By Kayode Adeoti
As the Kwara State DPP, how many convictions have you secured so far?
As I speak, I’m sure I’ve secured over 160 convictions, awaiting governor’s signature. They’ve been sentenced to death on different offences mostly on armed robbery and culpable homicide. These convicts are still in prison custody awaiting final approval for their executions. Few of them are on appeal while for some others, the appeal is concluded. It must also be noted that some of them are waiting for governor’s mercy. I believe our Governor will take time to look into their records and see those he can pardon and those he can’t. Some of them have bad cases because lives were involved in the cause of the robbery. Like those who killed owner of ‘B’ System.
In the history Kwara State Ministry of Justice, has any DPP ever secured such high number of convictions?
We’ve never had it, since independence. I can boldly say, even in Nigeria, we’ve never had any department that had such record. I’m not talking of EFCC cases where we have financial crimes, I’m referring to real robbers, armed ones. There is no one in this country with that record, I can say boldly.
When were you made the DPP of the state?
I started as DPP sometimes in 2004, I joined the Ministry as a young State Counsel II. I was posted to this department when the position became vacant during the time of Saka Isau, SAN as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.
Which case will you consider as the most challenging in your years of practice?
Every case has it own challenge. There are some convictions that involved culpable homicide like that of Awopejo and 6 others who were convicted to death. In the case of armed robbery, the challenge has always been pressure from their relatives to soft pedal. The challenges I had during Awopejo’s case, was more of spiritual, lots of things were set against me. There were pressures, at a time, I was left alone, in the battle field, there was even divided opinions in the Ministry of Justice on whether we should persecute them or not. Since you recommend prosecution, you have to face it, I was all alone fighting the battle. The matter was handled by the late Justice Olagunju, it was one of the high profile case we have had. We went to the Court of Appeal and I won. The Ariyo case was a very serious one too, it was a communal battle, that was challenging. The community were fighting me one side and many others distractions.
Have you ever been bribed or gratified to drop a case?
As DPP, you cannot rule that out. This are part of the pressure I faced. Some people are ready to influence their case by all means even through bribe. In one of the cases I’m handling, somebody came here with money in a black bag, I didn’t know the amount but it was huge, I insisted that I’m not going to take it. Things turned around and I secured conviction. The father of the accused before he died, said the day I refused the money was when he knew that the boy would be convicted.
How do you fortify yourself against spiritual, physical attacks that you encounter while discharging your duties?
Those who knows me can testify to the fact that I’m hardworking. I’m 24 hours on the job. I’m also dynamic because I engage in animal husbandry. What money do you want to give me that I don’t make on my farm, I’m contented with my life. I have a strong believe that when I collect wrong money, it is the beginning of one embarking on a wrong path. One of the Armed robbers I was trying, from the prison yard sent his relative to me and offered me N7million requesting me to set him free. I told his relative that if that is what they want, it’s over my dead body. Ordinarily, when one has a strong belief in God, one will be cautious.
Are you saying you’ve never collected bribe?
Bribery and gratification are both refers to as influencing decisions. Once decision is influenced one begins a journey on the wrong path. I’ve respectfully ignored bribery, it’s only God that satisfies one.
What is the highest amount anyone has ever approached you with as means of influencing case?
People come here from all stratas of life. Politicians, some people come and plead on behalf of some accused persons. After leaving here, they will go back to collect money from the accused’s relatives with the assurance that they will use the fund to facilitate the case. I’ve had such occasions and it’s painful to me. People now use my name to collect money. I was in office one day when police commissioner invited me that someone who claimed he knows me, he confessed collected about N600,000 from people using my name. The first question I asked the man was, do you know me?”, he confessed does that the day he collect assurance money from the people, he invited them to the Sharia Court where I pray. He said on my way out, he shook hands with me as a way of showing to those he wanted to dupe that he knows me. I know many people do this, even lawyers indulge in the act. Some will even claim that they only collected professional fee. It’s a very challenging office.
Is it true that you are aware of most heinous crimes committed by the powers that be like the politicians even the government…?
Everything has to pass through the Ministry of Justice because it’s the sole responsibility of the ministry. The peace we enjoyed in this state is because of how we’ve been able to surpress the crime. I invited the OC SARS from Benin to testify in a case here, he said, DPP, you have subdued crime in Nigeria, he said if I try what I’m doing in Kwara in Benin that some phatwer to be will call me that I have ‘date’. Throughout Nigeria, we can count the number of DPP’s that goes to court, I’m one of them, in fact, I’m number one, I say this with all boldness, I go to court everyday.
Your name was dropped from list of those vying for bench cadre, were you disappointed?
It is wrong to say I was disappointed, I was the one who opted out. I said I was not interested. I’m more interested in becoming a SAN than being a judge. I’m married to litigation, I can’t sit and be writing judgment, I’m above that. There is hardly anyone who has the number of cases I have.
There has always been a kind of complaint in the court even among lawyers that DPP advice always come late, can you put things in the right perspective?
I sign all legal advices but I don’t write all. All my subordinates writes. The complaints over the advice happened late 2018, there has been a change. The administration of criminal justice law has regularised that.
Is there any law that permit EFCC to display pictures of their suspect online?
That aspect of the conduct of the EFCC has attracted lots of debates, there are some things that are basic in law. We presumed that an accused is innocent until proven otherwise, so, we must not give the impression that the accused is convicted. In some crime news on television stations, the faces of the accused are blurred. There is nowhere in law that says somebody who has not been convicted is tagged with name like thief.
What are you doing concerning poor remuneration of young lawyers in the state?
Generally, remuneration in Nigeria is very low though it is based on individual Chambers. It’s not too impressive.