“Never judge an eagle by the opinion of turkeys.” ▪️Matshona Dhliwayo
I am aware that Mr. Silas Onu had in 2019 written a petition to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) against Mr. Isiaka Abiola Olagunju’s bid to become a Senior Advocate od Nigeria (SAN). The LPPC is the regulatory authority (within the Legal profession) responsible for awarding to or withdrawing from lawyers in Nigeria, the title of SAN. I’ve seen Mr Silas Onu’s said petition published again on September 26, 2020. How many times is Mr. Silas Onu sending the same petition to the same LPPC against the same person? Dear Mr. Onu, did the LPPC not deal with the petition in 2019? Why bring it up again in 2020?
The 2020 publication came under the headline, “RE: LETTER OF OBJECTION AND PROTEST AGAINST ELEVATION Of ISIAKA ABIOLA OLAGUNJU TO THE PRESTIGIOUS RANK OF A SENIOR ADVOCATE OF NIGERIA (SAN) – By Silas Onu, Esq.” (See: https://newswirelawandevents.com/re-letter-of-objection-and-protest-against-elevation-of-isiaka-abiola-olagunju-to-the-prestigious-rank-of-a-senior-advocate-of-nigeria-san-by-silas-onu-esq/ accessed September 26, 2020).
May I start by reiterating that I do not (will never) support or encourage any form of corruption or financial impropriety. Accordingly, any Nigerian found to have perpetrated corruption ought to be dealt with and punished according to law to serve as a deterrent to others. If Mr Isiaka Abiola Olagunju is found to have defrauded the NBA, either as a Branch elected officer or as a national officer, let him be punished, but let him be PUNISHED ACCORDING TO THE DICTATES OF LAW and DUE PROCESS. However, A.E. Samaan’s words are worth recalling here: “A people who are eager to prejudge guilt, as opposed to innocence, are a people ripe and ready to become a despot’s ‘willing executioners.’”
I do not hold brief for Mr Isiaka Abiola Olagunju or for indeed for anyone else. But I think the buck of actions taken by an NBA national leadership, stops on the NBA President’s table, although any member of NBA national administration could be taken up on specific charges of corruption where there are allegations made of corrupts practices which are peculiar to his/her own office or to actions taken personally by him/her. As of the time ISIAKA ABIOLA OLAGUNJU was NBA General Secretary (2016-2018), A. B. MAHMOUD, SAN, was the NBA President. If indeed there was any financial misconduct then, what had stopped Mr Silas Onu from taking necessary legal steps against Mr. A. B. Mahmoud, SAN, by making criminal petitions/complaints? Or, is Mr A. B. Mahmoud above the law simply because he is already a SAN? Why didn’t Mr. Silas Onu write to the same LPPC to withdraw the title of SAN from AB Mahmoud, if Mr Onu believed Mr Mahmoud was corrupt? Did LPPC not withdraw the SAN rank from the Lawyer that had messed himself up in respect of the last Ondo Governorship Elections four years ago? Recall that
the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal had written a petition to the Chairman of LPPC, pleading that the ank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) be withdrawn from Mr Beluolisa Nwofor, SAN, and accusing Mr. Nwofor
of involvement in acts “unbefitting of the holder of the rank of SAN.” After a thorough investigation, the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC) stripped Mr Nwofor or how rank of SAN. (See: “Nwofor, Sheriff’s lawyer, loses SAN rank over alleged misconduct,” https://www.thecable.ng/nwofor-sheriffs-lawyer-loses-san-rank-alleged-misconduct/amp accessed September 26, 2020). Mr NWOFOR’s Legal action challenging LPPC’s action was later dismissed. (See: “Jimoh Ibrahim’s lawyer loses battle to be reinstated as SAN,” https://www.google.com/amp/s/businessday.ng/legal-business/article/jimoh-ibrahims-lawyer-loses-battle-reinstated-san/amp/ accessed September 26, 2020).
