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Law/Judiciary

Appellate Court Will Not Set Aside A Decision Of A Lower Court Because It Gave Wrong Reason

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In the Court of Appeal,

Holden at Lagos on Friday, December 17,2010, Before their lordships:

Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, justice, Court of Appeal; Adzira Gana Mshelia, justice, Court of Appeal;

Hussein Mukhtar, justice, Court of Appeal; CA/L/673/05 Between

Festus Keyamo (appellant) and Peter Folorunso,

Olufewa Tumininu Folorunso, Temini Bolutife Folorunso,

(Suing by next friend Peter Folorunso), Baden-Moyet Nigeria Ltd (respondent).

(Judgment delivered by Adzira Gana Mshelia, JCA).

In reply, respondents’ counsel contended that a close examina­tion of the findings and orders made by the trial court would show that the appellant’s contention was apparently borne out of counsel’s misconception regarding the findings made by the court out of the evidence placed before it and the orders made by the court having regard to the totality of the facts pleaded and evidence led.

It was argued that in its review of the case of the parties and the oral evidence on record, the learned trial judge set out at pages 182 – 192 of the record the summaries of the respective positions of the parties and the evidence led thereof. He proceeded to consider the suit making its findings in the light of the pleadings, oral evidence and exhibits tendered. Counsel contended that contrary to the impression sought to be created by the appellant, the learned trial judge did not grant any order not sought by the 1st respondent and in par­ticular, the court below did not make any order declaring the res as a gift from the 4th respondent to the 1st respondent. Learned counsel further contended that the orders contained in the judgment at page 195 ofthcf record were made based on the case made out by the 1st -3r respondents in their plead­ings and the evidence elicited in respect thereof at the trial. That the court below was justified in granting those parts of the 1st respondent’s counter-claim, which were granted as prayed as per the terms of the counter-claim having regard to the evidence led in support of same.

It was finally argued that assuming that the court below erred in basing its order solely on the issue of gift or no gift, which is not the truth, a plaintiff claiming title to land must succeed on the strength of his own case and not on the weak­ness of the case of the defendant except where the defen­dant’s case supports the plaintiffs claim. See: Akinduro v Alaya (2007) 15 NWLR (pt 1057 at 330; Akinola v. Oluwo & An or. (1962) 1 SCNLR 352 and Bello v Eweka (1981) 1 SC 101. That the issue of gift or no gift is not availing to the appellant’s claim. It does not support his case. That the orders eventually made by the court on the 1st respondent’s counter-claim was as per the relevant terms of the 1st respondent’s counter-claim and not as per the issue of gift being alleged by the appellant.

The appellant in a nutshell had argued that the court below was wrong in granting the 1st respondent’s counter-claim in respect of the res, on the ground that the 1st respondent did not plead or give evidence that the res were gifts from the respondent to the 1st respondent. The rule of pleading requires a party to plead specifically the facts, which he relies on to avoid taking the other party by surprise. Issues are decided on the pleadings and pleadings deal mainly with facts. See Olufosoye v. Olorunfemi (1989) 1 NWLR (pt 95) 26 at 39. Facts not pleaded go to no issue. See: NIPC Ltd. v. Thompson Organisation Ltd. (1969) 1 NWRL at 101; Oladejo Adewuyi-Ajuwon &Ors. II. Fadele Akani & Ors. (1993) 9 NWRL (pt 316) 182,12 SCNj 32 at 35; Abraham Olabanji & Anr. II. Salami Adeoti Omokemi & Ors. (1992) 6 NWLR (pt 250) 671, (1992).j SCNj 266 at 267; Unity Bank PIc. v. Buhari (2008) 7 NWLR (pt 1086) 372; Kayode v. Odutola (2001) 11 NWLR (pt 725) 69. It is the law that any evidence elicited from cross-examination, which were not pleaded goes to no issue and will be disre­garded by the court. See also Buhari v. Obasanjo(supra).

