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SUPREME COURT FINE: Lawyers group wants NBA to disregard Afe Babalola, Olanipekun

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By Joshua Timi

The Radical Agenda Movement in the Nigerian Bar Association, a group of lawyers within the national body has advised by the National Executive Committee of the bar to disregard a letter purportedly written by the duo of Afe Babalola SAN and Wole Olanipekun SAN to protest the heavy cost imposed on them and the harsh words directed at them by the Supreme Court at their appearance in relation to the Bayelsa State governorship election judgment.

In a statement signed by Chairman of the group, Mr. Ogunlana Adesina Ademola and the Secretary, Ayo Ademiluyi, the group wonders why two learned Senior Advocates are making efforts to set the NBA against the Supreme Court based on what is termed as “their misadventure at the Supreme Court”

Recall that both lawyers represented the All Progressives Congresses (APC) and its candidates in the last governorship election in Bayelsa State – David Lyon Pereworinmin and Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo – in their request to the court to set aside its judgment, voiding their victory in the election.

The Supreme Court, in a ruling by a seven-man panel on February 26, 2020, dismissed the applications by the APC and its candidates, with Justice Amina Augie, in the lead ruling, rebuking both lawyers and awarding N30million punitive cost against each of them.

According to the two protest letters addressed to the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Babalola and Olanipekun are insisting that they did no wrong by asking the court to take a second look at its earlier judgment.

In the said letters, the Learned Silks while seeking NBA’s intervention argued that they did nothing unlawful and unprofessional to warrant the harsh words used on them and the unprecedented cost awarded against them for merely carrying out their professional responsibilities as lawyers.

Babalola SAN and Olanipekun SAN argued that the decision of the Supreme Court, as it relates to them, was capable of laying wrong precedence that lawyers could be penalised for merely seeking to explore the justice administration process for the benefit of his/her client.

While Olanipekun personally authored his letter (dated March 10, 2020), Babalola’s letter (dated March 11, 2020) was written by the Managing Partner of his law firm, Adebayo Adenipekun.

Both letters were addressed to the NBA President, Paul Usoro (SAN).

In his letter, to which he attached all processes in respect of the case, Olanipekun said: “I and the team of lawyers that I lead in the matter did no wrong, either in terms of our presentation through the filling of the application or during the oral adumbration in court.

“I repeat again, with every emphasis at my disposal and all sense of responsibility that I/we did no wrong, committed no error and did/do not deserve the harsh comments (to put it mildly) in the leading ruling of the Honourable Justice Amina Augie.

“It might interest you to note that there is no nexus or proximity or even bearing between the processes filed by us and the most unfair and least expected stern expressions of His lordship, Amina Augie.”

Part of Babalola’s letter reads:”I write to bring to the formal attention of the National Executive the Nigerian Bar Association, the unfortunate events which occurred that day, but more importantly, to protest and draw the attention of NBA to the danger posed to the due administration of justice by the disparaging remarks made in the ruling of the court concerning our principal, Afe Babalola SAN, CON and the imposition on him of the unprecedented costs of N30million.”

“The action of the Court, aside from being unfair and totally unwarranted, is, if not urgently addressed, capable of sending a wrong signal to judges of courts, lower in hierarchy to the Supreme Court about how they can and should relate with lawyers, who appear before them to plead the case of their clients.

“This in the long run will be inimical to the development of trust and respect between the bar and the bench and will ultimately hamper the smooth operation of the justice delivery sector in Nigeria.

“It is with respect to their Lordships of the Supreme Court, who sat on the 26th of February 2020 that we state that the award of cost of N30million against Aare Afe Babalola SAN, CON failed to meet the standard set by that very court concerning the award of costs.

“Costs have never been imposed to intimidate counsel as is apparent in the cost orders made by the Supreme Court in this instance.

“The cost order lose sight of the fact that Aare Afe Babaloia SAN, CON, like every other lawyer, has a duty under the rules of professional conduct to devote his attention, energy and expertise and subject to any rule of law, to act in manner consistent with the best interest of his client.

