. The classics open your mind and widen your horizon so much and help you to become progressive minded.

WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION?
I have very radical views about the legal profession. I believe the legal profession is very pompous and overrated vis-à-vis their contribution and conduct in the Nigerian polity. I think that the legal profession is the bastion of elitism in Nigeria and it is an unfortunate elitism we have in Nigeria. An unprogressive elitism. The average lawyer is arrogant and selfish. I don’t see lawyers working for the advancement of the nation. A lot has been given to them. They are the social scientists and social engineers. Law governs the engine of the society and to that extent lawyers are the first citizens because they operate that engine. You will agree that Nigeria is backward and underdeveloped and as leaders of this society lawyers must be blamed.

If you are unscrupulous, selfish and parochial and call yourself learned how can you be learned. To be learned you must be intellectually and mentally sophisticated and you must be a wise person. If you are filled with crass materialism, how learned are you? We are supposed to be the first citizens, yet we cooperate with political leaders to ruin this country since our independence.

JW CUTS IN ‘SURELY THERE ARE LAWYERS WHO HAVE CONTRIBUTED IMMENSELY TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THIS NATION

Name them

JW Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba, Yemi Osinbajo, Awa Kalu.

When you mention Gani, Falana, Agbakoba, Osinbajo, Awa Kalu continue mentioning. All those you have mentioned are in the painful minority. We are supposed to be shepherds. People respect us and seek guidance from us. But we are anxious to acquire property, wealth, position, etc. the ethics of our profession should make us at par with the clergy and yet where are we? It is not for nothing that most institutions ask for recommendation from the clergy and lawyers. They do not ask from doctors, or accountants or architects, etc. Yet many Senior Advocates of Nigeria win their cases by Jankara practice. Many lawyers say they are speaking from the bar and yet they are telling monumental lies. No wonder many believe we are liars.

WHAT BROUGHT ABOUT SQUIB?
Squib started in the region of the mind in 1995 before I became a lawyer. One day at the Law School a guest lecturer called Chief Debo Akande SAN came to deliver a lecture to teach us the practical aspect of law practice and emphasized that we must get results. In the course of the lecture he gave the distinct impression that he was deriding lawyers, who for reasons of religious principles will shy away from bribing and tipping even though such may hinder their success.

When he finished I was annoyed. Very angry. I felt my fate was insulted. It should have been a different thing if Chief Akande was apologetic about the Nigerian situation that makes it obligatory for tips or ‘egunje’ to be given, but he was not only justifying the situation but glorifying the practice. I may be mistaken but that was the impression I got. I was determined not to follow that kind of advice when I became a lawyer.

When I started practice I discovered that the system was egunje driven. Egunje to bailiff, egunje to court registrar, egunje to court orderly, egunje to registry staff; egunje to cashier, always egunje and one heard stories upon stories of judges and magistrates who are said or known to be egunje compliant.

It is even more of extortion and I understand that even outside Lagos, Lagos lawyers are notorious in other jurisdictions for corruption. Between 1997 and 1999 there were terrible judges, one outrightly eccentric. He resigned in 1996. Another one, Olugbani was notorious for late coming. Olorunimbe was not popular with lawyers not because of late coming or corruption but because of judicial terrorism. He abused lawyers anyhow; intimidated them no matter their age. I saw him reduce a lady lawyer to tears. In my presence he lampooned a lawyer as a fuji musician. Those days, judges were terrors.

I was young in the system but at a point it became unbearable to me. At the end of 1999 I started writing the learned Squib article and would distribute it to people expressing my opinion about what was happening in the judiciary. I wrote because I saw that the way we were going, the profession was dying of corruption and the NBA that was supposed to function as an internal regulatory agency was not strong and active enough.

After about 12 editions of The Learned Squib somebody called me and suggested that I should turn it into a magazine. I thought about it and here is Squib with its motto, “the heavens will not fall.”

WHY THE MOTTO?
The heavens will not fall means nothing will happen. Nothing adverse will happen. We have lived intimidated by the power of judges. When we know that what they are doing is wrong, lawyers keep quiet. We say we will expose them. It is a cry of positive rebellion and to send a signal to anticipated foes that we have counted the cost and we are ready to sacrifice for our belief, trusting providence that good will always overcome evil. I will tell you something. I do not bribe court officials. They know me. Whoever dares to suggest tip I will advise to ask the government for increase in their salary if they are not satisfied with their paycheck. There must be a way to get government to pay them adequately; it is not for me to pay them. The court officers know that Squib cannot bribe them and yet we get our work done with dispatch.

