In the confusion, the quarry disappeared from sight. The hunters knew he could only be in one place, a building some hundred meters away. Soon they were inside but were surprised to see that it was a museum of human statutes and wax works. In all the figures numbered a hundred, all of them life-like human sized and naked.
The hunters knew one of the statutes was their prey, but how to identify him presented a dilemma, for all the figures looked so real. To make matters harder, some of the figures could be seen laughing, yawning, smiling, winking and shaking their heads. One of them even spoke out in clear warm voice “Welcome!”
The killers decided to conduct physical examination of the figures one by one. To save time they split into four units. When the fellow to examine the actor turned emergency statute came to him, the ‘statute’ suddenly stretched out his right and hissed “You care for a handshake”? There was a dead cold glint in his eyes as he spoke. The examiner recoiled in horror and moved quickly to the next figure on the line. And so the day was saved for the lead character.
However one Mr. Sampson Bamgbose, an Ikorodu based, fake lawyer extra-ordinary was not that lucky. Just like the actor in our story, he had put a lot of ingenuity to escape detection. His luck and wits, to be fair, lasted quite a long while, nineteen years, but it could only go on so far.
In the earlier years of his career, Bamgbose, a man who by dint of forgery, ‘graduated’ from the MANCHESTER UNIVERSITY in the UNITED KINGDOM and by further dint of forgery ‘graduated’ from the Nigerian Law School in 1988 and by an additional leap of forgery called him self to the Nigerian Bar in 1989. He later established himself as a legal practitioner at Fadeyi, Ikorodu road area of Lagos State.
About three years ago Bamgbose relocated his ‘practice’ to Ikorodu Town. He set up-chambers in an entire building and at a time had three legal practitioner in his employ. In our story of the actor and his hunters, the escaped defection by blending expertly with his environment. He took to heart the adage. “When you are in Rome, do as the Romans do”.
This was the path Bamgbose also took. He did everything plansible to easily pass off as a truly qualified barrister. When he was a ‘Fadeyi, Lagos based lawyer’ he acted the part well. The story was no different when the impostor relocated his practice to Ikorodu Town (due to a hushed up office rent fraud). Bamgbose for starters set up chamber in an entire story building and did not hesitate let people know that he was called to the bar as far back as 1989.
By his claim, then there were only four lawyers, including the well known silk, Chief B.O.B Benson that were seniors to him in Ikorodu town. Accordingly many junior lawyers in the town gave him a lot of respect, addressing him respectfully as “senior”.
Sampson Bamgbose did not run one-man chambers. Within a year of his arrival in Ikorodu he had three legal practitioners in his employ. For good measure, Bamgbose became quite an active member of the young Ikorodu Bar and by year 2007, he had become important enough to be made the co-chairman of Law Week Committee. Claiming to be a qualified arbitrator, he almost presented a paper on the Practice and Conduct of Arbitration as part of that year’s Law Week Programme of the Ikorodu Bar. Amazingly, the impostor had headed a probe and disciplinary Committee of the Ikorodu Bar which tried some lawyers for certain misconduct! And to the knowledge of the Squib, Bamgbose had, at least one occasion hosted the monthly meeting of the Ikorodu bar.
As appearances go, Bamgbose had no problem in passing himself off as a legal practitioner. He dresses well, speaks good English and comports himself in a likeable manner. This is how a senior lawyer who has known Bamgbose for more than fifteen years described him. “I am shocked to learn that Sampsom Bamgbose is not a lawyer. He comports himself very well. He speaks English fluently. I have had discussions with him and I can say that he is intelligent. He is a likeable fellow, extra-ordinarily lively. There is nothing about him to suggest that he is not a lawyer. I am sure that his wife and children cannot believe that the man is not a lawyer.
Information reaching the Squib explained the downfall of the impositor as occasioned by a persistent rumour that ‘gentleman’ Bamgbose was a fraud. Distrubted by these rumours the Executive Committee, of the Ikorodu Bar mandated Mr. S.O.K. Owosile, the Secretary of the Bar to invite Bamgbose to a meeting with the E.C. so that the truth should be known.
Bamgbose honoured the invitation on 20 August 2008 and came with quite a packet of various certificates numbering 17 in all!
Bamgbose’s bundle of certificates was certainly impressive, but it did nothing to douse suspicious because of some disconnect in them.
For example Bamgbose claimed he got his Bachelor of Law Degree in 1988, from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom. Yet by 1989, he was already called to the Nigerian Bar 1989. This simply was not possible under Nigeria’s legal education where students of law who graduated from approved foreign Universities are required to spend two academic years, passing both the Bar Part 1 and Bar part 2 (Final) examinations before getting called to bar. Thus Bamgbose who supposedly graduated from the University of Manchester in 1988 could not have been called to the Nigerian earlier than in 1990.
When the Executive Committee of the Ikorodu Bar took him up on this score, Bamgbose told them that he was exempted by the Council of Legal Education from taking the Bar Part 1 Examinations! But when asked to produce the letter or certificate of exemption, the man got stuck.
Suddenly the Committee noticed another anomaly, this time in the Certificate of call to the Bar of Bamgbose. Please see cover story exhibit. The certificate bears two reference statute at the top, to wit- (i) The Legal Practitioner Act 1975 (ii) Law of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 CAP 207, yet the certificate states that Bamgbose was called to the Bar in 1989, a year before the law of the Federation of Nigeria was enacted!
‘Barrister’ Bamgbose had no answer to this discrepancy. Suddenly the ‘learned senior’ fell on his knees and started weeping like a baby and begging for a soft landing from the leaders of the bar. At a stage he promised to give two plots of land to the Ikorodu Bar if the leaders would be kind enough to save him the rigour of prosecution in the court of law.
The Executive Committee, bothered about participation of their branch in the then forth coming the Annual Conference of the NBA in Abuja (August 25-30) postponed immediate action against Bamgbose but collected the copies of his ‘certificates’ that he brought with him. Those copies were not originals but certified true copies of the forged documents. According to Bamgbose, the originals of his certificates were in the safe custody of Union Homes.
Soon after the NBA conference, the committee “pounced” on Bamgbose and dragged him to the police. Surprisingly Bamgbose offered some resistance before the police, denying that he ever accepted that he had been practicing law without the proper qualifications.
That pose however did not endure in the face of the penetrating questions of both the police and the lawyers. The man broke down and admitted that he was not a lawyer after he was confronted with the fact that his name could not be found on the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria.
He confessed that all his post-secondary school certificates are forged, but insisted the Nigeria Law School only that he stopped after failing the Bar Part I examination twice! Where is ‘Barrister’ Sampson Bamgbose now? As at press time he was still with the police. Although he was at first granted bail but when his sureties later approached the police to withdraw, the police cut his freedom.
All through last week, the police attempted to arraign the impostor to court but the magistrates were not in town (gone for computer training) The police hope to commence the prosecution of the smart alee on Monday, the 22nd September 2008, when the courts presumably will be open.