Fiery human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN x-rays the year-long debacle surrounding the appointment of a substantive Chief Judge for Cross River State. While lampooning the ‘executive lawlessness’ that birthed the crisis, he argues that the quagmire threw up a few heroes and lessons

On February 8, 2021, the Honourable Justice Akon Bassey Ikpeme, was sworn in as the substantive Chief Judge of Cross-River State, in a colourful ceremony that was attended and watched live by many. It has been a tortuous journey, for My Lord in particular. How did it happen? On March 3, 2020, Governor Ben Ayade shocked the nation and the judiciary in Nigeria when he proceeded to swear in Honourable Justice Maurice Eneji, as the Acting Chief Judge of Cross-River State, to take over from Honourable Justice Ikpeme, whose tenure expired in acting capacity on March 2, 2020. It was an executive act that blew dust on the face of the judiciary directly, ranking as it were, as the greatest act of impunity, so far displayed against the most sacred institution of governance, by the executive arm. At all relevant times, the Honourable Justice Ikpeme was the most senior judge in the Cross-River State judiciary, but then she is a lady and she is from Akwa Ibom State by birth, although married to a citizen of Cross-River State. Honourable Justice Eneji was at the time next to her in the rank of seniority and above all, a man.

Governor Ayade had forwarded the names of Honourable Justices Ikpeme and Eneji to the National Judicial Council, for recommendation for appointment as the substantive Chief Judge of the State, with Ikpeme as the preferred candidate and Eneji as the reserved candidate, ostensibly based on seniority. The NJC in December, 2019, interviewed both candidates, whereupon it found worthy and recommended Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge, being the most senior judicial officer and she had no negative report whatsoever. Then commenced the various schemes and spins, targeted mainly at denying Ikpeme J., the substantive position, purely on the grounds of gender and her state of origin. It was then suddenly realized that she is from Akwa Ibom State, thereby putting her loyalty to Cross-River State in doubt. But all that has ended now, partly due to the role played by the Nigerian Bar Association, led by its dynamic President, Mr. Olumide Akpata.

My Lord Honourable Justice Akon Ikpeme started her career in Calabar and later got married to a Cross-Riverian. At the creation of Akwa-Ibom State, members of staff of the judicial arm were given the option to move to the new (Akwa-Ibom) State or remain in the old (Cross-River) State. Ikpeme continued to discharge her duties as a judge in Cross-River State, handled several cases and delivered judgments thereon, without any dent on her judicial career, till she rose to become the most senior judge in the State. The former Chief Judge therefore had no difficulty in recommending her for appointment as the Chief Judge. Then the executive arm of government under Governor Ayade began to put obstacles in her way, first with the composition of the State Judicial Service Commission and thereafter the manipulation of the State House of Assembly. On March 2, 2020, the Cross-River State House of Assembly had a stormy and rowdy session, in debating the issue of approval of the substantive chief judge. Through voice vote, they claimed to have rejected Ikpeme’s candidature due mainly to ethnicity. It was the first time in the history of Cross-River State that the most senior judge would be denied appointment as the substantive Chief Judge.

Now, section 271 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that ‘the appointment of a person to the office of the Chief Judge of a State shall be made by the Governor of the State on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of the appointment by the House of Assembly of the State’. The simple interpretation of this section involves some processes, but surely the most fundamental of them all is that the appointment of the chief judge is the responsibility of the governor. That process is commenced by the State Judicial Service Commission, which will interview and recommend candidates to the governor for appointment and the governor will in turn send the name of his nominee to the National Judicial Council. If he sends two names to the NJC and both are recommended as suitable, as was done in this case, he has to take a decision first, before activating the process of confirmation by the State House of Assembly.

The case of Ikpeme J, has brought to light the inadequacies of the 1999 Constitution, which many are taking advantage of to perpetuate lawlessness and impunity. The legislative houses of the States are all under the control and manipulation of the governors, such that no meaningful debates or legislative activities go on in those hallowed chambers, except in a few States. By law, it was not yet time for Ikpeme J, to retire from the judicial service of Akwa Ibom State and by swearing in Eneji J, her junior, as the Acting Chief Judge at that it, it meant that Ikpeme J, would take directives from and be under the authority of Eneji J. Seniority is one of the most cherished traditions of the legal profession, both at the Bar and on the Bench. And this is why section 271 (4) of the Constitution was enacted to uphold this age-long tradition, by stating that ‘if the office of the Chief Judge of a State is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office , then until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the Governor of the State shall appoint THE MOST SENIOR JUDGE of the High Court to perform those functions’ (emphasis supplied).

From the clear provisions of section 271(4), it cannot be in doubt that the intent of the drafters of the Constitution was to allow THE MOST SENIOR judge of the State to be the occupant of the office of the Chief Judge, once a vacancy occurs. Even in other establishments outside the judiciary, such as the military, whenever it is the desire to appoint a junior officer to the highest position, all his seniors and contemporaries have to be retired compulsorily, as it will be absurd to retain them in service and expect maximum loyalty. It was therefore a game of chess in Cross-River State, since neither Governor Ayade nor his cronies in the Cross-River State House of Assembly commenced any proceedings in compliance with section 292 (1) of the Constitution, to remove Ikpeme J, in any manner known to law, the consequence of which was that she would have to continue to function in office as the most senior judicial officer in Cross-River State until she retires, notwithstanding the painful experience of her unwarranted persecution.

When all entreaties on Governor Ayade to do the needful fell on deaf ears, some human rights activists, led by the ever-militant Welfare Secretary of the NBA, Comrade Kunle Edun, filed a suit before the Cross-River State High Court, for judicial interpretation and application of section 292 of the Constitution. The trial Court upheld the objection of the State challenging the locus standi of the plaintiffs in the suit and the appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed, whereupon a further appeal is now pending at the Supreme Court. Now, part of the lessons in this whole saga is for all citizens to be conscious to demand for their rights, anytime there is a breach or likelihood thereof. Even though the court case was dismissed, it is on record that Governor Ayade cannot claim that the issue was a walk over for him. Activists in Cross-River State, Comrade Agba Jalingo, human rights lawyers, Femi Falana, SAN, Monday Ubani, Inibehe Effiong and many others too numerous to mention, rallied support from across the nation, to resist the impunity of the executive governor, to trample upon the judiciary, with such flagrancy. But today, we are talking about heroes.

While his men were out there slugging it out with Governor Ayade, Mr. Olumide Akpata adopted the carrot and stick approach, by constructively engaging Governor Ayade, the NJC and all other stakeholders, for a common solution, which culminated into the swearing in ceremony of February 8 instant. The fundamental implication of this selfless effort is simply that a people united can never be defeated. Even if another judge had been sworn in as the Chief Judge of Cross-River State other than Ikpeme, J, it would still have been a struggle won, for the people of Cross-River State in particular and the Bar and Bench, in general. The other hero of this struggle is the rule of law, eloquently championed by the NJC, the human rights activists and the NBA. Given the physical location of the champions of this noble cause, traversing Warri, Lagos, Abuja and Calabar was certainly not a tea party, given the security situation in Nigeria, alone. Not to talk of the financial implications, in convening and attending several meetings, filing and prosecution of the court cases and the concomitant effect of all these on their private practice. This is why they deserve the applause of all men and women of good conscience, as the laudable example that they have set will remain an indelible reference point to guide us in similar cases in future, which honestly, no one prays for.

In it all, commendation also goes to Governor Ayade, for allowing wise counsel to prevail and for upholding the oath of office he took, to respect, observe, defend and enforce the Constitution, without ill will, fear or affection. That is the way it should be, as there is nothing personal in the appointment of the Chief Judge of a State, being a tenured office that is purely statutory in nature. Should His Excellency have persisted, in defiance of the Constitution, to retain his preferred candidate in office as Chief Judge, it would have been a dangerous precedent, which even the court, as the major casualty, was not readily available to upturn. It is an irony of sorts, that the institution being defended failed, at the appropriate time when given the opportunity, to rescue itself, clinging as it were, to the discarded theory of locus standi, which even courts in foreign jurisdictions, have jettisoned in favour of local fishermen against multinational oil companies. It is rather unfortunate.

The Cross-River State House of Assembly also acted in a matured fashion, in reversing itself concerning the swearing in of Ikpeme, J., ultimately. Members of the CRSHA have only all opted to defend the Constitution, to preserve our noble institutions and to allow the rule of law to prevail, over the rule of man. But all of these efforts would have gone unnoticed but for the media, which kept the matter in the public domain throughout. It is gratifying that the NBA President has also opened up discussions with Governor Ayade on the fate of Magistrates in Cross-River State, who have worked for about two years without payment of their salaries and allowances. That will be the icing on this beautiful struggle, when Governor Ayade would demonstrate uncommon statesmanship, by granting unconditional approval for the payment of all outstanding entitlements of all judicial officers, who have labored and toiled to sustain his administration.

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Fiery human rights activist and member of the #ENDSARS Judicial Inquiry Panel, MR. EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA SAN chronicles his encounter with Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwa-Olu and why he accepted to serve on the panel.

My phone rang unusually, but it was a call that I had to pick, given the assignment that came through that source some days earlier. He is my Learned Brother Silk and the Honourable Attorney-General of the State where I reside and practice. He is also a friend. About a week ago, he had politely requested me to serve Lagos State as a member of the Criminal Law Review Panel and I was already engrossed into that assignment, given the business-like model adopted by the Chairperson of the Panel, the Honourable Justice Adenike Coker. I had just returned from a very strenuous trip from Abuja, so I was thoroughly exhausted, but I had to pick the call. He thanked me for accepting to serve in the Criminal Law Review Panel but now he has a more urgent assignment for me. He then asked me to speak with His Excellency the Governor of Lagos State. Though the voice was somewhat calm, I could sense the urgency as well. He appealed to me to come to the aid of the State, at this time. He said he knows my position on issues and that is exactly why he has chosen me for a new assignment. He wanted people with an independent mindset who would tell it as it is, not minding what they uncover. He had given an undertaking to the youth to interface between them and the Federal Government in respect of the EndSARS protest and the National Economic Council has advised all States to set up Judicial Panels of Inquiry into the brutality suffered by citizens in the hands of the police. He wants me to serve on the Panel for Lagos State.

I thanked him and then requested for time to think about it, hoping in my mind to consult widely on the issue. I had a constituency and I began to call prominent members of my constituency, that is, civil society and the legal profession. Suggestions came forth in many ways and I gave the feedback to the State. Some adjustments were made and after securing assurances from the Governor, I accepted to serve as a member of the Panel. The next thing of course would be to ascertain the legality of the assignment, so I consulted the Tribunals of Inquiry Law of Lagos State, section 1 of which states as follows:

“1. Power to constitute Tribunal of Inquiry
(1) The Governor may when necessary, constitute one or more persons by a signed instrument, a Tribunal with authority to inquire into the conduct or affairs of any officer in the public service of the State, or any officer in a local authority in the State, or of any chief, or the management of any department of the public service or of any local authority or declarations of customary law relating to selection of an Oba or a recognized Chief or any matter relating to any chieftaincy dispute, or INTO ANY MATTER IN RESPECT OF WHICH IN THE OPINION AN INQUIRY WOULD BE FOR THE PUBLIC WELFARE.”

Given the position of the courts on the famed Oputa Panel, it became imperative to be well guided. In the opinion of the State, the Panel was primarily an attempt to heal wounds, to relate with victims of human rights abuses, by the police and other law enforcement agencies, such as Vehicle Inspection Officers, LASTMA, local government tax collectors, etc and then offer compensation. The Governor had assured of a Victims Trust Fund already established with a take-off grant of N200m, from which due compensation would be paid to the victims, as determined by the Panel. I had made other requests, concerning other members of the Panel and also my status, to serve only as a part-time member without the payment of any allowance, salary or benefit in any manner whatsoever. This was granted and indeed the Honourable Attorney-General ensured that members got the Instrument constituting the Panel signed by the Governor and also a letter of appointment. So far as these two documents were handed over to me, I was satisfied with the sincerity of the State, especially on the issue of autonomy and independence of the Panel.

The Panel members were sworn in at a brief ceremony at State House, Marina, on October 19, 2020 and we set to work immediately, by visiting the venue of its sittings at the Lagos State Waterways Authority office at Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos. We indicated our disagreement with the venue for many reasons and the authorities obliged us with a change of venue to the Lagos Court of International Arbitration, LCIA, at the second roundabout of Lekki Phase 1. We requested an independent secretariat and other facilities, in order to be truly independent of the government. Then came the Black Tuesday, at the Lekki Toll Plaza. There was a national outrage on the events that happened at the Lekki Toll Plaza, especially as to different accounts from social media influencers. By Friday October 23, 2020, the Governor made a state broadcast by which he added the Lekki Toll Plaza matter to the terms of reference of the Panel. As usual, Panel members demanded for an Instrument in this regard.

We then set to work, developing the rules of practice and procedure for the Panel, to interview and interact with members of the Secretariat and to conduct a physical inspection of the venue for the sittings of the Panel. It would then seem very clear that the State was serious about the Panel. I have received a number of calls, counsel and prayers, about my membership of the Panel. Why would I accept to serve a government that I had battled with in court for so many years? First, the cases that I filed in court were not meant to derail the government but rather to strengthen the rule of law and help the government. Second, having fought tooth and nail these many years, any opportunity created for engagement should not be ignored by those directly involved in the struggle to liberate our people. Or how else do we secure victory if we run away from the solution? The Governor stated it to me clearly and indeed in all his public declarations on the matter that he wanted people with independent minds and who have the integrity to do a thorough job without being influenced one way or the other. Pray, how do I run away from an engagement that will lead to the compensation of victims of government brutality, most of who are the masses of our people? What then is the essence of the struggle over the years, if we shy away from holding the government accountable for its actions and inactions?

I have myself been a victim of brutality, by the police and by soldiers, by LASTMA and by other government officers, so I know what it means to be a victim. I count myself also as worthy and deserving of some compensation for the many abuses that I suffered in the past but I drop my own personal case on this occasion in the interest of others since God has been merciful to help me survive and overcome the trauma of my ordeal. So then I accepted to serve on the Panel, given the assurances of the Governor, the commitment shown with the signed legal Instrument constituting the Panel, my letter of appointment and the other members of the Panel who have all shown the desire to do a thorough job. And since I made it a condition to serve only on a pro bono basis, that in itself is a signal to the authorities that it would be a no nonsense exercise. We will say it as it is and as it should be, otherwise it will not be worth the trouble at all.

