December 11, 2007
The Honourable Justice L. Kutigi CON.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria,
Supreme Court Complex, Abuja.
COMPLAINT OF DENIAL OF THE RANK OF SENIOR ADVOCATE OF NIGERIA ON POLITICAL GROUNDS.It would be recalled that I applied for theAward of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2006.
Although I met the prescribed prerequisites, my name was deliberately excluded fromt the candidates shortlisted for the consideration of the Legal
rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Apart from another-candidate (with whom I share similar political views), no other candidate was subjected to such harassment over his/her "political views or affiliations."
I was equally treated unfairly by the Committee in the assessment of my leadership role in the Bar. Since I was called to the bar over 25 years ago, I have been on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Nigerian Bar Association for 20 years. I represented the Nigerian Bar Association in the Council of Legal Education from 1998-2006- I was the Secretary-General of the African Bar Association from 2000-2002 and the current President of the West African Bar Association (WABA). I am also a member of the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) and the International Bar Association (IBA). Curiously, the honourable members of the Committee who assessed me are not active members of either the local or the international bar associations.
My office complex is a storey building at 25, Adekunle Fajuyi Way, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos. I have a well equipped Law Library and internet facilities in my office and residence. To my utter chagrin Mr. Yemi Candid- Johnson (SAN) who purportedly carried out a physical inspection of the facilities in my law office neither checked the books in the library nor asked questions on the availability of any particular law book. But he turned-in a report wherein it was stated that I had no practice books in my library! I have since confirmed that the said Mr. Candid-Johnson (SAN) was not even assigned to inspect the law offices of applicants in Lagos State. Surprisingly, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee adopted the unauthorized and imaginary report compiled by the learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
In my active legal practice of over 25 years, I have handled cases of outstanding legal importance. Not less than 50 of my cases can be found in established law reports. In some of the cases the novel points of law canvassed by me were upheld by the courts. Some of the cases include: Ogor Vs. Kolawole (1983) 1 N.C.R. 342; (1985); H.C; Sagay Vs. Alele - Williams (1987) WBRN 58 H.C; Onabanjo Vs. Obafemi Awolowo University (1991) 5 NWLR (PT 193) 549 C.A; In Re: Aluko (No1) (1992) 2 NWLR (PT 223)520 C.A; Madike v. State (1992) 8 NWLR(PT 257) 85; F.R.A Williams Vs. Akintunde (1995) 3 NWLR (PT 381) 101 C.A; F.G.N. Vs. Adams Oshiomole (2004) 14 WRN 110 C.A; Anya Vs. lyayi (1993) 7 N.W.L.R. (PT 305) 290 S.C; Comptroller, Nigeria Prisons Services Vs. Dr. Adekanye (2002) 15 NWLR (PT 790) 318 S.C; A.G. Ondo State Vs. AG Federation (2002) 27 WRN 1 S.C and Fubara Vs. Minimah (2003) 32 WRN 1. S.C
In handling the afore-mentioned cases and others I was privileged to have appeared against leading legal practitioners like the Late Chief Rotimi Williams (SAN), the Late Dr. Mudiaga Odje (SAN), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Chief Ejike Ume (SAN), Chief Ebun Sofunde (SAN), Chief Akin Otujinmi (SAN), Kola Awodein Esq. (SAN) and Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN). I have also had the opportunity of being led in several cases of constitutional significance by the Late Chief F.R.A. Williams (SAN), Late Alao Aka-Bashorun Esq., Chief G.O.K Ajayi (SAN). Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) and Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN).
In the unreported case of ANPP & ORS Vs INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE (SUIT No: FHC/ABJ/CS/54/04) 1 succeeded in persuading the Federal High Court to declare the provisions of the Public Order Act (Cap 382) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 prohibiting rallies or processions without police permit illegal and unconstitutional: The appeal filed against the epochal decision has just been dismissed by the Court of Appeal which declared police permit "retrogressive and primitive" in a civilized society. (See INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE Vs ANPP & ORS, Suit No: CA/A /193/05 in which judgment was delivered on December 11. 2007.)
Without sounding immodest only Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) can be said to have handled more public interest cases than me in the entire Nigerian legal profession. As counsel to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and many other registered trade unions, I have handled more labour related cases in the Industrial Arbitration Panel and the National Industrial Court than any legal practitioner in the country. Apart from my active practice in the Nigerian courts, I have also been involved in litigation in the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice. 1 won my first case of constitutional importance in the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1993. Without any attempt to embarrass anyone some of my colleagues who have just been conferred with the Award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria made their first appearance in the Supreme Court in the last couple of years or thereabout.
I was a contributor to THE ARTICLE 19 FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION MANUAL on International and Comparative Law, Standards and Procedures, The Bath Press, London. August 1993. Some of my other publications include: Legal and Policy Framework of Occupation Health and Safety in Nigeria in Idowu Awopetu et al (eds) (1998) WORKING IN DANGER P. 52 (a CDHR PUBLICATION ); Legal Position and Dimension in Occupational Health on Nigeria in Funmi Adewumi and Femi Omololu (ed) 1997 in Death by Installment: Occupation Health and Hazards in Nigeria P. 11, a Fredrick Herbert Foundation publication; The 1999 Constitution and Sovereign National Conference in Segun Jegede et al (eds) (2000); PATH ON PEOPLE'S CONSTITUTION, P. 86, a CDHR PUBLICATION; Corruption, Accountability and Transparency in Governance Under the Constitution in Dele Adesina et al (2000) in BURNING ISSUE IN THE 1999 CONSTITUTION, a Publication of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, Lagos; Some Critical Questions on Constitutional Project and Development in Africa in Kwame Karikari (ed) 2002 in WHERE HAS AID TAKEN AFRICA? RETHINKING DEVELOPMENT, a publication of the Media Foundation for West Africa based in Accra, Ghana.
My 251 page book on Fundamental Rights Enforcement (published in 2004) is the only reference material on the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules. 1979. I am the Editor -in- Chief of the Weekly Reports of Nigeria (WRN); Ghana Monthly Law Reports (GMLR); Economic and Financial Crimes Law Reports (EFCLR) and ECOWAS Community Court of Justice Law Reports (ECCJLR) whose first volume will be published in January 2008. For some inexplicable reasons my humble contributions in the area of law reporting were totally disregarded by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee which has had cause, in recent time, to confer the Award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on two distinguished legal practitioners on the basis of the law reports edited by them.
In August 1996 Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), Olisa Agbakoba Esq. (SAN) and i were
honoured with the International Human Rights Award by the American Bar Association for our "extraordinary contributions to the cause of human rights, the rule of law and promotion of access to justice". I have also just been conferred with the Knight of Freedom Award by the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria in appreciation of my "meritorious, outstanding and selfless service to the promotion of the Rule of law in Nigeria."
In the fight of the foregoing, Your Lordship will agree with me that the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee decided to deny me the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on the basis of my ideological stance. I am therefore compelled to crave Your Lordship's indulgence to inquire into the allegation of political bias in the selection process which led the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee to subject my application to unwarranted discrimination on the ground of "political views or affiliation."