By Mumini Abdulkareem
A suspect in the April 5, 2018 Offa bank robbery, Azeez Salawu, on Friday told the court in Ilorin, Kwara state, how six suspects including Mike Adikwu were killed in his presence by the policemen in Abuja during interrogation.
The action of the police, Salawu who is the fourth defendant said was to purposely coerce him to admit his alleged participation in the bank robbery attacks, where 18 people, including policemen were reportedly killed.
Adikwu, the armourer, is the principal witness in the alleged crime.
This is even as defence counsel, Mathias Emeribe, prayed the court to order the exhumation of the corpse of Adikwu who allegedly died in police custody in Abuja.
This, Emeribe said, is necessary to determine whether the cause of Adikwu’s death is natural or otherwise adding that attempts by the prosecution to impress it on the court that there are only five suspects in the case amount to suppression of facts.
According to him, when the case first came up in October 2018, six suspects were listed on the charge sheet, including Michael Adikwu, who the police later claimed to have died in their custody.
During the trial within trial on Friday in court aimed at determining whether the statements of the suspect tendered in court were obtained through coercion or voluntarily, the fourth defendant, during cross examination had said he was heavily tortured and made to signed a statement already prepared for him by the police.
He said: That same day, Inspector Hassan directed Officer Vincent to go and bring five people from somewhere. They asked me to watch what they’ll do to the five persons and that they will do same to me if I don’t cooperate with them. They killed the five persons in my presence. They also shot Akinnibosun, Adeola and Ogunleye on the legs in my presence. They threatened to kill me but I started begging that I didn’t do anything wrong. They said I and Ogunleye robbed at Offa and I denied this but they insisted. They beat me mercilessly inside a generator house, otherwise called theatre. It’s a lie that they interrogated me in an air-conditioned and conducive environment.
“On the second day, I was brought out again from the cell. They showed a man to me and asked me whether I know him. The man (who I later learnt was) Michael Adikwu. I said I don’t know him. They also asked him whether he knows me but he replied no. They killed him in my presence.
“I pleaded with them not to kill me because my children are still young. They tied me down and hanged me again my hands tied to my back to a rode. I then asked them what they wanted from me, when the torture became unbearable”, he said.
Salawu further claimed that he was forced to thumb print a statement already prepared by the police against his consent.
The prosecution counsel, Abdulwahab Egbewole (SAN), said that contradictions in the dates when the suspects claimed they were interrogated and the police records showed that they were only cooking up stories about their alleged torture and coercion.
He therefore urged the court to admit the confessional statements by the suspects.
All the accused; Ayoade Akinnibosun, Ibikunle Ogunleye, Adeola Abraham, Salahudeen Azeez and Niyi Ogundiran were present in court on Friday.
Presiding Justice Haleemat Salman adjourned the case till July 22, for continuation of trial.
NBA Nat’l Election: Discordant tunes in Kwara over bar leadership
Come July 24th, the national leadership of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) is expected to elect a new set of leaders that will pilot its affairs for the next two years. But as one of the largest professional bodies in Africa with over 200, 000 members, the election has expectedly polarised the bar along varying interests especially on who should lead between members of the outer and inner bars. In Kwara, the situation is not different with lawyers including Senior Advocates and former Chairmen of Ilorin Bar engaging in strong debates over the issue. ACTING EDITOR, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM writes on the issue.
For the national leadership of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), the debate of who emerges its next president has put the association on the national spotlight with allegation of rigging already renting the air many days before the exercise scheduled for July 24th, 2020.
At the bottom of the debate is who among members of the inner bar otherwise referred to as Senior Advocates and their junior counterparts should be elected to lead the bar.
The prelude to this conversation was triggered by a member of the “old guard” who is a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Osun State, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) that some members of the Outer Bar were plotting to wrestle the office of the NBA president from members of the Inner Bar.
Awomolo, who is the Secretary to Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) had expressed his fears in a “secret” letter to BOSAN urging the body to do all within its powers to ensure that the NBA President remains amongst the rank of SANs.
But after the letter was leaked to the press, the bar was literarily on fire as both SANs and non senior advocates engaged themselves in sharp argument on the propriety or otherwise of such move.
It was a fellow Senior Advocate, Babatunde Ajibade, that fired the first salvo when he replied Awomolo that the office of the NBA is not the exclusive preserve of SANs adding that the constitution does not empower only SANs to become President of the association.