By the way, has anyone FORMALLY or OFFICIALLY indicted Mr. AB Mahmoud or any member of his NBA National leadership for corruption? Has anyone indicted Mr Olagunju for defrauding the NBA (Branch or national)? If Mr Silas Onu believed they actually defrauded the NBA, had Mr. Silas Onu written any petition to relevant security agencies to conduct relevant investigations and carry out possible prosecutions, where necessary? Exactly what efforts had Mr Silas Onu taken before now, against the NBA leadership headed by AB Mahmoud? If there was any report by him to appropriate security agencies, what was/is the outcome? Was Mr Olagunju indicted, or prosecuted or convicted for defrauding his branch or NBA National?
Why would Mr. Silas Onu now want the LPPC to hold MR ISIAKA ABIOLA OLAGUNJU solely blameful for any sins (that’s, if there’s any) allegedly committed by the AB Mahmoud-led NBA leadership? If Mr. Onu is talking of the Ibadan Branch, has there been any criminal indictment by Mr Olagunju’s NBA Branch? Then, the question, Is Mr Silas Onu of Mr Olagunju’s Branch?
It has been more than two years since AB Mahmoud left the NBA Presidency. I am not aware that the NBA after him, or any security agency in this country, had/has indicted AB Mahmoud or any member of his team on any allegations of corrupt practices! I am not aware that Mr. Olagunju’s Branch had/has indicted or reported him on any such misconduct? Why then would Mr Silas Onu wake up and choose to scuttle the SAN ambition of Mr Isiaka Abiola Olagungu, who, to the best of reasonable knowledge, has served the NBA meritoriously, and who (to the best of my honest knowledge) has NOT been (1) REPORTED, or (2) INVESTIGATED, or (3). INDICTED, or (4). PROSECUTED or (5) CONVICTED on any allegations of corruption in relation to his headship of the NBA national secretariat from 2016 to 2018 as the NBA GS, or in respect of his office at any. NBA Branch?
In my opinion, therefore although the LPPC should carefully (and on merit) look into all petitions written against aspirants to the rank of SAN, the LPPC ought to be on red alert, to discredit and disregard frivolous, vexatious, and baseless petitions, and to ensure that no Nigerian lawyer who is eminently qualified to get awarded that eminent rank, is denied same on account of some unjust exhibition of “bad belle” against him/her or on account of unjustified handiwork of busybodies persons and meddlesome interlopers.
May I at this juncture respectfully take our attention back to the case of Ameachi v. I.N.E.C (2008) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1080) 227 at P. 305, paras. D-E; Pp. 306-307, paras. D where the Supreme Court said (regarding allegations of crime against a citizen):
“The aim of section 182(1)(i)of the 1999 Constitution is to ensure that only persons of impeccable character and integrity are eligible for the office of a Governor of a State. It is to ensure transparency and high standard of probity in governance. It is not to be used as an instrument by politicians to hinder the emergence of their opponents or adversaries as Governors. Regrettably, the said provision has been used to witchhunt and victimize. It is a provision which in its application must be read and construed along with other provisions of the 1999 Constitution in section 36(1), (2), (3),(4) and (5). It is not a simple matter to find a citizen of Nigeria guilty of a criminal offence without first ensuring that he is given a fair trial before a court of law. … It is simply impermissible under a civilized system of law to find a person guilty of a criminal offence without first affording him the opportunity of a trial before a court of law in the country. See also article 7(1)(a) of the African charter on Human Rights Cap. 10, Laws of the Federation.” ▪️. Even if there has been an indictment (although I do not think there has been any against Mr Olagunju), the apex Court (Per. Onnoghen, JSC @ at P. 388, paras. A — G) still had this to say in that respect (in AMAECHI V. INEC): “It is not the law that a mere accusation or charge or indictment is sufficient … having regard to the requirement that the reason of indictment must be cogent and verifiable particularly as the word “verify” connotes to prove to be true, to confirm, to establish the truth of, to examine or test the correctness or authenticity of something. If the word is used, as in the instant case in a statute, it is presumed to have been used in its legal sense meaning to confirm or substantiate by oath or affidavit. It follows therefore that even if an indictment is proved to exist, there is the additional requirement that it be proved to be true, [Action Congress v. I.N.E.C. (2007) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1048) 222.]”
(26 September 2020)