IGBO LAWYERS AND THE KEY OF KNOWLEDGE: TWO TALES COWARDICE AND HYPOCRISY by Johnmary Jideobi, Esq.




PREFATORY REMARKS:
This is not the best of time for the Igbos. Things are no longer at ease. The atmosphere is tense. The citizens are feeling it. The political elites are also not left out. We all know the situation on ground. The need for extensive factual analysis is therefore uncalled for. This is one moment when long speeches are not necessary. This write-up therefore promises to be as short as a lady’s skirt: short enough to be attractive but long enough to cover the essential parts. Emotions are running high. Sentiments have beclouded the pedestrian minds among us. We shall therefor show “sensitivity” in this rather sensitive discourse but we must resist the temptation of following the foggy lanes of emotions and sentiments in reaching our conclusions. At a time like this, reason, the law and wisdom must be our best Trinitarian guides lest the journey of this article would be gravely imperiled. The focus is on the entire Igbo Lawyers.

OBJECTIVE OF THE WRITE-UP:
There is no denying the fact that lawyers are one special breed of persons that the society can never do without. The ancient times vindicate this assertion. Every modern society is founded on law. Every aspect of human affairs is hedged on all sides by law. Lawyers are experts in the law. They are scholars of the law. No modern society can therefore meaningfully exist and function optimally without lawyers. It is not for nothing that multinational corporations and government agencies world over pay heavily in seeking “legal opinion” of lawyers before embarking on any worthwhile project or taking any transactional decision. This is not sounding immodest or boastful. It is a reality of life which has never been and will never be doubted by even those who for whatever reasons best known to them consider lawyers their staunch enemies. An entire arm of government is conceded to lawyers in every democracy and that is the judiciary. It is only the Minister of Justice that is established by the Nigerian Constitution. Every justice minister must be a lawyer. The office of a lawyer is therefore historic, his powers unfathomable and inestimably beneficial to his society when properly deployed. Lawyers hold the key of knowledge. Over two thousand years ago, while berating lawyers for not entering the temple of knowledge and at the same time hindering others from entering, Our Lord Jesus Christ confirmed that lawyers “hold the key of knowledge”. [See Luke 11:52]. I owe it to the infinite mercies of God that I belong to this noble and honourable profession. I am a courtroom lawyer. I am privileged to have appeared in almost all the cadre of courts in this our great country under the able guidance of one of the best litigation attorneys this country has ever produced, Chief Kanu Godwin Agabi, SAN. I can therefore safely say that I am an insider. I understand the psychology of an average Nigerian lawyer. From this relatively safe pedestal therefore, I wish to address my fellow lawyers of Igbo extraction against the background of the situation now prevalent in our region. Since it is demonstrably correct to assert that the future of every nation’s democracy lies on the shoulders of lawyers, it is therefore apposite to conduct a dispassionate inquiry into how the Igbo Lawyers have fared in supporting the ship of democracy which is obviously on the verge of capsizing on the South-East sea where we hold sway. As scholars and experts of the law with the key of knowledge, in what way(s) have we contributed to the current state of affairs plaguing our people now? Are we in any way culpable? Finding answers to these soul-searching posers is the humble attempt of this piece.
HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERN:
The heart of the matter is that presently we are witnessing heavy deployment of soldiers and presence of large-scale implements of warfare of the Nigerian State in the South-East. It all started in Abia State where the governor was forced to impose dusk to dawn curfew to save lives and properties. Already in circulation is the video of the personnel of the Nigerian Army torturing our brothers suspected to be members of the Indigenous People of Biafra [henceforth in this article called the IPOB]. Lives have been lost in circumstances suggesting that Hobbesian state of nature [where life is short, nasty and brutish] is the order of the day. The wholesale indignity to which our people have been subjected as depicted in the video now in circulation is traumatizing to every good conscience, mind-boggling, blood-chilling and shocking to the marrow thereby making the arrest and discipline of the culprits a matter of extreme urgency as they are acts not contemplated by the extant Rules of Engagement. Such aberration diminishes our common humanity. It is a sad commentary on the human rights credentials of the country.
