Lagos panel will uncover truth about Lekki shootings – Adegboruwa – Punch Newspapers

Lagos panel will uncover truth about Lekki shootings – Adegboruwa – Punch Newspapers

Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, speaks to DAYO OJERINDE about corruption in the judiciary, among other issues

How will you react to the recent assertion by the ICPC that Nigerian judges got N9.4bn in bribery from lawyers in the three years?

I recently wrote a piece titled Transactional Justice, in which I noted that increasingly and alarmingly, the belief that justice is for sale is gaining ground among Nigerians. Corruption in any society, not just amongst judges, is man-made and it is man himself that can tackle it. For judges, the first issue is the mode of appointment. Once you have to lobby for any appointment, it must carry its own baggage, as he who pays the piper must surely dictate the tune of the music.

Another factor is the corruptive influence of election petitions on the performance of the judiciary generally. It has, more or less, destroyed the judiciary, to the extent that politicians are so desperate that they will do just anything to secure victory over their opponents. And once the door of corruption is opened through election petitions, you cannot close it when it comes to land matters or commercial cases.

The delay in the administration of justice is also part of the corruption. Once the number of cases pending in the courts far outweigh the capacity of judges available, then this leads to desperation, as litigants have to battle for the spaces available to have their cases heard. If the Supreme Court is presently hearing appeals of 2010, in year 2021, then you can imagine where we are in the administration of justice in Nigeria. So, corruption in the judiciary is caused by so many factors and it is best dealt with holistically.

You are a member of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing the Lekki tollgate shootings by soldiers. A lot of Nigerians think the probe is a waste of efforts and that nothing will come out of it. Will they be proven wrong?

I think it is too early now to say exactly what happened at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020. To the extent that the judicial panel is still listening to the testimonies of witnesses, admitting documents, videos and other materials as exhibits, we believe at this stage that our job at the panel is still that of investigation. We will leave no stone unturned in that process. And this is why we have extended our investigations and summonses to hospitals where people who claimed to have been shot or injured were treated, to journalists who claimed to have covered the events, to major security agencies such as the army, the police, etc.

So, at this stage, all that I can assure you is that we will not succumb to any pressure to do things this way or that way. We are determined to say it as it is, not just for the #EndSARS petitions but also in other cases and petitions brought before us. We are very mindful of the expectations of the general public, the international community and especially the youth and we will do our best not to disappoint them; the panel will bring out the truth. Whether or not the truth will be acceptable to all concerned, that will be left for posterity to determine.

I am sure that you too have been following events at the judicial panel through its televised sittings. There is nothing to suggest any cover-up or yielding to pressure from any quarters. We are totally independent. We meet to deliberate on issues as we deem fit and we take decisions without any extraneous considerations. So, I will not be far from the truth if I say that Nigerians and the international community should expect us to do the needful.

As a SAN, you have obviously come far in legal practice.  What are some of the highlights of your career?

It is better to say that my entire life shaped my convictions in legal practice. I have suffered too much injustice and deprivations, by way of constant persecutions by authorities of the university where I studied law, at the Nigerian Law School and indeed by authorities of the state called Nigeria. All these events had prepared me ahead for a robust legal practice. So also is my exposure to the human rights community, especially my encounters with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), the late Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), etc, through the Campaign for Democracy, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Civil Liberties Organisation, etc. Then, there was the June 12 struggle and my detention experiences.  I was also influenced by my close association with the late Mr Bamidele Aturu, who was then a Marxist and a non-conformist. That association led to other associations with Prof Omotoye Olorode, Awopetu, Fashina, Esko Tuoyo, Adetugbo and the Ife Collective. I tell you, those were very memorable times indeed.

By the time I graduated from the Law school, my mind was already made up on the kind of legal practice that I wanted for myself. I resolved to work with Chief Fawehinmi and no else. This paid off very handsomely.

In Gani Fawehinmi Chambers, you were first deployed to the Law Reports section as a young lawyer. Going through those law reports and judgments of the various courts truly widened my horizon. I would then later be drafted to join the political campaigns of Chief Fawehinmi and later became his delivery man, conveying press releases to press houses all over Lagos. All these truly helped me as a young lawyer, as they widened my perspectives on issues.

But above all, I believe my experiences in Port Harcourt during the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Tribunal and the prosecution of the bail application for the Ogoni 19 marked major developments in my career as a young lawyer.

Without any doubt, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), played a major role in shaping my understanding of the practice of Law, through his close mentorship, the trainings impacted and through his law reports.

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