“It is in the light of the above that we most respectfully request the ‘Nigerian Bar Association, though the National Executive Council, to look into this matter with a view to preventing a situation where the courts would seek to intimidate counsel and prevent them from either adequately presenting the cases of their clients or punishing them for doing so in a manner required of them under the rules of professional conduct.

“This situation, at the risk of repetition, if allowed to persist and gain footing, will do incalculable damage to the administration of justice in Nigeria.”

RAMINBA in the statement asked as follows:

  1. Why was it that other counsel who after them have brought similar applications were not in like manner rebuked or sanctioned by the Supreme Court?
  2. What does the letters intend to achieve? Is it for the NBA to review the Supreme Court judgement and reverse same?

3.Does the NBA have locus and vires to entertain or probe the judicial action and verdict of the Supreme Court to warrant the entertainment of the letters of the Senior lawyers?

  1. Are the letters meant to incite the Bar against the Supreme Court because of what has turned out to be a misadventure of two lawyers to the quarters of the Supreme Court?

Without delving into the facts of the case upon which the two Senior Advocates brough their application or the merit thereof or otherwise, it is clear as noonday that the action of two Learned Silks in bringing the application without meeting the grounds upon the Supreme Court judgement can be called upon to review itself brings the Supreme Court to opprobrium. The words of Honourable Justice Amina Augie speak to the defiance of the Majesty of the Supreme Court to sit as a court of final jurisdiction.

Furthermore,as learned Senior Advocates, they ought to know that the Nigerian Bar Association does not have the locus or vires to entertain inquiry into, probe, review or even set aside the judgment of the Supreme Court? Why appeal to the NBA after their application for review of judgment has been struck out by the Supreme Court?

Overall, why are the two learned Senior Advocates intent on setting the Nigerian Bar Association on collision with the Supreme Court based on their misadventure at the Supreme Court? Can we then encourage a situation where the local Branches of the NBA will sit on appeal on the judgments of the High Court in their jurisdiction based on the reprimand of two members of the Branch by the same Court? The answer is NO.

We are of the view that , contrary to the prayers of the Senior Advocates in their respective letters to the NEC, the duo should be referred to the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Panel by the Nigerian Bar Association for appropriate sanctions for their actions , which amounts to gross professional misconduct.

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Lagos Univeils plans for Nigeria @60 Independence Celebrations

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By Timi Joshua

The Lagos State Government has set in motion,programmes to celebrate Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary.

The state Commissioner for Tourism, Pharmacist Uzamat Yusuff, who unveiled the plans on Wednesday said the celebrations will open with a two-day event to be hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture on the 30th of September and 1st of October.

According to her, the Day 1 of the event which is on the 30th of September, 2020 will be the parade of lead voices in Nigeria’s Entertainment scene. “On this day, the likes of Juju Maestro, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade, Sir Victor Uwaifo and Onyeka Onwenu would thrill Lagosians and indeed the entire world to lofty tunes which the celebration will be a mix of the old and up-coming musicians that will feature some Grade A Musical Artists, World famous Ali Baba, Kenny Blaq, DJ Neptune, DJ Kaywise, DJ Biggy, some Nollywood celebrities and Dance Groups are billed to perform at this event that will be a packed 12 hours entertainment, beginning from 12noon to 12midnight to usher in October 1st in a grand style.

“In addition to the above, the Ministry will also be extending invitation to renowned Social Clubs in Lagos State whose social gatherings had be interrupted since covid-19 pandemic some months ago.”
She added that “It is our belief that these musicians especially the very old names in the industry should be a part of this milestone celebrations. As a matter of fact, their songs have been very significant in promoting One and indivisible Nigeria for the past decades.

“Let me state categorically that we are mindful of the prevailing covid-19 among us and as such the event would be streamed live on Lagos State Government Social Media Platforms as well as on Television Stations for wider participation by members of the public while invitation would only be extended to a very few individuals in compliance with the State Government’s existing guidelines for social gatherings” she said.

Pharmacist Akinbile also said “The main Independence celebration on 1st of October will be held at Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere for wider participation by members of the public, that will lead a new narrative of an emergent Nigerian, inspired to taking positive action and achieving great feats.

“Hence, Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babjide Olusola Sanwo-Olu will graciously attend the two days event as a way of demonstrating his interest to the promotion of Entertainment being one of the pillars of his THEMES agenda.

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School building collapses in Ejigbo, no casualty recorded

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By Kareem Hassan, Ikotun

A three-storey building has collapsed in Ejigbo.

The building, located at 15 Ansarudeen Street, Ile-Epo Bus Stop, Ejigbo was housing a private school.

According to the Director General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu who confirmed the incident,  the building collapsed at about 8:15am.

Witnesses said prior to the collapse, the building had shown signs of distress and the school was planning to renovate and refortify the structure.

The three-storey building has two wings conjoined, the wing that collapsed has seriously affected the second wing as visible cracks can be seen on the walls, pillars and decking.

Dr Oke’-Osanyintolu saud: “Fortunately, nobody was trapped, no injuries and no fatality has been recorded. Responders to the incident scene are LASEMA, LASBCA, Police (Ejigbo Division),”

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Lagos, FG seek partnership for infrastructural development

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The Federal Government and Lagos State Government have found a common ground to address degeneration of infrastructure in Festac Town – a federal housing estate situated in Amuwo-Odofin area of the State.

The resolve by the two parties to jointly confront the inordinate property development and facility deficit in the housing estate was the outcome of a meeting, held on Wednesday, between Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Senator Gbenga Ashafa, signaling an end to the lingering disagreement between the State and the Federal Government over the matter.

Ashafa led top officials of FHA – a department in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing – on a courtesy visit to the Governor at the State House in Alausa. FHA’s Executive Director for Business Development, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, was in attendance.

The FHA team presented four partnership requests to the Lagos Government, among which include knowledge sharing and technology transfer, cooperation on infrastructure delivery and quick resolution of development crisis in Festac Town.

Sanwo-Olu said the State Government took land administration and property development as critical, stressing that his administration’s urban renewal project was being implemented with the objective to open up remote communities for healthy living and investment drive.

The Governor described development crisis in Festac Town as “unpleasant”, pointing out that the population growth and influx of people led to the degeneration of the neighbourhood. He also said failure of oversight on activities of property developers in Festac Town distorted the original master plan of the area.

He said: “Festac Town as it is today is not what it looked like from 1970s to 1990s, given the degeneration of infrastructure and the unpleasant development observed in the community. The original master plan did not consider population growth, which reflected in the calibre of allotees that got the property then. As a result of lack of monitoring and enforcement, people took advantage of this weakness to build indiscriminately on every available space.

“I think we can still correct this irregularity and regenerate the entire area for healthy living and business, now that the Federal Housing Authority is headed by a highly knowledgeable indigene of Lagos. Once the Federal Government is ready, Lagos State will cooperate fully and work through our Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development on agreed plan. We are ready to give waiver on statutory issues that may aid the progress of this move. Lagos is not the owner of the estate but we have a sense of duty to prevent the depreciation of the asset on that corridor.”

The Governor also conceded to FHA’s request to collaborate in the area of technology transfer, pledging to work with the federal housing agency to raise its capability by creating electronic solution that would further ease allocation of property, land administration and approval of survey plan.

He added that the State would be willing to work with the federal housing agency on estate property development in the Lagos East and West senatorial districts.

Sanwo-Olu praised President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister for Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN, for the choice of Sen. Ashafa as the head of the federal housing agency, noting that the FHA boss’ tenure as Executive Secretary on Land Matters in Lagos boosted the value of land and property in the State.

The Governor said: “We want you to succeed in this new assignment you have taken up, because we believe that you have vast knowledge in land administration matters. Development is critical to us in Lagos, and we will be willing to cooperate with you for more development. We are convinced that your tenure will bring about solution to challenges the nation faces in land administration.”

Ashafa, a former Senator representing Lagos East, said FHA was ready to resolve all lingering crises delaying the re-modelling and regeneration of Festac Town, expressing confidence that the mid-way approach adopted by the agency would yield positive outcome for the both Governments and residents of the estate.

He described his meeting with the Governor as “productive and fruitful”, pledging to take the discussion further.

He said: “ All the four issues we presented were taken in by the Governor positively. With some of the relevant cabinet members in attendance at the meeting, we will be engaging in further discussions on how to go about our plan for urban regeneration in Lagos.”

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