I have carefully examined the averments in the statement of claim, defence and counter-claim, as well as the reply to the defence and counter-claim. I did not come across any para­graph that raised the issue of gift. 1st respondent never relied upon gift as his root of title and such fact was not pleaded in the defence/counterclaim filed by him. It is clear from the record that the issue of the property being a gift was elicited during the cross-examination of the managing director of the 4th respondent (PW3). At page 41 of the record PW3 stated thus: “When we gave flats 2 and 4 to the defendant, it was meant to be a gift, not to be taken back. That is the end”.

what the 1st respondent required is a deed of gift with the governor’s consent to crystallise into a legal estate. See page 190 of the record. However, in the end, the 1st respondent was granted his claim to have a deed of assignment executed in his favour. It cannot, therefore, be said that the trial judge relied solely on the issue of gift in granting the 1st respon­dent’s counter-claim. I only agree with the submission of the appellant under this issue to the extent that the trial judge ought to have disregarded the issue of gift since it was not pleaded. I do not, however, agree with the submission of the appellant that the fact that the trial judge accepted the evi­dence of “gift” is a clear rejection of the story of commercial transaction or “profit sharing” or “joint venture” on which the 1st respondent based his root of title.

In the circumstance, I will resolve issue one in favour of the appellant only to the extent that the issue of gift was not pleaded and same goes to no issue. Under issue two, it was the contention of the appellant that the learned trial judge was wrong to have reached a conclu­sion of fact that Exhibit E was not registered.

Counsel argued that as a general rule, the evaluation of evi­dence is the primary function of the trial court. A long line of cases have decided that this principle of non-interference with findings of fact by a trial court applies only when the finding of the trial court is on the credibility of witnesses:

• That the principle of non-interference with findings of facts by a lower court does not apply where the findings are based on evaluation of evidence;

• That the appellate court will also intervene where there were obvious errors in the appraisal of the evidence and the ascription of probative value thereto by it, or where the find­ings are perverse.

Reliance was placed on the following cases: Iheanacho & Ors. v. Chigere&Ors. (2004)I’j\NWLR(pt0901)130 at 152; A tungwu v. Ochekwu (2004) 17 NWLR (pt 901) 18 at 42 and Adebayo v. Adusei (2004) 4 NWLR (pt 862) 44 at 77 paragraph E – G.

Appellant urged the court to re-evaluate the evidence on record, and since it is not in relation, urged the court to re­evaluate the evidence on record, since it is not in relation to credibility of witness. It’\\!as the contention of appellant that the pleadings and evidence on record do not support the finding of the learned trial judge at page 194 of the .ecord that Exhibit ‘E’ is not registered so the evidential value of the said Exhibit ‘E’ is at best, a purchase receipt of payment made by the claimant to the company. Appellant referred to para­graph 6 of the amended statement of claim and oral testimo­ny 0!\PW1 at page 34 of the record. That the averment and evi­den~ was never controverted either in the amended state­ment of defence or by oral evidence. That the court should accept it as true. See: Yakubu v. N. WI Adamawa State (supra) at 547, paragraphs A -E. that by the pleadings and evidence he requirement of S.15 of Land Instrument Registration Law, Laws of Lagos State was complied with and so it was regis­tered and admissible 8s a document of title.

In response to the 2n issue respondents counsel submitted that appellant’s Deed of sublease Exhibit E is a document affecting a land in Lagos State. That the Deed of Assignment was not registered as required by law. That the only evidence relating to the purported registration of the document was in the oral evidence of the appellant (PWi) during his examination in chief when he said Exhibit IE’ has been registered with LSDPC. It was argued that Exhibit E bore no mark of registra­tion at the land registry of Lagos State. That the purported registration at LSDPC was wrong and unhelpful to the appel­lant’s case because the proper office prescribed by the above law for the registration of land instruments is the Land Registry and not ILSDPC.’ Learned counsel submitted that the contention of appellant that since Exhibit ‘E’ was pleaded evi­dence led that same was registered with LSDPC which evi­dence was not controverted by the other side, and that the trial court ought not to have held that the instrument was not registered is misconceived. Learned counsel submitted that the mere fact that a fact n issue was pleaded, evidence led thereto and was unchallenged does not automatically imply that the fact has been proved. The court is still entitled in such a situation to be satisfied that the evidence adduced is credi­ble and sufficient to establish the fact in issue. See Yakubu v. Ministry of Works and Transport Adamawa State (2006) 10 NWLR (Pt 989) 515 at 547 paragraphs D-E. The irreducible min­imum tests on proof of title by document of title was rehashed recently in the ~u reme court case of Akinduro v. Alaya (2007 16 NWLR (Pt Lj673j05 1052) 15 NWLR (Pt 1057) 312 at 329. TLt Exhibit ‘E’ fai ed in all aspects as it suffers the following afflictions.

It is not valid. It was not duly executed and registered.

The purported grantor (sublesor) had no authority and capacity to grant the alleged sublease.

The grantor (sublesor) did not in fact have what it purported to grant.