HOW WE GOT HERE:
It will amount to naked self-deception to run the course of this article without beginning from the beginning. The beginning is that one Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, who dropped out from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, relocated to the United Kingdom, got involved in Biafra restoration struggle [under Chief Ralph Uwazuruike] is currently standing criminal trial before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court of Nigeria for alleged acts verging on treason and treasonable felony. The facts forming the hub of the charges preferred against him are mainly derivable from the hate and war-mongering speeches he constantly spewed from Radio Biafra where he presided as the Director. Lawyers who have done international law or have had the time to closely study the Rome Statute setting up the International Criminal Court would have no hesitation in agreeing with me that the hate and war-mongering speeches constantly dispensed from the Radio Biafra eminently qualify everybody and anybody associated with the running of the said Radio Station for trial before the International Criminal Court for their remarkably genocidal incitements over time. Indeed, no less culpable are those cheering on the madness that has endured for some time. Contrary to his bail terms, Nnamdi Kanu has carried on since the 26th day of April, 2017 as if there really exists a Republic of Biafra within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This may have necessitated the Presidency to weigh in and arrest the obvious drift into anarchy being precipitated by Kanu’s activities. The said Kanu who once gleefully announced to his cheerful audience that he would not go into exile is now carefully concealing himself from the security forces while our innocent compatriots are now sadly bearing the brunt of Kanu’s ill-advised and crude method of pursuing what is an otherwise a valid agitation and indeed the human rights of the people under our laws.
PRESIDENT BUHARI IS NO LESS CULPABLE:
Evil indeed begets evil and impunity tends to multiply impunity. No one can successfully fight darkness with darkness. Mention must be made that on two (2) different occasions, our Courts granted bail to Mr. Nnamdi Kanu but the state actors violated those orders of courts by not releasing him. Debates were generated and articles written to convince our President on the need to uphold the dignity of our Constitution by obeying the court orders but all to no avail. Mr. President made a speech wherein an absurd 5% and 97% proposition was proclaimed. Most of his official acts have given credence to the implementation of such odious proposition. He has never visited any Southern State since after winning election. Our people are deeply embittered thus making us to ask, are we still really part of the Nigerian Federation? No doubt, the South-East has suffered enormous state-sponsored marginalization and deliberate exclusion by President Buhari’s government. Mr. President does not hide it under any political sophistry or diplomatic chicanery. He is rubbing it in our faces. That is indeed provocative, disdainful and condescending. For the very fact that despite all the killings, maiming and raping of our women by Fulani herdsmen, none has been arraigned or successfully convicted for such high-profile atrocities, no further argument is required to establish that the security of the South-East matters NOT to Buhari’s government whereas security is one of the two cardinal pillars upon which the governance of our country is supposed to be resting in accordance with our own constitutional template.
THE IGBO LAWYERS CULPABILITY:
We all know as lawyers that Nigeria is a signatory to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. It is equally elementary that the only Rules of Court that apply in Human Rights enforcement is the extant Fundamental Rights Enforcement Rules, 2009 [called FREP Rules for short henceforth in this article] which the Chief Justice of Nigeria is empowered to make by Section 46 (3) the amended 1999 Constitution. The paragraph 3 of the FREP Rules provides saliently as follows:
The overriding objectives of these Rules are as follows:
(a)  The Constitution, especially Chapter IV, as well as the African Charter, shall be expansively and purposely interpreted and applied, with a view to advancing and realising the rights and freedoms contained in them and affording the protections intended by them.
(b) For the purpose of advancing but never for the purpose of restricting the applicant’s rights and freedoms, the Court shall respect municipal, regional and international bills of rights cited to it or brought to its attention or of which the Court is aware, whether these bills constitute instruments in themselves or form parts of larger documents like constitutions. Such bills include;
(i) The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other instruments (including protocols) in the African regional human rights system, (ii) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other instruments (including protocols) in the United Nations human rights system.
By the above provision of the FREP Rules, it now clear that our Courts [that is to say the Federal High Court, the State High Courts and the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory] are empowered, under Section 46 (2) of the amended 1999 Constitution, to apply the African Charter and expansively interpret is provisions when approached. Additionally, the Supreme Court in Abacha v. Fawenhimi (2001) AHRLR 172 (NgSC 2000), has insisted that if the rights contained in African Charter must have any meaning to Nigeria citizens, our Courts “must apply” them. What is more, in Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Lord Chief Udensi Ifegwu (2003) 15 NWLR pt 842, the Supreme Court held that human rights action could be commenced by any mode of commencement of action acceptable in our Courts. Statutorily, Order 2 Rule 2 of the FREP Rules eloquently provides that “An application for the enforcement of the Fundamental Right may be made by any originating process accepted by the Court which shall, subject to the provisions of these Rules, lie without leave of Court.” The question still persists as to why our Igbo Lawyers have refused, failed and or neglected to call the attention of IPOB and Nnamdi Kanu to the fact that the referendum they are seeking on the streets of Igboland could be granted by our courts as a remedy to vindicate, effectuate and facilitate the enjoyment of the right to self-determination so boldly inscribed on article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. Our Igbo Lawyers have not been heard advising Nnamdi Kanu/IPOB that it is part of our laws [under the principle of ubi jus ibi remedium]where there is an established legal right [like self-determination under Article 20] the court must necessarily fashion out a remedy even where none exists statutorily. Our Chief Justice knows very well that all the possible remedies [e.g. referendum] needed to ensure the enjoyment of all the rights [e.g. self-determination] available under human rights charters may not possibly be spelt out in black and white hence this omnibus warrant granted to our Courts under paragraph (3) ( c)of the FREP Rules “For the purpose of advancing but never for the purpose of restricting the applicant’s rights and freedoms, the Court may make consequential orders as may be just and expedient.”.
