InterviewPilot Law

Alleged N300m LG fraud: No need for setting up another c’ttee with EFCC – Barr Bamidele

Bamidele Surajudeen Adekunle is the Principal Partner in Adekunle Bamidele & Co. otherwise called Liberation Chambers, Ilorin. He graduated from the Obafemi Awolowo University in 1997 and called to the bar in 1999. He later started his pupilage with Kayode Olatoke & Co. before the establishment of his chamber. In this interview with ACTING EDITOR, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM, he talks about how practice has been especially during the pandemic, among other issues. Excerpts:
How will you describe practice in this period of pandemic?
It has been difficult and it is almost everybody. But, we have cause to thank Almighty Allah who has been faithful to us because if God is on your side, 98 people might be complaining out of 100, but God will make a way for you.
In this period of the pandemic, what aspect of law would you say has been fortunate?
It is a normal thing that when the Federal Government ease the lockdown, it might be the period when the judgment of a court or its execution judgment will come in. I have a matter which the judgement has been delivered which we only executed aftermath of the Covid-19 and we thank God. It’s like you see what is happening in this office with that this question. My client have the cause to thank God too, so you can see, it has been so tight but immediately after the lockdown, then the judgement was executed, you know the meaning of that? But generally, there is nothing that relates to lawyers or legal practitioners on this issue of pandemic. It is just normal, the only thing is that during the lockdown, it really affects and even senior advocates too complained. We were at home doing nothing and now, the high court and almost all the superior courts nationwide are already on vacation. This year has really affected lawyers financially.
In your view, do you think lawyers should also make case for palliative support from Government to cushion the effect of the pandemic?
Very well! Don’t forget although we seniors, intermediaries and junior lawyers, most of our junior lawyers are just coming in, they don’t have any other means of livelihood, it’s just this practice. Now all the courts have been lockdown without anything. There must be palliative, a kind of motivation and assistance for even the three categories I have mentioned because we are all feeling the brunt. If the courts are lockup for a week, lawyers will feel it because they don’t have any other place to carry out their trade. Don’t also forget that majority of legal practitioners are in private practice without salaries unlike those of us in government establishment and academics who are all collecting their salaries. But nobody pay private practitioners salaries. Even if we come to the office, who will patronize us once the courts are shut. The clients are also wise too and some of them now take advantage of the situation not to pay their counsel because they know there is nothing you can do. Lawyers cannot be exempted from the government palliative, we need it.
What have been the challenges for you practicing in Ilorin as a lawyer?
The challenges that majority or average of the clients who walks into this chamber have to with the issue of money, they find it difficult to pay your bill and majority of them are those that you know or recommended by people they are close to you. You don’t have any option than handle their cases for them? The issue of professional fee is very difficult here. A brief that you are suppose to charge a million naira, they will b pleading and want to offer you just something. In the midst of close relationship, friends and relative, one cannot charge the way he is suppose to as an indigene. That is what we are facing.
What is your take on the recent NBA national election in the country already threatening the unity of the bar?
Well, issues arising for election and politics, its normal for those that it might not favour to complain. They must complain. My own fear is just that I don’t want a situation where the NBA will breakup and it will not give the dignity that the bar and lawyers have been having will no longer be there again. You know we have cliques in at the Bar, but this time around the Outer Bar said they wanted Akpata which the Inner Bar looked at as a slight. I don’t think there will be any need or formation of splinter group. Although it has been polarised already, but the issue of saying that others will go and float another association or whatever, I doubt if that will succeed. It’s not a good omen to bar profession generally.
Going forward now, what is your advice to the NBA?
The elders, including the Senior Advocates and whatever should not allow this issue to generate beyond this let. The person that has been elected let us accept it that way. If there is any anomaly in future, they should correct it, they are our fathers. The elders they should how the future election should be done, they can talk to the young ones and it will be accepted.
How do you see the issue that is emanating from the offices of EFCC/Ministry of Justice and its implication for our corruption fight in the country?
I think the EFCC is a creation of the statute with provision for a chairman and same with the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. If there is any issue, we should look at the law whether it allows EFCC to report to the Attorney-General or that the latter must know everything that is going on because that is exactly the remote cause the issue. For me, EFCC is doing its job the way the statute that created it provides. The Attorney-General cannot poke nose, that is not proper. If you have anything against the chairman, bring it out, but not for the reason that you will say you must come to me, I don’t know about this. I don’t know about that. If you have any issue against the chairman himself, come out straight.
Would you subscribe to amendment of the law for the appointment of a non policeman as chairman of EFCC?
When we are used to one tradition, we normally follow it. Somebody that will make that kind of commission should be someone of integrity. He can even be a retired judge known to be a person of good character or a retired military officer, not necessarily a police officer once we can vouch for his integrity, character, good record, highly respected and very intelligent. I will not subscribe to that fact that such person must be a police officer, that is wrong.
The Kwara State government has set up a panel to investigate the alleged N300m fraud in the local government finance after it has earlier said it has invited EFCC? What is your take on this?
When we talk about corruption, why the committee if I may ask? We have the EFCC here; they should be allowed to go on with their own investigation which they statutorily have the power to conduct even including all the executive officers in the state. Let the EFCC commence investigation on it, there is no need for all this committees. Setting up committee will raise issue and there will be a kind of lopsidedness. For me, the EFCC should take over the matter straight. Why exempting the EFCC and setting up committee when it comes to the issue of alleged fraud in the local government. There is no need for that. Let us see a formal report, a formal complaint to the EFCC so that they will swing into action and commence work on it.
Away from the issue of religion that dominated the last NBA Ilorin branch election, what is your message to the bar now that we have a new leadership?
My message for the new chairman is that he should see himself as head of the bar in Ilorin and not look at religion, ethnicity or whatever. He should not take sides in dealing with complaints. There is no how you will do it that people will not complain. I am sorry to say this in public; some of us are not that straightforward in terms of character; if there is any report against anybody, it should be taken serious and not swept under the carpet. This is very important because lawyers are one of the most respectable professions and the way things are going, clients no longer trust us. There should be a workshop to re-orientate some colleagues that making a name is paramount and money and other things will come.

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