In a statement he signed, the senior lawyer said he respectfully disagreed with Awomolo on the issue adding that picking an NBA president should be centered around, “the character, capacity and antecedents” and not on their titles and rank.
In the same vein, the National President of NBA, Paul Usoro, himself a SAN declared support for the agitation by the junior lawyers in an exclusive telephone chat on the issue with National Pilot.
According to Usoro, “Some of the best lawyers that I know are not SAN. George Itomi is one of the best commercial lawyers in Nigeria. Are we saying because he is not a Senior Advocate, therefore he is not qualified to lead the bar. That to me is not a good argument.
“…I think it’s a very big error to say only Senior Advocates can lead the bar, how many do we have. Non SAN are very qualified to lead the bar”, he added.
Back home in Kwara, the situation is not different as former chairmen of the state branch of the NBA among other senior lawyers have expressed diverse opinions regarding the issue.
According to Yusuf Olaolu Alli (SAN) who himself had his tutelage under Awomolo, NBA as an organisation should go with the trend in other sectors of leadership by putting its best foot forward for the election.
Speaking with National Pilot in a telephone chat on the issue, Alli said, “If you look at other professional associations in Nigeria and even abroad, be it Institute of Chartered Accountants, Nigeria Society of Engineers, Nigeria Medical Association and others, you will discovered that it is people that have attained the highest level in their profession who are the leaders and the reason is simple.
“Firstly, every team put forward its first eleven and so equals speak to equals on the same terms. We as lawyers should also put one of our best in topmost position, so that he can talk to others like equals.
“Importantly, the bar sometimes do have issues with the judiciary and other organs of government, if the chairman is still looking forward to becoming SAN and still needs people to assist or support him in the future, how will he tackle such issue because his own self interest will be very paramount. The way professions are structured in the society now, those who have attained highest level in their profession commands more respect.
“Agreed, it’s not that non SANs are not good, in fact there are lawyers who are not SAN and better than Senior Advocates. But the position is one of (respect). It’s like becoming a Professor in a university. Why is it that those who have not attained the position of a professor are not longer made VCs? The reason is that as VC, you are the chairman of Appointment and Promotion Committee of the university and you cannot preside at a meeting where someone superior to you will be appointed if you are junior lecturer. It’s the same logic here”, he noted.
Asked why some SAN are leading the debate, Alli said we all have out differences, “you are talking of politics now, why is it that professors are voting for people with school leaving certificate”, he queried.
But in his submission, another Senior Advocate in Kwara, who is coincidentally the state campaigner for Aka Bashorun, a non SAN and late president of the NBA whose track record is still a reference point among lawyers in the country, Abeni Mohammed varied his submission while speaking with National Pilot on telephone from Abuja on Saturday.
“What Awomolo said was just a suggestion or what he thinks will be appropriate for the Bar having regards to the immense recognition enjoyed by SANs within the bar itself and the entire legal profession and it will be unfair to crucify him for that.
“For me, I will also like to toe the line that only SANs should hold the position. For instance, a gathering that is headed by non senior member of the inner bar, many SANs will not want to go, they would not want to be dictated to by juniors. It’s not our making but that is the law. However, the constitution of the NBA does not say only SANs should head the bar which is the most important thing.
“What has happened in the bar to date is a matter of just convention that SANs contesting would be elected to head the bar and not the constitution. Any qualified member of the bar can contest and by qualification once he has attained the required number of years at the bar and found to be upright, have integrity and exposed, attends bar conferences and recognised to have held other junior positions in the NBA other than the president. When a member that is not a SAN heads the bar, no matter how qualified he is, he may not bring much the desired respectability to the office. This does not mean only SAN will perform better as we can have non SAN that will perform better in office.
“I was the Kwara State campaign manager for late Aka Bashorun when he contested in 1987 as a non SAN in the election held in Ibadan. He was a foremost bar man and noted for human right causes. The late Gani Fawehinmi and others were ready to sacrifice everything for him to win the election. Bashorun contested against Oladosu who was a SAN and ironically based in Ibadan but he was defeated and Bashorun emerged.
“In the present setting now, we have a non SAN campaigning against about three Senior Advocates and if the former wins it on the basis of majority votes, why not, the senior members cannot say because he is not a SAN and therefore should not be inaugurated or the election should be null and void.