It does not have the effect claimed by the holder of the instru­ment.

That from all angles Exhibit E is inefficient and totally unhelpful to the appellant’s case.

The main complaint of the appellant under issue 2 is that the learn judge was wrong to have reached a conclusion of fact that Exhibit ‘E’ was not registered. In other words, the trial judge did not properly appraise or evaluate the evidence adduced in relation to the registration of Exhibit ‘E’. The prin­ciple to guide this court on non-evaluation of evidence was stated in Edward Ukaegbu Nwokoro & Ors. V. Ezekiel Nwosu & Ors. (1994) 4 NWLR (Pt 337) 172. It reads:-”(i) As a general rule, when the question of evaluation of evidence by a trial court does not involve the credibility of witnesses but the com­plaint is against non-evaluation or improper evaluation or appraisal of evidence tendered before the trial court, an appellate court is in as good a position as the trial court to do its own evaluation – See: Abusi v. Ekwalor (1993) 6 NWLR (Pt 302) 643 at 673 – 674 Sc.

(ii) Evaluation of evidence is primarily the function of the trial judge. It is only where and when he fails to evaluate such evidence properly or at all that a Court of Appeal can inter­vene and itself re-evaluate such evidence, otherwise where the court of trial has satisfactorily performed its primary function of evaluating evidence and correctly ascribing pro­bative value to it, the Court of Appeal has no business interfer­ing with its finding on such evidence. See: Atolagbe v. Sheun (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt 2) 360; Obodo v. Ogba (1987) 2 NWLR (Pt 54) 1; Shell BPV. cole (1978) 3SC 183; Egonu v. Egonu (197811-12 SC (1); Wolxchem v. Gudi (1981) 5 SC 29l.

(iii) Where a trial court in questionably appraises the facts, it is not the business of the Court of appeal to substitute its own view for the trial court. The Court of Appeal will not inter­fere with or reverse the findings of fact of the trial court unless such findings are perverse or unsound or unsupport­ed by evidence.

Applying the above principles to the facts of this case with particular reference to the evidence relating to the complaint stated under this issue, I am in a position to re-evaluate the evidence adduced. Appellant relied on paragraph 6 and his oral testimony at page 4 for the record. For clarity paragraph 6 read thus:-

“6 The said Deed mentioned in paragraphs 5 above was sub­sequently registered at the registry of the Lagos State Development and Property Co-operation and steps have been taken to obtain the Governor’s consent to the transaction.”

At page 34 of the record, the appellant gave the following oral testimony in support of the pleading thus:-

“Exhibit ‘E’ has been registered with LSDPC.” The contention of appellant was that this piece of evidence and averment was not controverted either in the Amended Statement of Defence or by oral evidence. The appellant was not cross examined on it and so the court should have accepted it as true. The response of the respondents was that the Deed was not registered as required by law because Exhibit ‘E’ bore no mark of registration at the land registry of Lagos State. Also that Section 3(1) and (2) of the Land Instrument Registration Law provides that the land registry shall be the proper office for the registration of all instruments affecting land. I agree with the submission of respondents’ counsel that though the appellant’s Deed of sublease Exhibit IE’ is a registrable instru­ment being a document affecting land in Lagos State, same was not duly registered at the land registry as required by law. The oral testimony of the appellant cannot satisfy the require­ment as document affecting land are not registered at LSDPC but the Land Registry. It is trite that he who asserts must prove the assertion made. The fact that respondents did not contro­vert the averment, evidence led by appellant does not auto­matically imply that the fact has been proved. The court was therefore entitled in a such situation to be satisfied that the evidence adduced is credible and sufficient to establish that fact in issue. See: Yakubu v. Ministry of Works and Transport Adamawa State (2006) 10 NWLR(Pt 989) 515 at 547 paragraphs D-E. The learned trial judge in my considered view rightly held that Exhibit ‘E’ the instrument affecting land though stamped was not registered as required by law.

Culled from The Guardian.