It will then be for me to appeal to all and sundry to come up with their claims, complaints and petitions. The rules of engagement by the Panel have been made so simple, such that victims can approach the Panel and be assisted by the Secretariat to document their complaints on oath, since it is a judicial panel of record. Those who wish to appear with their counsel are free to do so, by submitting their petitions accompanied with an affidavit verifying the facts of the petition. We have multiple assurances from the government and the agencies concerned of maximum cooperation with the Panel in the course of its assignment. I therefore appeal to all Nigerians to come up with the cases, video clips, write ups and other evidence of human rights abuses such as torture, extortions, arrest and detention, killings, deprivations and such other cases as perpetrated by any agency of government.

On Sunday, October 25, 2020, it was widely publicized that Ministers and Governors of the South-West visited the Governor of Lagos State on a sympathy tour of structures affected by the wanton looting and destruction that took place. In the course of their visit, they were led to the Lekki Toll Plaza, to assess the situation thereat. It was at the same Lekki Toll Plaza that the incident of alleged shooting of EndSARS protesters was said to have taken place.

Since the Panel has been vested with jurisdiction over the Lekki Toll Plaza, I verily believe that it is illegal for anyone else to conduct any visit to the said Lekki Toll Plaza in the absence of and without the authority and consent of the Panel. It was reported that in the course of the visit, the former governor of Lagos State and the Honourable Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, discovered a hidden camera, which he took. This is a clear case of illegally tampering with exhibits that may become useful to the Panel in the course of its assignment. I appeal to the Governor of Lagos State to allow the Panel the full autonomy and independence that was promised at the time of inauguration. It is contempt of the Panel for anyone to usurp the powers of the Panel in the way that has been reported. In this regard, the Panel will not shy away from summoning anyone who is alleged to be involved in any contemptuous act that may obstruct the course of justice. It certainly cannot be business as usual.

The healing process has commenced and I can assure all Nigerians that the Panel is determined to do a thorough job, based on its terms of reference. It is painful that these infractions happened at all, but the opportunity for restitution and compensation should not be discountenanced.

Victims can reach the Panel through the following platforms:

0901 051 3203, 0901 051 3204, 0901 051 3205. The Panel will be sitting at the Lagos Court for International Arbitration located at N0.1A, Remi Olowude Street, 2nd Roundabout, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.

Life without Christ is Crisis

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Leading human rights activist, MR. EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA SAN reviews the case of activist-lawyer Emperor Ogbonna and notes that his plight “highlights what the ordinary citizen goes through in the hands of agents of the State”

“Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law.”
                                                                  – Section 35 (1) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

After the right to life, the right to personal liberty is taken to be the most important of the all the rights granted under Chapter 4 of the Constitution. Without any shadow of doubt, the right to personal liberty is the one that is most abused, by those who are in power. Many suspects are languishing in various detention centres across the nation, without any hope for justice. It has been established that the majority of inmates in the various Correctional Centres in Nigeria are awaiting trial. It has become so easy for the law enforcement agencies, especially the police, to arrest and detain citizens at random, upon one alleged crime or the other. In some cases, they go beyond crime as the basis for arrest; cases involving civil financial obligations by the tenant are taken to the police by the landlord, and turned into a criminal complaint. Disputes over ownership of land also end up in the police station. In a particular case which I handled, the police officers were demanding for the survey plan of the land in order to determine the true owner thereof!

Gabriel Emperor Ogbonna is a Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist who has been in custody of the police and the DSS for months, despite court orders directing his release. He is based in Aba, Abia State. He has been in detention since March 24, 2020, having been arrested in his office by operatives of the Department of State Security, DSS and armed policemen. He was initially taken to the Abia State Police Command headquarters, where he was confronted with a petition written against him that he published falsehood against the Governor of Abia State to the effect that the latter swore an oath at the Ancient Harashima. He was eventually arraigned before the Magistrate’s Court and remanded in custody. The activist was later charged before the Federal High Court, Umuahia and was admitted to bail by the said court. Mr. Ogbonna perfected the conditions of his bail and was released from the Correctional Centre on April 28, 2020, but he was immediately arrested by the Abia State Director of DSS and thereafter transferred to Abuja. The story line is that the Abia State Government is allegedly behind his travails.

Mr Ogbonna was eventually tried at the Federal High Court, Umuahia in Abia State, wherein the said Court directed the production of Mr. Ogbonna but the order was flouted by the police and DSS, in Suit No. FHC/UM/CR/17/2020. Consequently, the Court, coram D.E. Osiagor, J., dismissed the charge against him and he was accordingly discharged, on June 26, 2020. Notwithstanding the said order, Mr. Ogbonna was not released. Mr. Ogbonna himself filed a civil suit, for the enforcement of his fundamental rights, in Suit No. FHC/UM/CS/40/2020, against the DSS. On June 29, 2020, the Court made the following orders, after taking arguments from counsel to the parties:

“1. That the 1st to 3rd Respondents are hereby ordered to immediately release the Applicant unconditionally or charge him only to a court of competent jurisdiction.
2. That the 1st-3rd Respondents are hereby restrained by themselves or through their agents, servants and privies from further harassing, re-arresting and detaining the Applicant over the facts of this matter.
3. That the 1st-3rd Respondents are hereby ordered to pay the sum of One Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira Only (N1,500,000:00) as damages for the two months detention of the Applicant without trial.”

From June 29, 2020 when this order was made by the Court, it is well over a month and Emperor Ogbonna is still in the unlawful custody of the DSS. We cannot continue to carry on in this fashion, as if the country has no laws governing its affairs. Government officials, especially members of the Executive arm of government, cannot become so lawless as to totally disregard the orders of a competent court of law, as that will be promoting anarchy and chaos. Section 287 (3) of the Constitution is so very clear on this matter:

“287 (3). The decisions of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, a High Court and of all other Courts established by this Constitution shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by other Courts of law with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, a High Court and those other Courts, respectively.”

There should be no further assurance required by the DSS for the release of Emperor Ogbonna other than the orders of the Federal High Court, Umuahia, reproduced above. Whereas it is proper and desirable for law enforcement agencies to do their best to investigate, detect and prosecute crimes, for the good of society, once the court has intervened however, by way of granting an order for the release of a citizen, then such an order must be respected and must not be subverted through devious means or by subterfuge. There is no other way to describe the conduct of the DSS in keeping Emperor Ogbonna in its custody after the Court has ordered his unconditional release other than plain dictatorship and executive brigandage. When we get to the stage whereby citizens beg the government to obey court orders and to respect the rule of law, then you know that lawlessness has taken its ugly root.

Not long ago, the President signed Executive Order No.10, wherein he granted autonomy to the judiciary. It is thus improper to claim to grant autonomy to the judiciary with one hand and then take it away with another through wilful disobedience of Court orders. I call upon the President to call the Director of DSS to order, in order to avoid another scenario of what happened in the case of Omoyele Sowore. Emperor Ogbonna’s attention is needed by his pregnant wife, he also has a precarious medical history, having suffered gunshot wounds from an attempted assassination upon his life in the past. With the health challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic, this is not the time to embark upon indiscriminate arrest and detention of citizens. Indeed, the government only recently directed that the Correctional Centres be decongested. The DSS must obey the order of court by releasing Emperor Ogbonna unconditionally and if there be any further allegations against him, he should be charged to court, in line with the requirements of the Constitution. Surely two wrongs cannot make anything right. There is no separate court established by law for the DSS and no trial can take place in the office of the Director of DSS. Thus, if the Court established by law says Emperor Ogbonna should be released, then he has to be released. This point cannot be negotiated at all.

All law enforcement agencies, including even the military, must willingly submit themselves to civilian authority, as we are not under military rule in Nigeria presently. The Courts were created under section 6 of the Constitution to adjudicate in disputes between persons and persons and between persons and the government. The criminal charge preferred against Emperor Ogbonna by the State has since been dismissed by the Court. In addition, the Court ordered that he should not be arrested or detained upon the same facts leading to his discharge. So, the question that the DSS must answer is whether whilst he has been in unlawful custody, Emperor Ogbonna has committed another offence to warrant his continued detention or even a fresh trial? The answer of course is a capital NO, which simply means that his current detention is illegal and a total disrespect to the authority and integrity of the court.

The plight of Emperor Ogbonna only highlights what the ordinary citizen goes through in the hands of agents of the State, as if a lawyer and an activist, who is well learned, conscious of his rights and privileges, is facing such persecution and hardship, then one can best imagine what the common man goes through, in all the police stations and other detention centres across Nigeria. This is why the struggle for the freedom of Emperor Ogbonna is one that must be undertaken by every lover of justice and human rights. The freedom and liberty of any individual should not be the subject of any oppressive negotiation with the State, in order to compel the citizen to abandon his avowed beliefs and principles.

Good enough that this is coming on the heels of the election of new national officers for the Nigerian Bar Association. It is a litmus test for the new NBA Exco to take the bull by the horn and mobilize lawyers and Nigerians to free Emperor Ogbonna. It will be a good baptism of fire, for the new NBA Exco to confront the DSS and insist on respect for the rule of law and obedience to the orders of the Courts in this and all other cases. It should not be possible ever again, for any lawyer or other citizen, to be kept in unlawful custody simply because he is considered to be in the opposition or has views which are intolerable to those who are in power. This has to stop.
The President cannot sit on the fence in this matter, as the DSS and indeed all other security agencies report directly to him. It is important that the President intervenes urgently to direct immediate compliance with the order of court for the release of Emperor Ogbonna. On a number of occasions the President has stated his preference for the rule of law, so this presents a good opportunity for him to put to practice, that which he preaches often. Let Ogbonna be released, immediately and unconditionally, as directed by the Court.

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In the course of last week, both Chambers of the National Assembly took up the issue of failing security across the land. Whilst the Senate asked that the service chiefs be sacked, the House of Representatives interacted with the security agencies. It is now clear to all and sundry, at least from the comments and contributions of lawmakers across party lines, that Nigeria is approaching a failed state. The pogrom going on in Southern Kaduna presently is totally unacceptable. In a programme that I monitored on television recently, a presidential aide was challenged to take a drive around his constituency without security patrol if indeed he feels Nigeria is safe enough. The worsening security situation across the land should be a cause for concern to all of us. The President has a duty to act fast, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

Nigeria became a State formally in 1960, with sovereign powers transferred from the British colonialists to the representatives of the people. By law however, section 2 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states that “Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, and by section 2 (2) thereof, “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of states and a Federal Capital Territory”. So, in the real sense of the word, Nigeria is created as a sovereign state consisting of federating units. Fair enough, the same Constitution that created the Nigerian Federation also specified the kind of powers that it should exercise and the functions it should perform, for its citizens. In this regard, Chapter 2 of the self-same Constitution, comes to bear. I will limit myself for this discourse however, to section 14 of the Constitution.

Under and by virtue of section 14 (2) (a), “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution, derives ALL its powers and authority” (emphasis supplied). In very simple terms therefore, the sovereignty attached to the entity known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria, resides in the people of Nigeria. In essence, all our leaders hold power in trust for the people of Nigeria and they cannot go on acting as if it is the other way round. To break it down more, there is no President who should claim to be in power, there is no Governor who should assert any authority and there should be no legislative house or even a court of law, that should rule over and above the people and be lording policies and decisions over them. Power belongs to the people, pure and simple. The fact that the people of Africa and especially Nigeria, have been living in the opposite of civility and modernisation, whereby those elected into office by the people turn around to arrogate power to themselves, cannot be an excuse to obfuscate this simple truth.

Now to section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution, wherein it is stated expressly and without equivocation, that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” A community interpretation of section 14 (2) (a) and (b) respectively will show clearly that the Nigerian State was created for the people of Nigeria, that the focus of the entity called Nigeria is the people and that the target of power and existence of that Federation, is the people. It is good therefore, to sound it loud and clear, that the very existence of government, the totality of the exercise of power, by all and sundry, is for the security and welfare of the people and anything outside this, anything done that cannot achieve this, means a failure of governance. Pure and simple.

According to the learned authors of Merriam-Webster Dictionary, SECURITY means: “(a) freedom from danger (safety); (b) freedom from fear or anxiety; … something that secures, protection or measures taken to guard against espionage or sabotage, crime, attack, or escape.” The priority of security in governance is better illustrated by section 4 of the Police Act, wherein it is stated that the police shall be “… employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.” What stands out in this section is the phrase “protection of lives and property”. Now, let us match this with certain data recently released by the Inspector-General of Police himself.

At the quarterly Northern Traditional Rulers’ Council meeting held in Kaduna in, 2019, the then Inspector-General of Police stated that in the first quarter of 2019 alone, 1,071 persons lost their lives in crime-related cases across the country. He stated further that between January and April 2019 alone, 685 persons were kidnapped. Amnesty International has a higher figure of deaths and casualties. In 2018, it was estimated that about 6, 562 persons died from crime-related cases whilst generally, an estimate of about 13,000 persons are said to have died from the insurgency going on in the land, whilst about 1.1m people have been displaced thereby. Just in one year! This is surely frightening, to the extent that no one can claim to sleep with the two eyes closed, any longer. It may well be that the government is taking all necessary steps to contain the rising spate of insecurity across Nigeria, but this remains to be seen by all and sundry, in terms of security and safety, in the real sense of the word. The summary now would seem to be that the government has not been able to rise up to the challenges posed by insecurity. The death rate is climbing everyday.

Now to welfare, since the two main points of governance are security and welfare. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines WELFARE as “the state of doing well, especially in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity.” Are we doing well as a people, presently? Are we enjoying some form of good fortune economically? Is the well-being of the people of this nation improving in any form at all? Are we happy, with the state of things in Nigeria? Is there prosperity in the land? Without any doubt whatsoever, suicide cases have increased, the economic power of the people has dwindled considerably and virtually everyone now depends on handouts from the government, as private businesses are all struggling to survive, in the absence of basic infrastructure, especially power supply. I have no doubt in my mind that the true testimony across the land is that the majority of the people are suffering indeed. I see it in the text messages that I receive every now and then, for financial assistance, I read it in the news daily, of how many States in the Federation are owing their workers salaries, for several months and how the ordinary people are just living from hand to mouth, barely eking out a living, just surviving and tagging along. Companies are closing down, on account of COVID 19 and there is palpable suffering across the land.

The present circumstance of Nigeria is that many people have become beggars of some sort. Even as businessmen and women, professionals and even as manufacturers, the bulk of the little profit margin is spent on infrastructure, whereby you are forced to generate your own electricity, provide your own water, build your own road, employ your own security, train your children in private schools or send them abroad, if they must excel, provide yourself health care if you must live, and may be buy your own car, if you must move around. It is that bad, that the government seemed to have shifted all its responsibilities to the citizens. And how exactly is anyone expected to survive in such hostile environment, where you spend most of your valuable time in traffic, you get home to sleep in intense heat and darkness and then you eventually manage to make it to the office the following day, only to be confronted with power outage, all day long, draining all human capacity, productivity and usefulness. Can we then say that we have a nation or that any form of governance is in place?

From all the above frightening scenarios, how do you then describe the entity created as Nigeria, if it is agreed that the two critical responsibilities of government are the security and welfare of the people? This piece became necessary as it would seem that those in authority do not well appreciate the enormity of the situation that we presently face in Nigeria or that state propaganda has so prospered and become the art of governance, that some of them are totally ensconced from the reality of present day Nigeria. Whereas I know that some well-meaning persons exist in authority presently, I verily believe that the time has now come, for some frank introspection that will translate into some genuine appreciation, of the debilitating welfare and security conditions of our people, if we are to say that there is governance at all. In the absence of that, the reasonable conclusion is that we are gradually moving to a failed state, as echoed by those legislators, who, very unfortunately, are themselves part and parcel of the failure of the state.

The President must act and act quickly, as time is running out on him. As an expert in security matters given his background as a military general, it is totally unacceptable that the President is unable to stem the rising tide of insecurity in the land, especially the terror of bandits, criminals and insurgents. How do we have leaders and we live like nomads, victims and aliens in our own country?

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Firebrand human rights activist, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN has declared that the three presidential candidates in the race for the coveted NBA Presidency are qualified to mount the saddle.

In a statement released today titled “NBA ELECTIONS 2020,” the prominent senior lawyer therefore urged eligible voters to vote “purely in the fear of God and according to your conscience.”

The statement reads:


Dear learned colleagues,

As we approach the final lap of the 2020 elections of the Nigerian Bar Association, I wish to make the following statements.

In alphabetical order with no specific preference,



He has SERVED the legal profession MERITORIOUSLY, as Chairman of NBA, Ikeja Branch and as General Secretary, NBA, at the national office.



He has SERVED the legal profession CREDITABLY, in seeking fundamental reforms in justice administration, through The Justice Reform Project and also in helping to raise leaders for the Bar, through the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee.



He has SERVED the legal profession SELFLESSLY, through the Section on Business Law and also in various other capacities, through the Conference Planning Committees.

They all have many more positive attributes, which I may not have stated. Any of these three, is qualified to lead the Bar, if voted in as President of the NBA, in any free, fair, peaceful and credible contest.

I therefore urge you to VOTE for ANY of these three candidates, purely in the fear of God and according to your conscience.

God bless Nigerian Bar Association
God bless Nigeria.

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN
Lekki, Lagos.

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Leading human rights activist, EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA, SAN pens a moving tribute to promising flying officer Tolulope Arotile who was cut down in her prime by alleged motor accident, saying that only a full-scale judicial enquiry will assuage the suspicion of a ‘hatchet job’


“Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.”
– Section 33 (1) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

Nigeria is grieving presently, on account of the painful exit of one of her bright minds, Flight Officer Tolulope Arotile, of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF). Her story is as inspiring as it is disheartening. What happened? How did it happen? Many Nigerians didn’t know her until last week when the news of her sudden demise hit the airwaves. It came through a terse press release from NAF that first said that she died in an auto accident. This suggested that she was driving a car and ran into a ditch or a stationary vehicle. Then Nigerians demanded more information, after some other revelations showed that NAF was being economical with the truth. Then another bombshell came from NAF, this time around, the blame had shifted to an excited secondary school mate that was reversing his car to greet her and in the process knocked her down! What fiction? Even James Hadley Chase will dash NAF some medal for surpassing his own unusually wild imaginations. Just like that. The first female combat helicopter pilot is gone.

Tolulope Oluwatoyin Sarah Arotile, from the bits and pieces that one can gather, was born on December 13, 1995, in Kaduna. She is from Iffe in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State. She attended Air Force Primary School, Kaduna, from 2000-2005; Air Force Secondary School, Kaduna, from 2006-2011, before gaining admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, as a member of 64 Regular Course on September 22, 2012. She was commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force on September 16, 2017. She holds a commercial pilot licence after undergoing tactical flying training in Italy and South Africa. In October, 2019, she was decorated as the first female combat pilot in the 55 years history of NAF. In her short stay, she contributed greatly to the destruction of bandits in the North Central States, by flying several combat missions under Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State. She was reported as diligent, brilliant, humble, God-fearing and dutiful. That is the star that Nigeria has lost.

Going through the media, I saw a photo of her in the air, in combat fashion, with her helicopter, with a dog by her legs and holding on to a rope, in the air, in very daring commando style. What a brave mind! The snippet of the story from her blood sister who was with her on the fateful day was that Tolulope received a telephone call that summoned her. She had just returned from a combat operation and was resting and should ordinarily not be subject to fresh rigours or errands. She left and never came back alive. The value placed on this bright life by NAF is very demeaning indeed, to say that an ‘excited old classmate ran her down’, as if in reference to some animal or worthless object. The press release from NAF came too casually, to bear. By all accounts, this is a national tragedy that should have been accorded its best attention by the relevant authorities. Perhaps it would have been better for NAF to have concluded its investigations before speaking to us, because now we have many questions begging for answers.

Who is this Adejoh friend or classmate that ran her down? How old is he? What is the exact scene of this painful event? The NAF base in Kaduna must be some well-built structure with good roads. So, let us look at the scenario properly. Tolulope was trekking on a motorized paved road within the NAF base. This Adejoh friend who was driving, drove past her, before reversing. So, Tolulope did not see the friend in the car. And then she suddenly became a static object or target that remained on the same spot, waiting for the car to just hit her and knock her down. She was motionless, waiting for the car, or was she backing the car? At what time exactly did this event happen? If it happened during daylight presumably, were they the only persons in the entire NAF base? Nobody could alert Tolulope of the death approaching her? And all the other occupants in the car that was allegedly reversing, they were all facing forward and not minding the destination of the car, for their own safety? And what is the speed of a car reversing, to be sufficiently potent to knock somebody down to the extent of death? And Tolulope herself could not see? Was she blindfolded? Is she deaf in any of her ears? Has she lately broken any of her legs not to be able to escape death? How did a combatant, who did not die in battle, who did not fall to the bullets of bandits and terrorists, lose her life to ‘an excited secondary school mate’, an unlicensed civilian driver, whose only duty was to reverse his car to knock down history in the making? How did he gain access into the NAF base, in the first place? Who are the other occupants of the car? Where is the car?

After facing series of bombardments from angry Nigerians, NAF finally released its interim investigation report on July 19, 2020 as follows:

“Upon recognizing her schoolmate, Arotile, after passing her, Mr Adejoh, who was driving, reversed the vehicle, ostensibly in an attempt to quickly meet up with the Deceased, who was walking in the opposite direction. In the process, the vehicle struck Flying Officer Arotile from the rear, knocking her down with significant force and causing her to hit her head on the pavement. The vehicle then ran over parts of her body as it veered off the road beyond the kerb and onto the pavement, causing her further injuries.”

The first action to be taken by any driver who has suddenly recognized a supposed secondary school classmate is to hoot the horn for her attention, not to pass her and then suddenly attempt to reverse in her direction. And this press release says Tolulope was walking in the opposite direction of the passing car. So, to be able to hit her the way NAF wants us to believe, the said car must first of all veer off its own lane, with all other cars waiting for it to clear off, and then zoom straight into the opposite lane, where there will be other cars also passing, all of them waiting for this car to just go straight to hit the target! And the person who drove the car was able to hit her, he did not know that he had hit any object at all, until he had ran over her body onto the pavement.

Why do we ask these questions? Government has lost integrity, as trust has been broken over the years. When government officials tell us one thing, what we experience is totally different. Just go back to the recent drama involving the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). We were entertained with stories upon stories of supposed embezzlement, diversion of funds, ownership of foreign houses and mansions, by the government media, only for Mr Ibrahim Magu to come out with total denial of virtually all the allegations. And nobody has come out to defend those stories, such that we are all wondering now whether we ever read them in the first place. It is the reason that the Coronavirus pandemic has not received due attention from the people. Many believe indeed that it is all part of the usual propaganda of the government. We should get to that level when anything coming officially from the government should be greeted with maximum attention and not paranoia. In this particular regime, we have been fed with lies, half-truths and outright falsehood, in the name of news and press briefings. That is why we find it so hard to believe the stories coming from NAF concerning Tolulope.

This event happened in Kaduna, the place of her birth. The laws regulating sudden and unnatural deaths demand that there should be a Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Tolulope, at least to help NAF and the government in preventing a recurrence. Having released a hasty report that was greeted with much uproar, the general belief is that NAF will only work to justify its earlier statements, even if subsequent evidence suggests the contrary. The burial plan as announced by the government is too hasty. In the absence of a proper and an unbiased investigation that will unravel the mystery surrounding her death, in the absence of cogent and credible answers to the many questions being asked by Nigerians, a full national burial with whatever honours has no meaning to us as a nation that has lost one of our very best. Peace without justice is a peace of the graveyard and so too ceremonies without the true facts. Pray, how do we celebrate in ignorance? How do we say bye to a superstar whose death remains a mystery? How do we console ourselves as a nation if we are not sure that this is not some deliberate hatchet job, or an attack by terrorists or plain murder?

It is not time for burial yet, unless there is something that needs to be covered up hurriedly. I have heard that some people fall in their bathroom and they die, some get hit by trucks right in front of their homes, while some others die from mere fever. This is true indeed, but it will not stop us from demanding for answers to the many questions being raised on this matter. Tolulope is not just ‘some people’, she is not just an ordinary Nigerian, but a role model, who became an inspiration to many young people, who was a ray of hope to the girl-child and who was an angel sent to quell the gender imbalance in the military especially. So, we cannot just sit and allow this to be swept under the dirty Nigerian carpet. I feel the pains that all Nigerians feel at this moment and the only way to douse the suspicions is to suspend all the burial plans for now, until proper investigation has been carried out. It is not the investigation from NAF, which has since compromised itself in the disjointed press releases issued since this unfortunate incident occurred. What is needed is an independent inquiry, led by a serving or retired judicial officer, including medical personnel nominated by the Nigerian Medical Association and other experts in the field. That is what the memory of Tolulope deserves, not a State burial that tends to cover the truth.

Tolulope dreamt big for her life and for Nigeria. She said:

“I was admitted into NDA on September 22, 2012, and I was commissioned into the NAF on September 16, 2017. Being a military personnel has been a long-time ambition. The carriage and what they stand for is simply exceptional.

“I feel very privileged and very proud. I am happy that my success has brought me to this point. And I am very grateful to the Nigerian Air Force for the opportunity to have this title. And I am looking forward to giving my best to the service.”

Unfortunately, that ambition has been cut short. We demand more answers.

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Leading human rights activists will on Monday dissect the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on Nigeria’s human rights landscape.

Organized by the Human Rights Committee of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch, the virtual conference will especially spotlight human rights violations in the wake of efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic while framing the roadmap for human rights protection in the COVID-19 era. The theme of the conference is “COVID-19, Access to Justice and Human Rights Violations.” Time is 3 pm.

Among the lawyers and jurists who have confirmed their participation as speakers are the Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Kazeem Alogba; Lagos State Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo SAN; Mr. Femi Falana SAN who will deliver a Keynote Address; Prof. Chidi Odinkalu who will speak on “COVID-19, Access to Justice and Human Rights Violations: The Role of Nigerian Bar Association,” and the Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Tony Ojukwu, who will speak on “COVID-19 and Human Rights Violations: Insights from the Field.”

Other confirmed speakers are Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN who will x-ray the topic, “How Fair is Virtual Hearing in the COVID-19 era?” and Dr. Uju Agomoh, Executive Director, Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) who will tackle the topic, “Coronavirus, Correctional Centres and Rights of Awaiting Trial Inmates.” Renowned legal aid defence expert, Mr. Chino Obiagwu SAN will discuss “Coronavirus and Challenge of Legal Defence” while Mr. Muhammad Belgore SAN will contend with “Litigating Human Rights Cases in the COVID-19 Era.”

The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu is expected to offer useful insights on the task of policing in the COVID-19 era as he discusses “Policing in the COVID -19 Era: Challenges and Prospects.”

The Host for the much anticipated virtual conference is NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Yemi Akangbe while the Moderator is the Branch Vice Chairman & Chairman of the Human Rights Committee, Mr. Okey Ilofulunwa.

Facilitated by Messrs Olumide Babalola and Emeka Nwadioke, participants are expected to register for the virtual conference at or

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By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

In this article, leading human rights activist, EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA, SAN argues that while the process leading to award of SAN title is increasingly meritorious, the rank is no longer the ultimate barometer for measuring legal excellence 

On July 4, 2019, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, LPPC, rolled out the names of thirty-eight legal practitioners deserving to be conferred with the prestigious Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. How some despise the Rank! Some don’t want it ever mentioned near them at all, for several reasons. I used to be in that class, given my background, as an activist. Not long after setting up my law practice, a friend approached me for what he termed a ‘private chat’. According to him, he had followed me keenly right from my days in Gani Fawehinmi Chambers and he was convinced of my sterling qualities, experience and standing, all of which should qualify me to be admitted into the Inner Bar, as he called it. I laughed so loudly, to the point of his embarrassment. I had just moved my law office to the NIPOST building then, following the fire disaster that I and many others suffered at LAPAL House. I took him round the expansive office, showed him my library to see the books, the litigation office and other facilities. I then asked him to tell me what he thinks that SANs have that I don’t have. All his pleas to me didn’t impress me at all, as I dismissed the process as riddled with mystery and corruption. Perhaps I was right or wrong then, I can’t say exactly, the point being that I didn’t think of such ‘distraction’ for what I considered to be a successful practice. This is the view of many lawyers and indeed many Nigerians, which is why the focus of this piece is in ‘defence’ of the Rank.

Like so many other colleagues, I never read through the aspect of the Legal Practitioner’s Act dealing with the conferment of the Rank of SAN and I didn’t bother to go through the guidelines established by the LPPC, for the Rank. And that indeed should be the starting point here, the issue to resolve being the meaning and definition of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The life and power of an SAN all start and end with section 5 of the Legal Practitioner’s Act of 1974, wherein it is provided as follows:

“5. (1) Subject to subsection (2) of this section, the Legal Practitioner’s Privileges Committee established under subsection (3) of this section may by instrument confer on a legal practitioner the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
(2) A person shall not be conferred with the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria unless he has been qualified to practice as a legal practitioner in Nigeria for not less than ten years and has achieved distinction in the legal profession in such manner as the Committee may, from time to time, determine.”

It is stated further that the LPPC shall consist of the Chief Justice of Nigeria as Chairman, the Attorney-General of the Federation, one Justice of the Supreme Court, the President of the Court of Appeal, five of the Chief Judges of the States, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and five legal practitioners who are Senior Advocates of Nigeria. The LPPC is further empowered to make rules as to the privileges to be accorded to Senior Advocates of Nigeria. Two things should immediately come to mind from the foregoing provisions; first is that the Rank of SAN is conferred as a privilege and second, it is normally the privilege of the LPPC, following its own guidelines. On April 3 1974, the first set of SANs were duly conferred, being Chief F.R.A. Williams, SAN and Dr. N.B. Graham-Douglas, SAN. The conferment has proceeded yearly, since then. The point of this background information is to buttress the fact that the Rank of SAN is established by law. The LPPC has over the years, developed its own structure, by amending its guidelines for the conferment of the Rank, based upon the robust engagements of its own members, stakeholders within the legal profession and indeed members of the public.