Another angle to fortify this argument is that the Nigerian nation, by acceding to and more importantly domesticating the African Charter, she has incurred the obligation to ensure her compliance with the dictates of the Charter in fulfillment of her international obligation under the international treaty. It is immaterial that the outcome of such referendum [if ordered by the court] would lead to the break-up of Nigeria thereby constituting a violation of Section 2 (1) of the Constitution declaring that “Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Indeed, it is important to point out that both in 2005 and as recent as 2012, the Nigerian Supreme Court eloquently declared that the Federal Government of Nigeria is bound by the judgment of the International Court of Justice [called ICJ henceforth in this discourse] delivered in 2002 which ceded the oil rich Bakassi Peninsular to Cameroon. [See the cases of Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (2005) 15 NWLR (Pt.947) pg 71 and Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (SC.250/2009)]. It is instructive to point out that despite the “indissolubility” clause in Section 2(1) of our Constitution, the country dissolved by parting with Bakassi which is still a Local Government under Cross-River State and reflected in the Schedule to the Constitution. If the Federal Government of Nigeria and indeed our Supreme Court accepted that the judgment of ICJ is unquestionably binding on us as a result of which Nigeria was dissolved and lost part of her territory to Cameroon, the cogent question that needs be asked at this juncture is: what then did the ICJ decide or what is the rational [ratio decidendi] in the case of Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria (Cameroon v. Nigeria: Equatorial Guineu intervening), Judgment, 1. C. J. Reports 2002, p. 303)?. The ICJ held that the Nigerian State cannot set up her constitutional provision [or indeed any other of her domestic laws] as being an impediment to the fulfillment of her obligation(s) under an international treaty.

HOW TO PROCEED:
For those of us who may claim that they did not offer International Law or are not conversant with the procedure to pursue referendum through the Courts, I have dutifully done the ground work for us. Here is a prototype of a human rights enforcement action by way of Originating Summons, borne out of my intimate reading and research. The questions of law and reliefs are set down below:
1.     Whether  the Federal Government of Nigeria is entitled to set up its domestic statutes [such as Sections 1(3) and 2 of the amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria] as a valid defence shielding her from fulfilling  her obligations under international treaties/instruments [such as Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights], to which she is a signatory,  regard being had to the decisions of the Nigerian Supreme Court in the cases of : Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (2005) 15 NWLR (Pt.947) pg 71 and Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (SC.250/2009) wherein the decision of the International Court of Justice [the principal judicial organ of the United Nations] in the case of Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria (Cameroon v. Nigeria: Equatorial Guineu intervening), Judgment, 1. C. J. Reports 2002, p. 303) was unequivocally accepted as binding on the Federal Government of Nigeria?
2.     Whether in view of the decision of the Nigerian Supreme Court in the case of Abacha vs. Fawehinmi (2001) 51 WRN 29, the Federal Government of Nigeria is not under an obligation to effectuate the fulfillment of the Applicants’ fundamental right under Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights [by appointing a date for and organizing a referendum] against the background of the decision of the  International Court of Justice [the principal judicial organ of the United Nation] in the case of Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria (Cameroon v. Nigeria: Equatorial Guineu intervening), Judgment, 1. C. J. Reports 2002, p. 303) subsequently confirmed and accepted as unquestionably binding on the Nigerian state by the Nigerian Supreme Court in the cases of Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (2005) 15 NWLR (Pt.947) pg 71 and Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (SC.250/2009) ?
3.     Whether the appointment of a date for the conduct of a referendum by the Federal Government of Nigeria in the five states of Abia, Anambra Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo is not a remedy available to the applicants in vindication and enjoyment of their legal right to self-determination consecrated by article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights enacted pursuant to Section 12 of the amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria read alongside the decisions of the Nigerian Supreme Court in the cases of Abacha vs. Fawehinmi (2001) 51 WRN 29, Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (2005) 15 NWLR (Pt.947) pg 71 and Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (SC.250/2009) wherein the decision of the International Court of Justice [the principal judicial organ of the United Nations] in the case of Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria (Cameroon v. Nigeria: Equatorial Guineu intervening), Judgment, 1. C. J. Reports 2002, p. 303) was unequivocally accepted as binding on the Federal Government of Nigeria?