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Law/Judiciary

As Nwanosike Resolves Protracted Chieftaincy Crisis In Elele…

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The protracted Traditional Chieftaincy crisis in Elele Kingdom in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, which had defied all solutions, including the intervention of Supreme Council of Ikwerre Traditional Rulers, has finally come to an end with the intervention of the indefatigable, vibrant and hardworking Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Council, Hon. Samuel Nwanosike.
The Mediation of three- year old Chieftaincy Crisis between His Royal Majesty Eze Jonathan Amadi, Nyewe-Ali Okaniali Ni Alimini and Chief Okechukwu Okah and his group took the diligent LGA Chairman and his committee comprising of erudite sons and daughters of Elele kingdom three consecutive days, lasting up to 8pm each day to resolve.
In an interview with journalists who visited the Ikwerre Local Government Council headquarters at Isiokpo, on a fact finding mission to ascertain the veracity of the panel under his watch, the executive Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Council, Hon Samuel Nwanosike, stated thus: “Power comes from God; as far as we are concerned, peace has returned to Elele, lot of people misconstrued the disagreement between the persons in the traditional institutions in Elele, I didn’t want to go into the matter because it has been resolved, the Chairman, Elele Kingdom Council of Chiefs are here to thank us for the good works.”
The Ikwerre LGA boss noted that he had taken pains to ensure that total peace reigned in Elele and gave all the glory to God.
According to him, “the committee under my watch resolved that all indiscriminate titles according to the publication by His Royal Majesty on Guardian Newspaper of August 27, 2018 should be dropped.
His Royal Majesty affirmed that he conferred Chief Okechukwu Okah, Chief, (Barr) Emma, Chief (Barr) James O. Amadi as Palace Chiefs while Magistrate (Chief) Justice O. Amadi was conferred as Palace Legal Adviser.
Engineer Nwanosike also added that the palace had warned that no one should attach to himself any title not given to him by the Royal Majesty or state government in any form (either through electronic medium or inscribe such titles in their houses or cars), and noted that the position of the law was clear in Rivers State as only the governor has the instrument of the law to recognise or create stools of Royal Highness even as he confirmed that the panel recommended that the Council of Chiefs should  perform the traditional recognition of rites and royalties to his Royal Majesty, Eze Jonathan Amadi, Nyenwe-Ali Okani-ali-Ni-Alimini as well as all meetings should be at the palace of the Royal Majesty.
There was no peace in Elele prior to the intervention of the peace and reconciliation committee set up by Hon. Samuel Nwanosike. The rift between Ngwele stool, His Royal Majesty, Eze J.O.G Amadi  JP, Nyenwe- Ali Omenele Ni- Alimini and the Council of Elders (Nde Ohna) on one side and Elele Council of Chiefs (Nde Eze) on the other side was palpable.
Consequently, the Ikwerre Council boss formed a peace panel conmprising of few well-meaning sons and daughters of Elele, drawn from communities that make up Elele Kingdom to consider the remote and immediate causes of the misunderstanding.
The peace and reconciliation committee met with the  Council of Elders (Nde Ohna) on 20th May,2021 and the council of Chiefs (Nde Eze) on the 6th and 11th of June, 2021 to consider their grievances, and proffer solutions that will bring a lasting peace. The peace committee, having heard all the parties involved, and reached the following findings and resolutions as hereunder stated:
Council of Elders (Nde-Ohna)
That there exist two factions in the council of Elders (Nde-Ohna), one side for his Royal Majesty, Eze J.O.G., Amadi, (JP) Nyenwe-Ali Omenele Ni-Alimini and the other side for Chief Okechukwu Okah.
That some stools in the Council of Elders (Nde Ohna) are in contention
That the problem started when part of Elele Shrine (Igbo Onino) was acquired and compensation paid to the community by the company dualising Elele- Owerri road and some members of Ohna and Chiefs embezzled the money meant for the fencing of the place.
That a shop was erected at the front of the shrine which exposed the secret altar of the gods of the land which made Ohna Lawrence Elechi to insist that the shop must be removed but the custodian of Ngwele stool refused.
That the council of Elders was induced with money to do Chief Okechukwu Okah’s biddings, to which some of them confessed.
That committee observed that the exorbitant charge on the entrants into the Council of Elders (Nde-Ohna) was very worry-some.
B.  Resolution
The Council of Elders (Nde-Ohna) should perform the traditional recognition of rites and royalty to HRM Eze J.O.G Amadi, JP (Ogba- ban obiri, ya-ni orikota)
There should be no division between the Royal Majesty and the Council of the Elders (Nde-Ohna)
There should be no sectional or splinter meetings by any member(s) except the meetings that will be held in the palace of His Royal majesty.
All meetings of Nde-Ohna shall henceforth not be held without the express knowledge and approval of His Royal Majesty.
Person(s) that gained entrance into the Ohna Council due to altercations among the leadership of Omenele are therefore advised to withdraw and allow the bona fide members of the ohna to perform their traditional rites. This decision affects Police Inspector Marcus Elechi of Omukerenyi, Samuel Onyekeozu Ilo of Omuoluma and Samuel Umenwo of Omuohua.
His Royal Majesty should please in that vein accept all members of the council of Elders (Nde- Ohna) back to his fold as the tradtion demands.

  1.  Elele Council Of Chiefs (Nde-Eze)
    A.  Findings:
    That there appears to be many grey areas in the title holdings amongst the chiefs in Elele Traditional Council of Chiefs. These different titles had caused a break down in the unity and peace among the members of Elele Council of Chiefs. Such titles as Eze Ali, His Royal Highness, instead of the palace chiefs and palace legal adviser as conferred on Chief Okechukwu Okah, Chief Barr Emma Okah, Chief Barr James Amadi by His Royal Majesty.
    That there exist two factions in the Council of Chiefs (Nde-Eze); one side for his Royal Majesty, Eze J.O.G Amadi (JP) Nyenwe-Ali Omenele Ni Alimini and the other side led by Chief Okechukwu Okah.
    That the election conducted by Elele Council of Chiefs as approved by His Royal Majesty was Inconclusive due to ties of 10:10 votes on chairmanship position.
    That the committee observed that there were unnecessary lobbying by the two contestants. 
    That there is a matter in Choba Magistrate Court instituted by Chief Okechukwu Okah and Magistrate (Chief) Justice O. Amadi against His Royal Majesty, Elele Council of Chiefs (Nde-Eze) and Elele Council of Elders (Nde-Ohna). Also, a matter in the Isiokpo High Court by His Royal Majesty challenging the Court releifs granted to Chief Okechukwu Okah and Magistrate (Chief) Justice O. Amadi
    The committee observed that the exorbitant charges on the entrants into the Council of Chiefs (Nde-Eze) was worrisome.
     In view of the above therefore, the committee resolved as follows;
    All indiscriminate titles according to the publication by his Royal Majesty on Guardian Newspaper of August 27, 2018 should henceforth be dropped. His  Royal Majesty affirms that he only conferred Chief Okechukwu Okah, Chief (Barr) Emma Okah and Chief (Barr) James Amadi as palace Legal adviser and not the acclaimed “Eze Ali, His Royal Highness or His Highness”, of which Chief (Barr) James Amadi confirmed His Royal Majesty’s position as the true title he conferred on them.
    The panel warns that no one should attach to himself any title not given by the Royal Majesty or the State Government in any forms (either through Electronics media, inscribe such titles on their houses or cars etc) because the position of the law is clear in the River State Chieftaincy law which is the exclusive stool of Royal Highness or Highness.
    Henceforth, Chiefs coronated by His Royal Majesty either as family chief or ceremonial chief are entitled to attend Elele Council of Chiefs meeting as directed by the Royal Majesty. The hosting of meeting by the Chiefs should be done in order of their date of admission into the Council of Chiefs.
    Every Chief must be loyal to the Royal Majesty. Any act of insubordination to the Majesty shall attract disciplinary measures. Hence, the Council of Chiefs cannot take decisions on behalf of his Royal Majesty without his consent or approval.
    The council of Chiefs (Nde-Eze) should perform the traditional recognition of rites and loyalty to HRM, Eze J.O.G Amadi, (JP) (Ogba-ban obiri, ya-ni orikota)
    There should be no division between the Royal Majesty and Council of Chiefs (Nde Eze) any more: any sectional or splinter meetings by any member except the meetings that will be held in the palace of His Royal Majesty. 
    All parties concerned should withdraw all matters in courts with immediate effect
    Due to the unhealthy lobbying, the two contestants were disqualified in the interest of peace, hence election into chairmanship position was conducted and sir (Chief ) Gilbert Ndah, JP emerged as winner and was sworn in immediately.
    All other elections conducted to fill other offices in the Elele Council of Chiefs were upheld.

By: Chidi Enyie

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Law/Judiciary

Can NBA Fight For Self ?

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Does NBA really understand the difference between an Annual Conference and a regular Seminar/Workshop/Talkshow?
Dear Benchers, silks, Professors seniors and colleagues, please I have a question.The SPIDEL Annual Conference 2021 has come and gone. Question bothering me are, what specific benefits has the conference brought towards improving or promoting the welfare, security and economic advancement of lawyers in Nigeria? How would the outcome of the conference positively impact the lives of lawyers in Nigeria? Of what benefits to the welfare of members of the NBA, are the topics discussed at the conference? How for example has the presence of Bala Mohammed, Rochas Okorocha, Aisha Yesufu, Dino Melaye, Seyi Makinde, etc contributed to solving or will contribute to solving any one or more of the many challenges facing members of the NBA?
Recall that the NBA was set up primarily to: Advance the interest of lawyers in Nigeria; Create opportunities for lawyers to prosper; Promote peace, unity and oneness among the various segments within the profession. Redress any noticed injustice to any segments of the profession; Assist in making legal education and law practice in Nigeria better; Guard jealously all jobs and rights exclusive to lawyers in Nigeria; Make lawyers more relevant and useful to society; etc. Now, in what ways would the papers delivered and the talkshows witnessed at the Ibadan SPIDEL  conference 2021 help achieve any one of these and others objectives of the NBA? 
Meanwhile, you are not unaware that (1). Majority of Nigerian Lawyers are jobless, and indeed feel frustrated, disenchanted and disappointed as a result. Meanwhile countless untapped/unopened opportunities exist for employment for many lawyers in Nigeria.  Nigeria is the only country without legal departments in LGA’S and without lawyers working as full-time Legal officers in the LGA’s.  Nigeria is the only country without legal sections or Legal Departments in its police departments and formations. Happily, section 66 (3) NPFEA, 2020 has directed the mandatory posting of Lawyers as fulltime employees to all police Stations in the country. What is the NBA waiting for to liaise with relevant stakeholders to see that this beautiful mandate is implemented without any delays, with a view to creating job opportunities for lawyers in Nigeria as well as improving the human rights conditions and records of the various Police locations across the country in addition to decongesting our courts by controlling and minimising the filing of frivolous criminal charges? Why didn’t the SPIDEL Conference 2020 look at any of these? In Nigeria, over 90 percent of all the MDA’s (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) have no legal departments and no lawyers in their employment as Legal officers. Over 60 percent of all high and higher schools in Nigeria have no legal departments and no lawyers in their employment as legal officers. Beside these, many aspects of the traditional jobs of the Nigerian lawyers are being taken away (stolen) by intruding non lawyers and foreigners. Very soon, unless something drastic is done to stop this ugly trend, lawyers in Nigeria may have only little or no jobs to call their own. Even deeds, land agreements, tenancies are now drafted by non lawyers with impunity. Lest I forget, illiterate land agents charge and are paid much more than Lawyers are paid in conveyancing which is the lawyer’s traditional job space.
I had suggested and expected that the SPIDEL conference should have been devoted to talking about one or more of the many problems that weigh the NBA and Nigerian lawyers down with a view to dispassionately discussing same in a manner that would bring about some positive results that would directly and positively affect members of the NBA. Same suggestions I had made (without success) in 2019 and in 2020.
 In summary, what exactly is the benefit of the just concluded SPIDEL conference to the Nigerian lawyer? Which of the countless problems facing the Nigerian lawyers did the SPIDEL conference  look at? Do we really understand the difference between an Annual General Conference of a professional association and a mere seminar/webinar or worshop? I used to think that when an association organises a Conference for its members, it is devoted to looking at the various aspects of the internal affairs of the association and the lives of its members with a view to looking at ways of finding solutions to the association’s challenges and also discussing how to move the association and its members forward. I thought that an annual general Conference is akin to an “annual retreat” where only issues directly affecting the organisation/association and its members are focused on. Occasional webinars, seminars and workshops on the other hand may be devoted to discussing issues generally affecting society, in line with the objects of the affected association. In the case of the NBA, all of its Conferences, webinars, seminars and workshops are organised and devoted almost entirely to discussing problems bedevilling other people, with no or little attention paid to the challenges directly facing the NBA and its members. Please, I pray, can the promising Akpata administration, in line with its campaign promises, try to do something different for the Nigerian lawyers and his profession. My own survey shows that majority of Nigerian lawyers are disappointed with succesive NBA Leaderships, and are therefore disenchanted and rapidly loosing interest in the affairs of the NBA. Major reason: the NBA hardly cares about the internal challenges of its own members, but are more concerned about and fighting vigorously about the headaches of other people. Example: I commend NBA’s efforts towards ensuring financial Autonomy for the Judiciaries in Nigeria; I commend the NBA for assisting JUSUN over 90 percent of whose members are not Lawyers. I support financial autonomy for the Judiciary. But, please, don’t you think that if the NBA should apply the same vigour and energy with which NBA fights for JUSUN, towards fighting to (1) create more opportunities for employment for the teeming population of unemployed/jobless lawyers in Nigeria, things would be better for the profession. If the NBA should devote half of such efforts to fighting off worsening encroachments and intrusions by non lawyers into the legal practice Space, lawyers wouldn’t remain the same in Nigeria. Think about this, especially about the difference between a Conference and a seminar or workshop. My friend says NBA Conferences are achieving their Objectives because NBA Conferences are”for networking and closing deals”. Okay, my answer is this: _”are we saying it is not possible to discuss these critical issues directly affecting the organisization and its members (issues that promote our own welfare) and still do the (1) networking, (2) Closing of deals, (3) etc…? Please note that I am not against conferences. I am a lover of conferences. All I am suggesting is that topics discussed at these conferences  ought to focus primarily on issues directly affecting the NBA and its members.” Do not forget, the NBA was set up primarily to make lawyers better.  When would the NBA come home to start fighting for its members, as the NBA usually fights for other people—non lawyers? When?
I remain yours faithfully.

By: Sylvester Udemezue
Udemezue is a contributor

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Law/Judiciary

Appraising Contributions Of Justice Omereji To Rivers State Judiciary

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Honourable Justice George Omereji (rtd) is one judge that needs no introduction in the Rivers State Judiciary where he stood out in the bench like a colossus to dispense justice to all.
Justice Omereji was bold, astute and incorruptible. He was well acquainted with the real nitty-gritty of justice dispensation probably because he had served as a magistrate long before he was appointed a judge of the Rivers State Judiciary.
The legal luminary, who hails from Egbeda in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, exuded an aura of discipline at the bench such that no attorney could go to his court unprepared. He also ensured that lawyers maintained both the dress code and courtroom decorum.
Sir Omereji was always in the news while he served as a judge because of his unwillingness to bend. He asserted himself well and carved out a niche in the annals of judicial officers.
The eminent jurist did not only preside over matters with clinical detachment, he taught lawyers what they ought to do or needed to have done in certain circumstances.
Speaking with The Tide in Port Harcourt on Monday, Blessing Enyie (Esq), noted that Justice Omereji while serving in the bench had established himself as a good judge.
Mr. Enyie, who resides at Elele in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state, pointed out that the eminent jurist displayed proper judicial temperament, patience, courtesy, open-mindedness and tact as he conducted his trials.
He averred that Justice Omereji expounded the law in a manner that brought peace to parties in a conflict or dispute. 
Sir Omereji once remarked at one of his court sessions thus; “When you see parties disobeying the law, it is their lawyers that have encouraged them to do so. According to him, the ordinary person fears the coercive powers of the court.
He was ready to bring to book any person no matter how highly placed who was in breach of the law. Indeed, some lawyers dreaded to appear before Justice Omereji. 
However, his insistence on propriety and justice belied his benevolence. The legal luminary is a kind man and has touched many who have come in contact with him.
Justice Omereji, a graduate of the University of Lagos, was revered while in the bench because of his sagacity, boldness and forthrightness. He treaded where others could not. He so much believes in justice.
Throughout his career in the bench, the eminent, jurist had neither exhibited acts of nepotism nor tribalism little wonder then, that he was chosen as the Chairman of the judicial commission of inquiry to investigate RT. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi’ Amaechi’s administration over the sale of valued assets of Rivers State and other related matters.
At inception, Justice Omereji had assured that the commission would work within the law and grant parties fair hearing. He is a stickler to principles and an avid adherent to the rule of law.
As a fearless judge, he took over the trial of the alleged killers of Soboma George, the ex-agitator, when some other judges had declined to conduct the trial.
He concluded the trial, convicted and sentenced the three persons charged with conspiracy and murder of the ex-agitator, Soboma George and Joy John Ejims, a groundnut seller in Port Harcourt more than 10 years ago.
Justice Omereji had ruled that the three accused persons, Dougbra Ogbe, Emmanuel Gladstone, Bere Matthew, should be hanged on their necks till they are dead for conspiring and killing Soboma George and Joy John Ejims at a football field in Nembe Street in Borokiri area of Port Harcourt on the 24th of August, 2010.
Another landmark judgement delivered by the eminent jurist was the award of N10 million damages against the Divisional Police Officer of Eneka Police Division, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Yahaya Bello -Sam for the violation of the fundamental human rights of a senior lawyer, Afolabi Olabisi.
He held that the police failed to prove that the lawyer committed any crime before he was detained and pointed out that the action of the police was oppressive.
Omereji described the DPO’s action as a flagrant violation of the law and condemned Olabisi’s detention in the same cell with suspected criminals.
There are a plethora of other judgements in which Justice Omereji awarded damages against the state and Federal Government over violation of individuals’ rights.
 During Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi’s administration, he awarded damages against the Rivers State Ministry of Transport for seizure of a truck belonging to a private company.
