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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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METRO

Court shutdown: JUSUN storms Federal High Court, Lagos, evicts workers

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Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) members enforcing its indefinite nationwide strike which began today, have evicted court staff from the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.

The unionists arrived on the court premises before 9am and directed their colleagues who were in courtrooms and in their offices to comply with the industrial action, pack up and leave.

They sealed some of the offices and pasted notices indicating the commencement of the court shutdown.

 

The JUSUN national leadership had in an April 1 circular, ordered the closure of courts across the country as from today, until the government complies with the Constitution, court judgments and other instruments which confer or re-emphasise the financial autonomy of the Judiucary.

The circular signed by its General Secretary, I. M. Adetola, directed all states and zonal heads of the union to comply with the strike.

The union stated that it had at its last National Executive Meeting on March 13, 2021 in Abuja, issued a 21-day ultimatum to the government to implement the financial autonomy of the judiciary with a threat that “failure of which JUSUN will have no other option but to resume the suspended national strike action.”

“Therefore, as a result of the public holiday on April 5, 2021, the strike action has been postponed to Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

Yesterday (Monday), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Olumide Akpata said it had opened talks with JUSUN on shelving the strike in the public interest.

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“There is no land available in South West for cattle rearing” -Yoruba leaders

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Aare-Ona kankanfo, Iba Gani Adams and other leaders in Yoruba nation have inistsed that no land in the region will be ceded for any ranching programme of the Federal Government saying they are fed up with criminal herders as a result of terror unleashed on their people.

The decision was taken at the end of a meeting to discuss security and economy of the region which held at the ancient Mapo Hall, Ibadan, yesterday. This is despite that five out of the six South-West governors failed to attend the meeting. Only Gov. Seyi Makinde of Oyo state attended in person.

Other decisions taken at the meeting was the adoption of Yoruba national anthem which has already been in use in Osun and Ondo state. The leaders called on the other states in the region to adopt the anthem.

Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Eleders (YCE), Dr. Kunle Olajide while reading the communique, said: “Our forests are sacred, untouchable, irreversibly a no-go area to terrorists and the Yoruba will not cede one inch of our forests to anyone under any guise.

“That the Yoruba nation notes with dismay general state of insecurity in the country and the ancestral space of Yoruba nation, especially, a situation that has compelled a rigorous interrogation of our situation.

“That the Yoruba nation is currently living in a time of bad metaphors due to the almost irreversible abyss due to cases of daily incessant insecurity.

“That this august gathering of leaders of the Yoruba nation notes almost daily proof of government helplessness in face of the ugly peace and security problem. A few ugly happenstances offered credibility to this sorry state of affairs.

“For instance, Defence Minister of the nation, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi, retd, in a jolting moment of helpless exasperation, advised Nigerians to begin to defend themselves.

“Where else does self-help become an option other than in a situation of total breakdown of law and order? Following closely on the heels of that, is the Federal Government’s ‘no fly zone’ ban on Zamfara airspace. What more character of the official declaration of war is there beyond this?

“That the Yoruba nation is deeply worried by the unfolding anarchy, particularly as it affects the South-West region, almost rendered comatose by daily occurrence of kidnappings, arson, maiming, destruction of economic facilities and killings.

“That the acts of criminality being conniving tagged: ‘farmers-herders clash’, is a case of terrorism. Those who unleash attack on farmers, who kidnap fellow Nigerians for huge ransom, those who kill and rape women are no bandits but terrorists.

“When injustice becomes law, resistance will be a duty. That it is in the light of the foregoing that this gathering of Yoruba leadership has noted with concern the challenges faced by security agencies and lately, Amotekun.

“The Aare-Ona-Kakanfo of Yorubaland is hereby mandated by Yoruba leaders worldwide to complement official government law enforcement units.

“That this special internal South-West security group made up of all stakeholders in the security realm, including OPC, Agbekoya, Vigilante Group, Hunters, etc have been charged by leaders of our nation here gathered to help ensure our portion of Nigeria is safe again.”

While speaking at the event, the Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, said: “Some people are clamouring for the presidency to return to the south in 2023, but the situation at hand does not demand such talks. We need to focus more on the issues confronting us. We have to be diplomatic in our approaches.

“The issue at hand is beyond rhetoric. I am not bothered about my position or about 2023. I am bold to say it; I am not encumbered in any way. I have no godfather, but God the Father. I am bothered about the development of Yorubaland and Oyo State.”

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Alleged ₦338.8m money laundering trial: Ikuforiji to open defence March 24

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Former speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji has been given March 24th 2021 to open defence in an alleged ₦338.8 million money laundering trial at a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

The former top lawmaker is standing trial on a 54-count charge bordering on the alleged offences. His aide, Oyebode Atoyebi is a co-defendant.

Although, they were granted bail in 2012 to the tune of ₦500 million when they pleaded not guilty, the duo through their counsel, Mr Dele Adesina, SAN will now start their defence of the 54-count charge on March 24.

The presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Liman set the date on Wednesday after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) closed its case after the testimony of its second and final witness, Adewale Taiwo Olatunji.

The defendants were first arraigned on March 1, 2012 before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a 20-count charge bordering on misappropriation and money laundering.

They had each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail.

Following a re-assignment of the case, the defendants were, subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba.

 

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