As at the time that I applied for the Rank, the guidelines set for the award of the Rank by the LPPC expressed the threesome purpose of the award as a privilege awarded as a mark of excellence to members of the legal profession who are in full time legal practice, who have distinguished themselves as advocates and who have made significant contribution to the development of the legal profession in Nigeria. The process of the award is largely independent, self-financing and strictly confidential. The LPPC is required to fix the number of persons to be conferred with the Rank in order to maintain the highest standard of excellence and prestige of the Rank, to adopt transparency and a feedback mechanism for the assessment of candidates. The award has since been extended to legal practitioners in the academic community. Whereas there may have been some challenges with this process in times past, a lot of efforts have been put in place presently, to ensure that those who qualify for the award of the Rank meet certain minimum conditions, such that in the past five years or more, you could hardly point to anyone awarded the Rank that has not distinguished himself or herself in the legal profession. One of the things that excited me in the course of my own journey is the fact that the LPPC has now adopted a gender-friendly process to encourage female applicants, such that virtually every year, female legal practitioners have been screened successfully.

The good news in this process for every advocate is the place of merit in the basic criteria for eligibility for the award of the Rank, which is meant to encourage core advocates. Under and by virtue of Paragraph 14 of the LPPC guidelines, an applicant must submit the following cases wherein his name is reflected as having duly conducted the said cases in court as lead counsel:

(i) 20 final judgments of the High Court or Superior Court of Records, 12 of which must be trial proceedings substantially conducted by the applicant;
(ii) 5 final judgments of the Court of Appeal; and
(iii) 4 final judgments of the Supreme Court.
(iv) These cases must have been conducted within ten years preceding the application, in order to show that the applicant is currently engaged in full time legal practice and is abreast with current developments in the field of law.
(v) Three of the cases must be pro bono cases conducted for indigent citizens who could not otherwise afford the financial cost of engaging a counsel.

Some additional requirements of these new guidelines is that the candidate must show that he or she was personally involved in the conduct of these cases by signing the originating processes, the written addresses, the notices of appeal, the briefs of argument, the charge/information sheet, no case submission, etc. In the trial proceedings, the applicant must furnish the certified true copies of the record of proceedings to show his or her personal conduct of the trial, furnish a letter of instruction from the client, the recommendation and confirmation of the Judge that handled the case and the recommendation and confirmation of the opposing counsel in the case! The point of my defence of the Rank here is that if the LPPC is able to keep to these guidelines (which it has so far done), then you would hardly see a name on the list of SANs every year that will not merit the Rank. No matter his background or experience, for a lawyer to produce 20 final judgments of the High Court is not a tea party, that is if you know what I know as a practicing lawyer, in Lagos State for instance. Anyone who has successfully conducted twelve trial proceedings up to judgment is not just qualified to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria but can also be a Judge. Believe me, it is no child’s play to secure five final judgments of the Court of Appeal or four final judgments of the Supreme Court. What the LPPC has done is to stick to these minimum standards, irrespective of your status. This is in addition to a well-equipped library, functional infrastructure in the law office, payment of tax, involvement in and recommendation by the Nigerian Bar Association, Judges, Justices, Body of Senior Advocates, Body of Benchers, the LPDC, etc. This same rigorous process is also entrenched for candidates in the academic category, who go through a very detailed regime of qualification and filtration.

The involvement of the general public in this process has guaranteed some form of transparency, whereby the names of shortlisted candidates are published to the whole world for comments and assessment. Selected members of the LPPC undertake physical inspection of the chambers of all the shortlisted candidates. The final process is the oral interview by the LPPC, comprising panels of eminent Judges and Senior Advocates of Nigeria. For me personally, any legal practitioner who has gone through these rigid procedures to be shortlisted for the oral interview of the LPPC is eminently qualified to be awarded the Rank of SAN, as a mark of distinction and excellence in the legal profession. Emphasis is placed on integrity, opinions of Justices/Judges, general knowledge of law, contribution to the development of law, leadership qualities in the profession and qualities of law office/library, for the award of the Rank. The undisputed fact that an applicant MUST meet the basic guidelines to be shortlisted at all, is a huge credit to the LPPC, headed by the Chief Justice of the Federation. My point is that you cannot buy trial proceedings or forge certified true copies of record of trial proceedings, buy the final judgment and also buy the recommendation of the Judge that delivered the judgment. These are empirical matters that have to be confirmed by the opposing counsel in the case.

I think the general challenge is what advocates do with the Rank after the award. Like never before, a huge responsibility is imposed on SANs, to show distinction, excellence, leadership and to be role models, not just for the legal profession, but also as officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, being a Rank approved by law duly published in the official gazette. I do not think the Rank confers any special advantage on any advocate who has no viable practice. On the other hand, one incurs a huge liability to be conferred with the Rank without a viable means of its propagation. The world has changed tremendously from the days of yore; legal practice has gone digital and except we deceive ourselves, the mark of excellence in legal practice is not a matter of title or Rank, but by dint of hard work, loyalty, fear of God and personal commitment to a better society, whether as Senior Advocate of Nigeria or as counsel.

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By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

In this article, leading human rights activist, By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN argues that cable television service providers must change their billing system to a more humane model, urging the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to wake up to its regulatory duties.

It was like a movie, watching the proceedings of the Ad Hoc Committee set up by the House of Representatives, to probe the hike of subscription rates by cable television service providers. The Chairman of the said Committee, Hon Unyime Idem, took me back to my Aluta days at Obafemi Awolowo University (Great Ife), roaring like a lion and reeling out the will of the people of Nigeria with such vehemence, on these shylock entities called cable television companies. The Committee had summoned the lameduck Nigeria Broadcasting Commission, NBC, which has for years unleashed a monopoly upon Nigerians, to milk us dry, without effective statutory regulation. NBC was asked to explain why DSTV and other cable service providers have blatantly and arrogantly refused to introduce pay as you view to their customers. For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, let me restate the status quo of this broadcasting brouhaha.

The cable television service providers force their customers into a monthly regime of subscription, irrespective of the conditions of viewing, the quality of the service or even its availability. So, you pay for DSTV in your house for a whole month or a whole year, you pay for DSTV in your office, you pay for DSTV in your village, you pay for DSTV in your guest house in Abuja or anywhere else you have some presence. The cable television company keeps collecting money for dormant viewing or no viewing and keeps smiling to the bank everyday, upon the sweat and suffering of its customers. Not being God with the capacity to be omnipresent, a human being can only be at a single location at a given time. Whilst your television in the office is off at night or anytime you are not there, you keep paying for viewing nothing; when you travel outside Nigeria or you are away from your house or your office, you keep servicing the empty apartment through monthly or yearly payment. When you happen to pop in and you are ready to watch the television just may be once in a month, it would suddenly go off, due to bad weather, poor connection, thunderstorm or common rainfall, but you have paid to the company and you must keep paying. Thus, the situation with many Nigerians is that we are forced to subsidize the greed of the cable television service providers, which profit from services not rendered and they are not willing to change, taking this as some kind of windfall.

“All people of good conscience must commend the House of Representatives for this bold initiative, while we urge the Senate to join the crusade to free us from this commercial exploitation. How many more years does DSTV require to recoup capital since these many decades of extortion? This must not be another flash in the pan, or the usual noise-making gathering, that will be swept under the dirty Nigerian carpet.”

The National Broadcasting Commission Act is very clear, in terms of the powers vested upon the NBC to regulate the broadcasting industry in Nigeria, especially in section 2 thereof. The NBC is empowered to regulate and control the broadcasting industry, to investigate complaints regarding the contents of a broadcast and the conduct of broadcasting stations and upholding the principles of equity and fairness in broadcasting, etc. As you would well agree with me, the NBC has so far turned a blind eye to the exploitative tendencies of the cable television service providers, with scant regard for the onerous responsibility imposed upon it by law to ensure “strict adherence to the national laws, rules and regulations relating to the participation of foreign capital in relation to local capital in broadcasting”.Nigerians have before now protested, they have filed cases in court and they have written several complaints to the National Assembly, all to no avail, as the service providers have insisted on maximum profit, without regard for the satisfaction or plight of their customers. And the questions keep popping up all the time: why is there only one company in a country of about two hundred million people, providing cable television service? Why DSTV only? Why has NBC become so weak and dysfunctional to become totally incapable of protecting the people that it was set up to serve? When will the exploitation end? Why is it impossible to hold DSTV accountable to the same pay per view policy that the same company is implementing in its home country and indeed other African countries? So many questions indeed.

If your subscription to cable television expires, you are disconnected instantly and automatically, but when you renew it, you have to call customer service to get reconnected, going through all manner of manipulative regimes that may cause you days of inactive service despite payment which is already running. What has NBC done, to advocate for extension of viewing time to correspond to the period of inactive service after payment? How do you allow a company floated by private individuals for their own personal profit, to ride roughshod over a whole nation, rendering all of us helpless and exploited? During the initial life of GSM service providers in Nigeria, we heard all manner of stories and arguments why it was impossible to provide calls per second, until another network came on board and revolutionized GSM in Nigeria, thus freeing us from the commercial bondage. It is the same story with DSTV and other cable television service providers. Attempts have been made in the past to compete with DSTV and break its monopoly, through HITV and lately TSTV, all of which did not materialize. Why? Only NBC can answer that question successfully.

This was the scenario until June 25, 2020, when the House of Representatives through its Ad Hoc Committee gave a marching order to DSTV and other cable television service providers to begin the implementation of the pay per view policy immediately.There had been a debate on the floor of the House earlier, when Honourable Idem and other members took up this challenge. Let us go through the newsreport of the proceedings of the House:

“DSTV and other Direct-to-home service providers have deliberately refused to implement the pay as you go plan but rather charge users on a fixed monthly tariff plan, unlike what is obtained outside Nigeria.”

He also explained that Nigeria constitutes over 40% of the total subscribers of DSTV, adding that Nigerians do not get to use the monthly subscription due to one reason or another. Also speaking in support of the motion, Aminu Suleiman called for an end to the monopoly enjoyed by DSTV.

“I have attempted for over a year now to sponsor a motion on the inhuman treatment the DSTV is dishing out to TV watchers in Nigeria. I say that because it is not only in Kenya that DSTV is operating the Pay-As-You view. It is just an abuse and playing with the intelligence of Nigerians. And the monopoly they enjoy contributes to this fact. We will have to encourage NCC to unbundle the entire process and allow investors to come in. They are South African companies, and they don’t do this general viewing to the South African viewers.”

This was the background, when the cable television companies met with the Ad Hoc Committee of the House on June 25, 2020. The Committee did not mince words at all, as it thundered and roared, very loud and clear. The Committee Chairman, Honourable Idem, stated in no uncertain terms that there will be no way for the companies to maneuver the system this time around, as a decision had been taken already, to ensure pay per view. It is for the companies to go back and fine tune the process of implementation, he said. I was moved to tears watching the proceedings of the Committee. I mean this is why we elected them in the first place, or else why should we all become so helpless to continue to tolerate the insensitivity of just one company, for these many years? When there is a power outage and your television and cable network are not powered, you are still paying for viewing nothing! Come on DSTV, this profiteering must come to an end! It is sheer wickedness and economic witchcraft, to continue to insist on the regime of monthly subscription; indeed it is ungodly, especially when this is not the practice in the home country of your company, South Africa. How do we allow a foreign investor, in the name of recouping capital, to invade our land with a shylock policy that it would dare not implement in its own country? How do people take us for granted in this way, if not for the active collusion of our citizens who have been entrusted with power to regulate but have surrendered themselves to be regulated instead?

All people of good conscience must commend the House of Representatives for this bold initiative, while we urge the Senate to join the crusade to free us from this commercial exploitation. How many more years does DSTV require to recoup capital since these many decades of extortion? This must not be another flash in the pan, or the usual noise-making gathering, that will be swept under the dirty Nigerian carpet. No, we must follow up with this to ensure it is implemented to the letter. The NBC must wake up and assert its authority on behalf of the people of Nigeria, to implement the pay per view policy, by all means necessary. Our representatives in the National Assembly have spoken our minds and there is no further assurance than the words spoken at the proceedings of the Ad Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives. Enough is enough. Do I hear your loud voice in support, roaring like thunder!

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Leading human rights activists will on Friday hold a webinar in honour of foremost civil rights advocate and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu. The webinar is in commemoration of Odinkalu’s birthday anniversary.
Among those who are billed to speak at the webinar are fiery human rights activist, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN); leading woman activist, Gloria Ballason; outspoken human rights campaigner, Mr. Inibehe Effiong; former Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Young Lawyers’ Forum, Mr. Issa Adedokun and Cynthia Mbamalu of the ‘Not too young to run’ fame.

With Mr. Babatunde Fagbohunlu SAN, Partner and Head of the Litigation, Arbitration and ADR Practice Group at Aluko & Oyebode as Chairman, the webinar has “The Future of Human Rights In Nigeria” as its theme.

With Mr. Orji Ama Chinedu as the arrow-head, Odinkalu said of the conveners: “A bunch of young people whom I have mentored are setting this up as annual event on 12 June. They had wanted to start in 2018 but I told them my mum was in terminal condition. Last year, I told them I was still in mourning. It begins next (this) week. Please feel free to join if you can.”

The webinar is scheduled to hold on Friday, June 12, 2020 at 11:00 am. Prospective participants can register at the following link: After registration, a confirmation email would be sent notifying the registrant on hot to join the conference.

Odinkalu is a Senior Team Manager at Open Society Foundations, a global charity that works with local communities to support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.

He received his PhD in law from the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science. Prior to joining Open Society Foundations, Odinkalu was Senior Legal Officer responsible for Africa and Middle East at the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights in London; Human Rights Advisor to the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone, and Brandeis International Fellow at the Centre for Ethics, Justice and Public Life of the Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA.

Odinkalu has extensive networks across Africa built up over several years of working for human rights and social justice on the continent. He is associated with several non-governmental and academic institutions within and outside Africa. He is frequently called upon to advise multilateral and bilateral institutions on Africa-related policy, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and the World Economic Forum.
As well as acting as the Chair of IRRI’s Board, Odinkalu also serves on the Board of the Fund for Global Human Rights. In 2017 he was appointed Steering Committee Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section of Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) by the NBA President, leading to the resuscitation of the comatose entity.

Please send emails to Copyright 2018 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.