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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

THE COSTLY 'COUP' OF THE PHILADELPHIA 9

THE COSTLY ‘COUP’ OF THE PHILADELPHIA 9

A few weeks ago, an International Conference of Female Judges held in Philadelphia, United States of America. Some of the participants came from Nigeria. Expectedly, the Nigerian participants included Judicial Personnel from the Lagos State Judiciary; specifically the magistracy level.

From credible information reaching the Squib, no less than nine female magistrates participated in the conference, although there is news as well that at least one of the participants, Chief Magistrate Ayo Odugbesan did not attend the conference but was in the United States at the very time of the conference to attend necessarily to the concerns of a close relative.

The other attendees were: Chief Magistrate A.O. Femi-Segun, Chief Magistrate I.O. Akinkugbe, Chief Magistrate E.A. Fabanwo, Chief Magistrate O.A. Ogala, Chief Magistrate A.A. Demi-Ajayi, Chief Magistrate M.A. Ladipo, Senior Magistrate O.I. Oguntade, Magistrate M.B. Folami.

Attending workshops and conferences is not a new thing for judges and magistrates of the Lagos State Judiciary. Thus the participation of the Philadelphia 9 (P9) in the Philadelphia Conference ordinarily should not have caused any stir. The story is however different as the attendees, upon return landed in “hot soup” with the authority, to wit: the honourable Chief Judge, Adetula Alabi .J. who the Squib authoritatively learnt was seriously upset with their participation.

According to our senior geckos, the Chief Judge’s anger against the attendees was not really because they participated in the conference, but because they participated sans notice and permission of his lordship.

The ‘flight’ of the ‘Philadelphia 9’ to the U.S conference, to some observers, bore the hall-marks of coup planning. The participants never let their peers know that not only was the conference on, but funding for participation in it was ready and available at the Ministry of the Establishment at the Secretariat, Alausa, for any magistrate willing to attend. So tightly managed was the information that the P9 had gone and returned before their completely bewildered and embittered boss knew.

As far as the Chief Judge was concerned, the participation of the affected magistrates in the conference without his knowledge and consent was an act of unpardonable affront to his office. Consequently, the efforts of some of the P9 members and their sympathizers to appease the infuriated Chief failed woefully.

The Squib learnt that the Honourable Chief Judge, sensed in the incident, a glaring display of contempt for him and his office by the executive arm of the Lagos State Government which financed the trip of the P9 behind his back and so refused to be appeased.

As a first act of reprisal, the Chief Judge on the 13th of November 2007 posted all the members of the P9 to new stations; mostly away from their accustomed responsibilities.

However, the P9 are not without supporters. Some of these supporters contend that the P9 members embraced subterfuge and stealth to make the U.S conference because of their fear that, open and formal application for approval from the Chief Judge had very slim chances of success.

Said one of such supporters to the Squib:

“Frankly speaking, the proper thing was for the magistrates ( the P9) to get the Chief Judge’s approval before leaving to the U.S for the conference, but would the C.J have given his approval? Very doubtful. Nobody has forgotten the partiality game he tried to play the last time magistrates were sponsored by government to attend a one-week workshop in the same U.S. The Chief Judge put many junior magistrates above their senior colleagues, with the clear intent that they should go first. But for the insistence of the then Attorney-General of the state, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN that the order of seniority among magistrates should be respected, the Chief Judge would have had his way. So instead of risking having their plans truncated by the Chief Judge, those magistrates chose to circumvent him. In the circumstances, one cannot blame them too much.”

As things stand in the judiciary now, observers believe that members of the P9 would have to be extra-careful in their work to avoid crossing swords again with the Chief Judge, to avoid more grievous injury from a leader who has already established a reputation for ruthlessness towards perceived opposition elements, especially subordinates who appear to test his will or challenge his hold on the judiciary.

To underscore this seriousness the Honourable Chief Judge attached to the “scattering to the winds” of the P9 members, his lordship issued the notice of posting affecting the “coup plotters” under his own hand – a most unusual thing for a Chief Judge to do, since issuance of such notices is normally done by the Chief Registrar; a clear sign that the order will not be rescinded or reviewed.

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