Justice Omereji is one man who did not mind whose ox was gored, whenever he delivered his judgements so long as justice was served. His lifestyle advocates probity and forthrightness.
He serves justice without fear or favour. He is reputed as one of the boldest judges to have served in the state judiciary. According to him, his mum in blessed memory had taught him how to be bold.
In tribute to his mum, at her funeral on November 7, 2020 Justice Omereji said, “You have taught me that one can only be remembered for what he has done and not by what he has”.
Apart from the fact that his mum had influenced him positively, Justice Omereji is also a devout Christian who believes in leading by example. 
His exemplary Christian leadership and contributions to his faith earned him his ordination as a Knight of the Anglican Church.
Interestingly, this belief has helped to make Omereji the diligent and forthright man he is today.
Consequently, when the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike needed an impartial and bold umpire to manage the affairs of Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) he looked for Justice Omereji and appointed him the chairman of the body.
Sir Omereji immediately swung into action with his commissioners, worked diligently and tirelessly to justify the confidence reposed in him by the people of Rivers State.
Indeed, the eminent jurist conducted the last local government elections in the state which has been hailed for being the only election that was neither marred by violence nor death. The RSIEC chairman was recently given an award by Rivers State youths for conducting a free and fair local council election. Justice Omereji who spoke at the award ceremony expressed gratitude to God for enabling him to achieve the feat.
He also thanked the youths for recognising the achievement of the electoral body.
Omereji, who spoke during the award ceremony, stated that the award though given to him could not have been achieved without the contributions of his able lieutenants and dedicated same to the entire electoral body.
A Port Harcourt-based journalist, Mr. Ralph Echefu, who spoke with The Tide in Port Harcourt at the weekend described Justice Omereji as nice team leader, who carried his lieutenants along.
Mr. Echefu, who also featured at the award ceremony, noted that by the chairman’s speech, he was a good manager and team leader.
There is no doubt, however that the retired judicial officers, has often demonstrated his ability to lead each time an opportunity availed itself.
The jurist was at a time, the chairman of all magistrates in the state. He led the organisation well with an avowed commitment and display of uncommon integrity. As a chairman of the magistrates association, he was then a chief magistrate in the state.
Having served creditably as a chief magistrate, Justice Omereji was found worthy to be appointed the Chief Registrar of the state Judiciary.
During his service as a chief registrar, he was instrumental to the rehabilitation of the state judiciary. He worked with former Chief Judge of the state, Hon. Justice Iche Ndu to bring about far reaching changes in the justice system.
Justice Omereji was later elevated to a judge of the Rivers State Judiciary, a position he held until he turned 65 and retired meritoriously on September 24, 2020, after 35 years of service to humanity.
A Port Harcourt based lawyer, Mr. Chijoke  Agi, described Justice Omereji (rtd) as one of the most fearless judges ever to have been appointed to the bench in recent times.
Mr Agi, who spoke with The Tide in Port Harcourt at the weekend, remarked that the current RSEIC chairman is a man well suited for leadership given his track record.
According to him, the eminent jurist is a charismatic leader and there are not many like him in the state.
The Port Harcourt lawyer also described Justice Omereji as an epitome of discipline and noted that he would go places because of his transparency and forthrightness.
He noted that many Port Harcourt-based lawyers who appeared at Justice Omereji’s court would no doubt hold the eminent jurist in high esteem because of the manner in which he dispensed justice.
Also speaking, another Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Endurance Akpelu (Esq) described the retired judge as a man of the people and noted that he was always ready to render a helping hand.
Mr. Akpelu pointed out that Justice Omereji was a man of integrity who would always justify the confidence reposed in him.
He said that the retired judge left legacies every where he went and added that he had begun to do same at RSIEC.
“Men like him are hard to find”, Akpelu stated.
Conclusively, Hon. Justice George O. Omereji, is straightforward, incorruptible, astute person as well as a an avid adherent to rule of law. Posterity will continue to reward him for his firm belief in justice for all.

By: Chidi Enyie

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