SINCE SQUIB WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR CHALLENGES?
My basic challenge is finance. People think we have made a lot of money because of the extreme popularity of the magazine. But we have not been making money. We are rather losing money. We hardly get any advert. We rely solely on sales. We have about 10 workers and even without paying salaries to me as editor-in-chief and to my deputy editor we still lose money. Readership is vast but sales low. About 10 people read one Squib. It sells for only N100 and yet they complain that it is too much. In view of its militant character the magazine has not attracted advert. It is entirely self-funded. What I get from my practice I put into it. Squib is in the market because I am fanatic about Squib. It is a gospel to me.

The second challenge is the hateful opposition of the Chief Judge of Lagos State,Mrs. Ibitola Sotuminu who has done everything except possibly assassination to stop me from continuing the publication of the Squib. My workers and myself were beaten. We have been dragged to 3 police stations, the G.I.D., Lions Building and Area ‘F.’ My workers were detained five times and charged to court 2 Ikeja for breaching the ban of selling magazine in court. I am happy that many magazines are now selling in the market; Justice Watch, the Gavel, Access to Justice, etc. We paved the way. I proved that you could fight the powerful and win.

After she was frustrated, she petitioned NBA for my expulsion from the legal profession. But by the grace of the Almighty God the CJ will not succeed.

WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE AT THE DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE?
Sometime in February 2003 I received a letter from NBA purportedly written by NBA Secretary General Mr. Dele Adesina. The letter was unsigned but asked me to make a response to a petition written against me by the Chief Judge of Lagos State Mrs. Ibitola Sotuminu to NBA. I wrote back to NBA Secretariat asking for confirmation from Mr. Adesina as to the authenticity of the letter. But unfortunately it was another person unknown to me who claimed that the letter was genuine. In the circumstance of the 2nd letter I could not accept it. I wrote again asking for Mr. Adesina to confirm it. He never did. After a long while, specifically on 15th October 2003 I saw my name in the newspaper that I am to appear before the Body of Benchers Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee. I went there with my lawyer Baba G.O.K. Ajayi SAN and six other lawyers including the chairman of my branch, Mr. Bisi Ade-Ademuwagun. The complainant did not attend and even though in the notice it was specifically stated that if the complainant fails to come the matter will be struck off, yet the matter was adjourned probably sine dine. We raised the issue of proper service.

The LPDC agreed that we ought to be properly served and it was held that I would be served and it was held that I would be served with the processes of the matter. Incidentally up to date neither my lawyer nor myself has received any papers.

ADVICE TO YOUNG LAWYERS
My advice to young lawyers is that they should enter the profession with a determination not to be corrupted. They should not subscribe to the philosophy that anything goes. They should be true to their ethical calling as lawyers and as such become useful patriotic citizens of this country. The lawyer should not be a liar. They should dress well and try not to give the poor excuse that they are poorly paid. They should stand up for their rights, for the heavens will not fall. They should join the Squib crusade of righteousness in the legal profession and not see themselves as hopeless and helpless because they are not. Almost single handedly the Squib has caused a revolution in the Lagos State Judiciary. Junior lawyers can do better because unlike us they now have precedent.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Doctor in Virginity Test Scandal Unfairly Treated

THISDAY Vol 9 No 29991 Tuesday July 1 2003

Online Reference:

http://www.thisdayonline.com/archive/2003/07/01/20030701law02.html

Law Personality

'Doctor in Virginity Test Scandal Unfairly Treated'


Since Adesina Ogunlana started publishing The Squib Magazine two years ago controversy has dogged him. He told JUDE IGBANOI at his Chambers last week, that the future of legal profession belongs to his generation of lawyers who are prepared to step on toes to restore sanity at the Bar and Bench

The Squib magazine is causing some ripples in legal circles, especially the current edition. As publisher of the magazine, are you surprised that after two years on the newsstands you are just beginning to get noticed?