“You even find out that those juniors are in the majority and if they team up to say they want to end the era of only SAN emerging NBA president, they can do that especially with the likelihood of the votes being split among the three SANs. So unless we agree by way of convention, take it to the annual congress and if it scale through escalate it to the constitution that only SAN should head the bar, it is still a wishful thinking for anybody to say only SAN can and should head the bar”, he submitted.
However, junior lawyers in the state and former chairmen of the Ilorin bar disagreed with their senior colleagues on the issue.
According to the 21st chairman of NBA Ilorin, Issa Manzuma, “There are no constitutional grounds in the NBA to advance that only SAN should head the bar. SANs that have been elected in the past are just by practice or convention and not by law. The qualification to contest is 10 years post call experience, payment of practising fees and being a NEC member for some number of years.
“The ongoing debate appears to have the propensity to create division in the bar and it is very important that the leaders of the bar should be conscious in handling the issue so that we don’t create unnecessary friction and factions in the bar. The juniors out there acknowledged the leadership of the senior advocates but outnumbered them, that respect is enough and the bar should provide the leadership so that the cohesion that the bar enjoys now continues.
“It is important for a lawyer to avoid conjecture or any thinking not in line with the law. There is difference between convention and law. If by law, only VCs should head universities for instance, that is not the law in NBA and it is the lawyers that should provide leadership for other organs of the society. Whatever is not there in the law cannot be imputed or imported.
On his part, the 19th chairman of Ilorin Bar, Rafiu Balogun said although those who are supporting the issue coming from respected senior members of the bar and elders in their own right are well respected, their opinion is not the law as the NBA have their guidelines of who should contest. One will say the SANs don’t want the junior lawyers to lead them because truly as leaders of the bar which they are, it will look somehow if somebody like me, a non SAN commanding people like Yusuf Alli, Awomolo, Rabana, all SANs during meetings. That is natural but it has to be done properly. And the way they are doing it, it may be difficult for the senior members because they lack the require numbers if we go for vote.
“This could be a sort of revolution of sorts. The senior lawyers are saying the juniors lack the maturity and competence to lead the bar but they have to find a way to convince or persuade us to go along with them on this issue.
“The hot seat is not restricted to SANs and except the constitution is amended and passed at the AGM, then we can go on that. On the rationality or otherwise of their fears, I only think its ego and it’s natural. Our senior lawyers are revered individuals. Someone like me, for instance, was trained by both Awomolo and Olaolu Ali but I think the issue must go through constitutional amendment”, he submitted.
NEWS Page 5- (COVID-19)
Kwara confirms 71 new cases within 48hrs
…Dep Gov’s aides test positive
Kwara State has recorded about 71 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within 48hours, National Pilot can report.
On Friday, a total of 41 new cases was confirmed, which increased to 71 within two days. This is coming few hours after the state’s testing centre commenced operation.
As at the time of filling this report, the official number of casualties were 12 while the total tests done was 2661, and the total confirmed cases stood at 382.
An update from the table of the COVID-19 KwaraUpdate, indicates that the state presently has 203 number of active cases, total discharged cases is 167, number of negative tests, 1817, while the number of pending tests, 462.
Meanwhile, the state COVID-19 team has formal usage of the newly certificated test centre to test patients likely to have complications from the pandemic.
With the latest number of confirmed cases in the state, there are apprehensions and fear among the citizens more so as the virus recently claimed the life of the Chief of Staff to the state governor, Alhaji Aminu Adisa Logun.
It is observed that most people move freely without observing the social and physical distancing, washing of hands with soap and water and applying sanitizer and have refused to wear face masks.
Meanwhile, Kwara State Deputy Governor and Chairman of the Technical Committee on Coronavirus, Mr Kayode Alabi has confirmed that his aides tested positive to COVID-19.
He disclosed that the infected aides have been admitted to Covid 19/ Infectious centre, Sobi Specialist Hospital Ilorin, for appropriate treatment.
He then called on the people of the state to always adhere strictly to COVID-19 safety protocols, warning that the disease is a real and present danger that requires serious caution.
He explained that the state Government is determined to flatten the curve of Coronavirus and curb community transmission.
The Deputy Governor called on Kwarans to take responsibility in the fight against the disease, saying that the only antidote against COVID-19 is to obey all the government’s and health officials precautionary measures such as wearing of nose masks, avoidance of large gathering, adherence to physical distancing, washing of hands with soap and running water or sanitiser, among others.
He also advised all Ministries, Departments and Agencies to emulate his action by testing staff.
By Mumini Abdulkareem