Against the background of the answers that may be given to the above questions of law, the Applicant claims the following reliefs from this Honourable Court:
1 A SOLEMN DECLARATION of this Honourable Court that the Federal Government of Nigeria is NOT entitled to set up its domestic statutes [such as Sections 1(3) and  2 of the amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria] as a valid defence shielding her from fulfilling  her obligations under international treaties/instruments [such as Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights], to which she is a signatory,  regard being had to the decisions of the Nigerian Supreme Court in the cases of : Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (2005) 15 NWLR (Pt.947) pg 71 and Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (SC.250/2009) wherein the decision of the International Court of Justice [the principal judicial organ of the United Nations] in the case of Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria (Cameroon v. Nigeria: Equatorial Guineu intervening), Judgment, 1. C. J. Reports 2002, p. 303) was unequivocally accepted as binding on the Federal Government of Nigeria.
2. A SOLEMN DECLARATION of this Honourable Court that in view of the decision of the Nigerian Supreme Court in the case of Abacha vs. Fawehinmi (2001) 51 WRN 29, the Federal Government of Nigeria is under an obligation to effectuate the fulfillment of the Applicants’ fundamental right under Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights [by appointing a date for and organizing a referendum] against the background of the decision of the  International Court of Justice [the principal judicial organ of the United Nation] in the case of Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria (Cameroon v. Nigeria: Equatorial Guineu intervening), Judgment, 1. C. J. Reports 2002, p. 303) subsequently confirmed and accepted as unquestionably binding on the Nigerian state by the Nigerian Supreme Court in the cases of Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (2005) 15 NWLR (Pt.947) pg 71 and Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (SC.250/2009)
3. A SOLEMN DECLARATION of this Honourable Court that the appointment of a date for the conduct of a referendum by the Federal Government of Nigeria in the five states of Abia, Anambra Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo is a remedy available to the applicants in vindication and enjoyment of their legal right to self-determination consecrated by article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights enacted pursuant to Section 12 of the amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria read alongside the decisions of the Nigerian Supreme Court in the cases of Abacha vs. Fawehinmi (2001) 51 WRN 29, Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (2005) 15 NWLR (Pt.947) pg 71 and Attorney-General of Cross-Rivers State vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and Anor (SC.250/2009) wherein the decision of the International Court of Justice [the principal judicial organ of the United Nation] in the case of Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria (Cameroon v. Nigeria: Equatorial Guineu intervening), Judgment, 1. C. J. Reports 2002, p. 303) was unequivocally accepted as binding on the Federal Government of Nigeria
4. AN ORDER of this Honourable Court commanding the Federal Government of Nigeria [represented by the 1st Respondent herein] to appoint a date for the conduct of a referendum to be jointly carried out by the 4th, 5th and 6th Respondents herein [for all registered voters]in the five states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo within 90[ninety days] from and inclusive of the date of the delivery of the judgment of this court in this matter for the determination of whether or not the Applicants are still desirous of remaining in the Nigerian Federation.
5.AN ORDER of this Honourable Court directing the Federal Government of Nigeria to transmit the outcome of the referendum exercise to the United Nations Office headquartered in New York, United States of America through the Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations within 14 [fourteen] days from and inclusive of the date of the completion of the referendum exercise.