Well, I wouldn't say we are just getting noticed. From inception, we have been getting attention, though limited to lawyers and the Judiciary. You know the magazine is a pioneer in its field. It's a peculiar publication in Judiciary activism. We have tried to use the press to highlight germane issues in the Judiciary. We have overwhelming support from members of the legal profession.

It's true we started over two years ago. March 22 to be precise. It was a four-page effort at the time and sold for ten Naira, but people bought it and we were encouraged. We are happy that people have come to recognize that if they want to know what is going on in the Lagos Judiciary, The Squib is the authority.

The magazine seems to focus mainly on the Judiciary and is highly critical of judges. What of the Bar and lawyers, you don't seem to pay much attention in that direction?

With due respect, I disagree with that position that we focus mainly on Judges. We focus on the Bar as well. There was an incident when two lawyers fought in the public in a Magistrate's Court, we wrote extensively on it. We did four consecutive editions highlighting the activities of fake lawyers. Not charge-and-bail, but fake lawyers.

We have had occasions to bring to light, some of the unethical practices of lawyers. There was recent incident when a lawyer used the court process in a peculiar manner, where a house worth over 70million was demolished at Ogba. We highlighted it. A lawyer recently aided his client to malign the character of a judge. This magazine investigated and lambasted the counsel involved. Of course, you remember the famous case of Mike Okoye and Justice Ade Alabi. The greatest defender of the judge within the legal circle in Lagos State is The Squib. We ran at least three editions on it.

So, we don't ignore the Bar. But you know it is the head that moves the body. The Bench occupies the position of primacy. We believe that if the head is clean, the body will be clean. Our focus on the judges is not only to criticize them. Those of them who sit on time and those who give fantastic judgments we give credit. We have a regular column for that. We call it speed case law. High Court judgments which you can't ordinarily find in law reports. We say good things about people who deserve it.

There is currently a case against you at the High Court by the Chief Judge of Lagos State. Kindly share with us the genesis of that case and how far it has gone.

There are two cases actually. The first one is at Magisterate Court II Ikeja. It is against ten of my vendors. The other one is a Fundamental Human Rights case that I brought against the Chief Judge of Lagos State in her personal capacity, the Chief Registrar, the Attorney-General of Lagos State and the Commissioner of police. These two cases are interwoven.

What happened was that in November 2001, some my workers came back from the court and reported that security men chased them out of the court premises. It thought it was because we focused on the newly employed security outfit that week. The next day, with my editors, we went out to Ikeja ourselves and the security men wanted to force us out of the court and we resisted. The Chief Registrar whotold me that my magazine had been banned summoned me upstairs. I asked her if other newspapers were allowed to sell in the court premises, she said yes. I told her I was going to sell The Squib.

They brought in policemen on the second day and there was a confrontation. One of my workers was badly injured. A baton was used on her head and it broke into two. The next day their security men could not restrain us, so they brought policemen from Lion Building. The DPO asked them, ‘where is the directive that this magazine should not be sold?’ They showed him and he found that the order was not signed. It was not even dated. He asked them if the order was based on any duly enacted law in Lagos State, they could not answer. They were so ashamed! So the DPO dismissed them and asked us to go and continue with our lawful business.

I thought the matter had ended, but I was surprised that they started chasing me all over the place, from court to court. It was at that time that I felt I couldn’t take it any more. So I went to court and filed a suit to restrain the judicial authority in Lagos State from harassing me and to pay for the unlawful confiscation of my property.

In all this, I must commend the police in this matter because the higher police authority has been very nice in their handling of this matter. They have displayed an understanding of the law. But I can tell you that the Chief Judge whom they listed as the Chief complainant has never showed up in court, since November 2001.

Bearing in mind the personality of the complainant, the Chief Judge, how confident are you that you’ll get a favourable and dispassionate judgement at the end of the case?

Let me tell you this. Whatever label people may give us, we are very optimistic and confident about our Judiciary. That is why we have decided to confront the lion in his den. My belief is that you may not like The Squib, but you must follow the law. As a judge, sworn to an oath, if they call the case of The Squib before you, you may regard The Squib and its publisher as a peculiar mess but once we advocate a good and relevant law, a good judge has no option than to do justice for us.

At any rate, the court is not limited to one tier. If we don’t get justice at the High Court, we’ll go to the Court of Appeal. If we don’t get justice at the Court of Appeal we’ll go to the Supreme Court. You must understand that any judge worth his salt will not want to give a wishy-washy judgement in any case involving a lawyer because at the Court of Appeal that judge will have his integrity dragged on the floor.

So many judges have come under your sharp criticisms in the magazine. What is the attitude of such judges when you appear before them any time you have a matter in their courts?

We have about 55 judges now in Lagos State and the magazine has only focused on a few. Atilade, Wusu, Olugbani, Shitta-Bey and of course the CJ. Wusu and Olugbani are now out of the system. I have never appeared before the CJ, but the ones I have appeared before have been quite courteous.

When I come to court, I believe in clear conscience. I don’t feel victimized. I do my cases very well. I win some and I lose some. I cannot say that any judge the magazine has focused on has victimized me in any way. I must give credit to the judges for that.

The last two editions of The Squib came out with a scoop about the Magistrates who were appointed into the Election Petition Tribunal Panels. From your investigation, would you say the Chief Judge of Lagos State deliberately appointed unqualified Magistrates into the tribunals? Isn’t it possible that it was an oversight on the part of the Chief Judge?

Aaahh! Aaahh! My brother there is no way the Judiciary can be absolved. I think it’s better for the Judiciary to accept, whether it is President of the Court of Appeal or the Chief Judge of Lagos State. Remember it is the President of the Court of Appeal who appoints on the recommendation of the Chief Judge of a state. It is better for them to say that it was done deliberately.

If they come up and say that it was a mistake, an oversight, that means they don’t know their law. It means they are ignorant. A judge who does not know his law, especially its constitutional requirement, having national dimensions and implications that can lead toa constitutional crises that can engulf the whole nation! Aaaah! Aaaah! It is terrible. I don’t believe Umaru Abdullahi JCA does not know his law. I want to believe it was deliberate.

I have spoken informally to Professor Yemi Osibajo, SAN, the Attorney-General of Lagos State. He was of the opinion that it must be a mistake. Then if it is a mistake, that means you are appointing people on a tribunal when it is so clear in the sixth schedule of Section 285 of the Constitution. If nobody checked in Lagos State, does it mean nobody checked in Abuja?

Aaah, aaah! My brother? Remember that honourable Justice Hunponu Wusu is at home today, not because he collected bribe, but because he admitted before the panel that was set up by the NJC that he did not know as a judge after 12 or 15 years on the bench that he ought not to sign an execution of warrant the same day he delivered a judgement. If somebody could be relieved on that basis, well if somebody does not know the constitutional provision to appoint a Magistrate to such a panel, then it’s terrible, it’s terrible! That’s all I can say.

While many lawyers commend your efforts at publishing The Squib, some are of the opinion that the language and your choice of words is unbecoming of our noble profession. They think that the Bench deserves some respect in the style and manner you write about them.

I respect the opinion of these observers. I appreciate it. It does not mean that I accept it. I think they care for the profession too. They feel for the profession too, but I think they are operating from a wrong ideological position. A Greek philosopher once said, ’this person I love, that person I love, but I love the truth more.’ The question we should ask ourselves is what this man is saying, is it the truth? I agree that our profession is noble indeed, but our profession is not greater than the society.

The society is supposed to be the mother of all professions. Every profession is supposed to be a blessing. I am talking of the normal professions, not armed robbery. Now if you are supposed to be a blessing to the society and you now choose to bastardize and prostitute your position and become a curse to that society, do you know how much havoc a corrupt judge can wreak? Do you know the terrible things a corrupt lawyer can do? If we use a language on a judge and we found out that what the judge has done is horrible, all these people criticizing The Squib, what have they done?

A particular judge who is out of the system today, used to be called ‘afternoon judge.’ Many of these lawyers will go and grumble in their chambers. Even the senior lawyers we met in the profession could not do anything until The Squib came. A judge is supposed to be the example for us lawyers, but we found out that there is a lot of hypocrisy in the system. A very senior lawyer of about 34 years at the Bar, I asked him what they had been doing, He said, ‘let’s just leave that.’ Then the profession is getting worse and we young lawyers are suffering.

When people no longer have confidence in the profession they use self help. They go to OPC, MASSOB, Bakassi Boys and Babalawo. They use any other thing except thelaw courts. Then where does that lead us? We don’t get jobs as lawyers and we cannot put food on our table. So this is why we just have to purge the system! I must say that as a reformer, you will not have much time for niceties. Jesus Christ flogged some people out of the temple. Some people will criticize him for that and say it is ungentlemanly, but he is our Lord, he is my Lord. Look at John the Baptist. If they say I am too harsh and sectarian, my plea is that I have predecessors!

You are also into active legal practice but most of the cases you handle are of a controversial nature. It’s on record that you handled the Guru-Maharaji murder case. It’s on record too that you handled the Clifford Orji case of cannibalism. There is also the case of the people who gorged out the eyes of a young girl for rituals and you are currently handling the case of the medical doctor who allegedly conducted a virginity test on secondary school students. Now, how do you find such briefs, or how do such briefs find you?

How do the briefs find me? I believe reputation speaks. It’s not that most of my briefs are controversial. It’s just that occasionally a controversial case comes to me. You just mention only about four or five cases and I have done hundreds of cases. But then it’s reputation mainly. Some of the cases come purely by chance.

The case of the people who gouged out the eyes of a girl, I was in Justice Oduneye’s court and I saw that the accused were not represented by any lawyer. Out of curiousity I just asked and found out they had no lawyer representing them. One of them is Hausa and I can speak a smattering of Hausa. So I asked them if they wanted a lawyer, they said yes and I jumped back into the Bar and said, ‘My Lord I am appearing for these people.’ I was challenged. Not by the enormity of what they did,but that lawyers were running away from defending them.

That case actually, I did free of charge. I only managed to get one of them out because the case was already half way done. I came in late. Later, the Guru-Maharaji case came. The case had been in court and one day the followers of Guru came to my chambers and I was surprised because they had a lawyer already, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. But they said some lawyers asked them to come to me. People wondered if I was a member of the sect. But I am Christian. I only saw that he had a good case and I took it. As for Clifford Orji, some people brought that to me from the Ministry of Justice, basically because he could not afford the services of a counsel. So I went to defend him. If I was unscrupulous, I would have got him out. Because, you will not believe it, there was nothing in the police file against him! But on personal investigation I found out that he was actually mad. Some people were asking me if I was briefed by some of the people he used to supply human meat and I laughed. There was nothing against him, but I concurred with the prosecution that the man was actually insane. Today he is held at Ikoyi prisons and there are no facilities there for insane inmates unfortunately. He has been there since 1999.

What is the moral judgement of accepting these controversial cases. Some of the cases attract quite a lot of public outcry. Like this case of the medical doctor who is involved in the virginity test scandal. Most other lawyers will not accept such briefs on moral grounds.

What do I understand by morality? You see, morality is different from sentimentality. First, am I a lawyer? I don’t sell land and I don’t sell houses. I enjoy the courtroom war, the intellectual war that is there. The only thing you can accuse me of is I take up a case and I try to pervert justice or I try to colour evidence. If I try to hide evidence or do anything to ensure that my client gets out by all means. That is what I will call immoral. Let the prosecution earn his money.

Look at the case of Guru Maharaji, there was a lot of sensationalism. When I took up the case, it was the belief in legal circles that the Senior Advocate had realized that there was no way that Guru could be brought home free. That was why he left it for a young man who had not made his name, who could afford his name to be dented. That was the press. When you enter the court it’s a different matter entirely. If lawyers are lawyers, what they look at is the case against the accused. You must agree that there are two sides to a story.

In the case of the medical doctor who conducted the virginity test, if as a lawyer you look at what they say on Newsline, NTA and condemn my client, then that lawyer does not know what is fair hearing. See what NTA did. They brought the parents and brought the children. They didn’t make any effort to contact the doctor. Go and read Encomium magazine of yesterday June 24, the same thing. It was only the House of Assembly that invited all the parties. Even then, they summoned the principal of the school, they didn’t summon the doctor. So I insisted that my client will not go there until they serve him a letter. When they served him, we went. They said my client should just say his side of the story before the committee and I said, ‘gentlemen, you don’t do that. Let’s observe the principle of natural justice. Bring the accuser and bring the accusation.’ One of the committee members who is a lawyer, got offended. He said I was bringing the technicalities of the courtroom before the committee. I was really surprised. This is not technicality. This is the principle of natural justice. Jesus said, ‘where are your accusers?’

If you want to accuse my client, go ahead. But you must give him the opportunity to defend himself. What is morality? Go and read your own THISDAY editorial I shook my head when I read it. I don’t think they weighed the story properly.

For instance, I am doing Chief Layi Balogun’s case. Anybody reading that story in the press at that time will think my client is a criminal. But this is the man who bought the wristwatch of Chief Layi Balogun. Really this is a man who sells wristwatches. He has a shop and they came and sold the wristwatch to him. Even the man who sold the wristwatch to him said he did not know it was stolen property. Can you believe that the police is not charging that man who sold, but they are charging the man who bought!

From the perspective of The Squib, you seem to believe that the bane of our Judiciary is corruption. In your opinion, what do we need to reform in our Judiciary and how do we go about it?

Thank you. If you use the word corruption, it’s just to envelope it. Inefficiency is part of it. If the Judiciary is corrupt, it’s because the society itself is corrupt. Why is the society corrupt? It’s because there are people who see criminality from the position of morality. But I tend to see criminality differently. The country is very poor. In 1995, when I was doing my court attachment in Honourable Justice Ope-Agbe’s court, he told us in chambers that if not that people like him love the job, they would not be on the Bench. As at 1995, he said his salary was less than 5,000 Naira. That apart from the big house they give them at Ikoyi and the police escort, they have children in the universities. These are judges presiding over cases where people can come and offer them gratification.

When you give judicial officers living wages, you will stem corruption. If you want to improve the Judiciary, there has been too much of a focus on judges. Professor Yemi Osinbajo and Governor Bola Tinubu deserve commendation for what they have done so far for the Judiciary. But if you really want to improve the Judiciary, the remuneration should not be limited to the judges. What of the Registrars? You find that in Lagos state the total package for a judge is now about 300,000 a month. Yet you still find Registrars receiving less than 15,000 a month. I don’t think it’s fair!

The NBA should wake up! We have a rather docile NBA. People write letters everyday about the misdemeanors of lawyers and nothing gets done much. I am not talking about the disciplinary committee at the national level. Even the local Bar! When you write a petition against a lawyer in the local Bar, they settle it amongst themselves. That is not fair. The lawyers don’t want to rock the boat. You see charge-and-bail lawyers. Look at Ikeja High Court, swimming in iniquity, in the Magistrate Court area! You see lawyers doing charge-and-bail, running after ambulances, some dressing badly and the NBA cannot do anything.

A case was reported to me recently of a lawyer actually appearing before a judge without a coat! He used his gown to cover his shirt! When Chief Idowu Sofola, SAN sees you improperly dressed he will call you and admonish you.

Look at the wind that would have swept off Justice Ade Alabi. The lawyer, though he has apologized, that was just to escape criminal conviction. What has the NBA done about it? Look at some lawyers standing trial for 419, whose names have become synonymous with 419, what has the NBA done? It is me who is publishing Squib that they said they want to flush out of the system!

It is only a multi-dimensional approach that can help the Judiciary. Good people should be appointed. Look at what is happening in Lagos state. Many of the newly appointed judges have shamed their critics. Most of them displayed if not necessarily brilliance, but intelligence. I can mention names. Dada is exemplary, Obadina, Coker, Oyewole, Gbajabiamila, Oshodi and Abiru. He was transferred to Badagry as a punitive measure and the loss of Ikeja has become the gain of Badagry, very hardworking. He has transformed the place.

We don’t want judges whom people will nickname Ghana-must-go! We don’t want judges who will sit at 1.p.m or judges who don’t know their law, who will say, ‘let me go and consult my senior’ before he delivers a ruling. The NBA must focus on discipline within the Bar. What I am doing now is what the NBA is supposed to be doing. Practicing and publishing a magazine every week. As there are judges who are irresponsible to their oath of office, they will have to deal with people like us. We have been called names. We have been called thugs. But this profession and the future of Nigeria belong to people like us! If we don’t fight this corruption and inefficiency, it will tell on us in time to come. That is my message.