SUMMATION:
If an action like the one proposed above is ever initiated by the Igbo Lawyers, then, it will put a damper on the ill-informed method of the IPOB/Nnamdi Kanu as the agitation or quest for referendum will have been successfully relocated away from the streets and highways to the courtroom where REASON would prevail as against wild sentiments and unruly passion/emotions. Any Igbo Lawyer has the locus standi to file this proposed action. It will be lame for the Igbo Lawyers to hide under the pretext of lack of locus standi and I have an authority to that effect. The statutory warrant is Paragraph 3 (e ) of the Preamble to the FREP Rules. It eminently provides:
“The Court shall encourage and welcome public interest litigations in the human rights field and no human rights case may be dismissed or struck out for want of locus standi. In particular, human rights activists, advocates, or groups as well as any non-governmental organisations, may institute human rights application on behalf of any potential applicant. In human rights litigation, the applicant may include any of the following: (i) Anyone acting in his own interest; (ii) Anyone acting on behalf of another person; (iii)Anyone acting as a member of, or in the interest of a group or class of persons; (iv) Anyone acting in the public interest, and (v) Association acting in the interest of its members or other individuals or groups”
In my reckoning, Igbo Lawyers are versed in the law but they [with the exception of a negligible few] have refused to provide legal solutions even at a trying moments as now. The reasons are two-fold. One is cowardice. The other is hypocrisy. According to wikipedi, Hypocrisy is the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, especially with respect to religious and moral beliefs; hence in a general sense, hypocrisy may involve dissimulation, pretense, or a sham. Hypocrisy is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one's own expressed moral rules and principles. According to British political philosopher David Runciman, "Other kinds of hypocritical deception include claims to knowledge that one lacks, claims to a consistency that one cannot sustain, claims to a loyalty that one does not possess, claims to an identity that one does not hold."American political journalist Michael Gerson says that political hypocrisy is "the conscious use of a mask to fool the public and gain political benefit.” Whereas cowardice has equally been defined by the same wikipedi as a trait wherein fear and excessive self-concern override doing or saying what is right, good, and of help to others or oneself in a time of need—it is the opposite of courage. As a label, "cowardice" indicates a failure of character in the face of a challenge.

END:
In Igbo Land, Igbo Lawyers hold the key to knowledge. In times of confusion and crises, the society turns to its best for solution. It is the moral duty of a lawyer to enlighten his society. Igbo Lawyers have been hobbled from discharging this duty of the enlightenment of the Igbo race at this critical time because of the identified twin reasons of cowardice and hypocrisy. Cowardice and hypocrisy are not virtues. They are vices. They are the two sides of a worthless coin. Such a coin is a huge liability in the briefcase of any lawyer that carries it. I have had enough interactions with many of our lawyers [both junior and senior] on Biafran agitations. In all sincerity, most believe that Kanu/IPOB methods are crude and counter-productive [as it has proven in the circumstances we have seen ourselves now]. Some other Igbo Lawyers adopt wholesale Kanu/IPOB’s method not because they believe it is the right method but because they believe no “better” method is available and will even challenge you to provide a better method. And you wonder whether a man would choose to drink otapiapia [rat poison] because there is no food in the house. In their cowardice, they do not air their “real” individual opinions publicly. In their hypocrisy, their opinions change depending on his audience at any material time. While they know that Kanu/IPOB method is inimical to democracy and overall well-being of our people, they refrain from condemning them for fear of possible blackmail, attack or possibly losing out from the national cake of “the Republic of Biafra” in the event it becomes a success. Many others support and approve of Kanu/IPOB method but will never say it openly for fear that Kanu/IPOB might not succeed so that he would not lose out from the National cake in Nigeria [like being a Senior Advocate, Judge or such other federal appointments]. These are fruits of hypocrisy and cowardice. In their hypocrisy and cowardice therefore, they maintain a “studied silence” hoping to reap bountifully from any side that carries the day. Because the Igbo Lawyers have refused to shine the light for their society, their kinsmen have fallen into avoidable but grave errors with fatal and extensive consequences. Because of their conspiracy of silence, their society is now being run by dimwits, uneducated buffoons, charlatans, touts, rogues, outlaws and adult urchins  which Kanu/IPOB clearly represent. Now, having failed in their duty to their society, they have resorted to attacking and blaming every other person for the consequences of their failure with the exception of themselves. Knowing that the fruits of cowardice and hypocrisy are poisonous, Our Lord Jesus Christ blasted the lawyers of old in circumstances such as the one confronting Igbo Lawyers today. My kinsmen should revolt against our Igbo Lawyers for allowing them to fall into this ditch. There can be no better example of “taking away the key of knowledge”, refusing to enter and at the same time obstructing others. May God have mercy on us. And may God be pleased to receive the souls of all our compatriots who have fallen victims of this senseless mayhem. We pray for His divine wisdom to chart a new course. God bless us all.






Johnmary Chukwukasi Jideobi is a Criminal Defence Attorney and Human Rights Activist based in Abuja, Nigeria and could be reached on truedemocracyfornigeria@gmail.com

IGBO LAWYERS AND THE KEY OF KNOWLEDGE: TWO TALES COWARDICE AND HYPOCRISY by Johnmary Jideobi, Esq. IGBO LAWYERS AND THE KEY OF KNOWLEDGE: TWO TALES COWARDICE AND HYPOCRISY by Johnmary Jideobi, Esq. Reviewed by David Brunt on Friday, September 15, 2017 Rating: 5

No comments: