Friday, 25 November 2011


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For an ageing comedian in a highly competitive market, life can get quite shitty. A fact Mr. Suwe has no further doubts about after the rigours of running the NDLEA and Press gauntlet these past weeks. But like all works of comedy; the ending is happy! 25 million is a fortune in any currency, no matter how devalued. The roar of victory is so loud that the little details of ‘Appeal’ or ‘practical difficulties in securing effective enforcement of judgment debts’ are stifled in the minds of his jubilant supporters. I try to rejoice with him, but the cynic in all lawyers rears its ugly grey head.  Yes, the NDLEA had reasonable suspicion which is  grounds enough to arrest and detain; no doubts, but they had made the whole process unlawful by not preferring a charge within the stipulated time frame. Rudimentary constitutional details known to every paralegal in the world. But when the curtains are down on this show, the habitual heavy handedness of law enforcement/security may have the last laugh. They routinely maneuver past the long winded turanchi of the courts, and if the bloody civilian plaintiff feels so bad about it; make im carry gun na! (Refer to: Miss Okere v. Nigerian Navy)

Condemnation is the easiest emotion for the human mind. This is why we remain thankful to the Law for often diluting that emotion with its myriad technicalities- until it becomes a question of mere arguments.  Definitely, the menace of terrorism awakens the most vengeful feelings; and all will rejoice to see a scapegoat landed. But tarry! the Law whispers, wagging a cautionary finger. If our emotions push us to fall so readily for claims of a man who is in the profession of blowing up cities, then there is something wrong with the society. An arrest is necessary of course; but until the facts are proven, we merely clutch at straws. And, however much we want to circle our bunched fists around the average Senator’s neck, we cannot.  That is the curse of lawyers…so we must let the Law run its curse.

Women are the weaker sex. Many believe this... to their peril. Test that fact by casually breaking up with a woman that has given you her all. It might help to make the announcement while she is in the kitchen, holding a cutting blade and standing by a panful of hot oil. Now, before we make zealous rants about the propriety of Mr. President’s treatment of the former EFCC boss, place yourself in his shoes. The woman involved here is not standing by a cooking pot, but she is highly placed in a paramilitary establishment, complete with every requisite judo/karate belts, and conceals combat reddened eyes behind black shades. You will agree then, that the radio was a safer medium to make that call. 
I would have shrugged indifferently with the rest at the turn of events (Police has never really been the lawyer’s friend); but then, I hear talk of employing retired judges to that position, and I say, a big no! Retired judges are our sacred cows. They are noble images of the profession. We would not have them mixed with the corrupting aspects of the Executive and Legislature; and at the whims of the president. No way! Let the people notoriously skilled in issues of corruption be used to bait the perpetrators. In fact, let a separate court be established for their processes, made up of police-lawyers and judges. The Law does not want to associate with the dismal fact that the country’s decade-long battle with corruption has only purchased a new phrase into our national lexicon: Plea Bargaining.

Everybody has been inspired to read about the late Apple chief; Steve Jobs. Our legislators have evidently joined the queue. At last, they seem to be learning how to pass richer Bills.  Unfortunately, they proceed with their characteristic bottoms-up approach, and we are now faced with prospects of legalizing same-sex marriage.
In the words of Wilhelm Reich, the 20th Century psychologist, a world dedicated to pursuit of bone-rattling orgasm is a world free of strife. 
In a way, he has a point. The peaceful wave of contentment that necessarily accompanies a shattering climax, if repeated frequently will turn us all into sheepish pacifists; and the world will know peace.  Now, Mr. Reich did not specify the preferred mode of the orgasm nor did he detail the ideal combination of players. A piece of ambiguity which our Laws also imbibed when stating that discrimination should never be visited to a person on grounds of “sex”. (it remains for a court to translate "sex" as herein used- either as the state of being male or female, or as the preferred modes of performing the sexual act). So while the argument rages; I helplessly stare on, mute. This is a subject where unfortunately the Law has failed to avail us with effective anal-ysis.

Well, at least it feels good to see the Vice President appear as a separate individual (as opposed to a deaf and mute attachment to the President’s apron strings) once in a while. But then, maybe it is better he remains silent, if all he does is toe that same line that will unflinchingly yield the same results. Listen to excerpts off the VP’s speech on the Privatization topic: “The objective of the Committees (a committee of already employed public officers) is to facilitate the development of the general policy direction of the government for the effective management of the privatization programme…” . (We note here that the above Committees, came in three broad categories, namely: Sector Steering Committees, Standing Committees and Ad-hoc Steering Committees).
The reticent VP continued: “You are enjoined to work assiduously to make the consummation of all transactions a reality and ensure that the privatized companies are successfully run. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, you are also enjoined to do your very best to ensure that the transactions are accomplished through internationally accepted best practices and standards.” Same old crap!
I was at an event recently where the idea of a Sustainable Business Incubation Project was being discussed. Everybody was vehement in their opinion that government should not be included in the stakeholder list. And if they must; they need to be given mere token roles.  Our reality makes unemployment a private matter; beyond the competence of government. So, what ends would a government-led privatization process serve? Creation of more employment for already saturated public officials? Where are the technocrats and the entrepreneurs in the Steering committees? Already, you can see that the Will is not there to drive the idea any inch beyond the stale stereotype. I’m tired already. 
Have a great Weekend

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Art by Sugabelly

Here a few pointers…

1.      FUSS and Her BOTTLE!
Now, we all know that lawyers incline towards Minority Protection. (This may be because the majority largely ignores them). It may also have its root in a certain Company Law case- Foss v. Harbottle. The Presidency also toes this line.
Copy: Huge security details around a select tiny group of persons and places whenever the country heats up. Also, when a disenchanted minority agitates and becomes too much of a threat; they are immediately compensated beyond what is available to the majority. Now you may notice that as a result, a new attitude is developing towards the State: Create a big Fuss, and Her bottle (of goodies) will be availed you. Sadly, the majority remains timid, and the more militant minority groups earn the negotiated attentions of the State.

Ask the lawyer; Fact is different from Truth. However, they co-exist in a complex relationship that is complementary and at the same time self contradictory; a bit like those two hilarious creations of Lewis Carroll- Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Yes, truth is reality. But fact is proven reality. (The ‘proving’ process of course is won by the party who makes the louder noise). A few handy illustrations: A full year after the Fuel Subsidy crisis, SURE-P has failed to materialize. (truth).  The Government has not relented in its concerted efforts to provide succour from the stings of the Subsidy removal (Fact). There is no security for the common man (truth). The presidency has developed partnerships strategically positioned to arrest insecurity (Fact). Good arguments create facts. Bring in a number of witnesses (read: propaganda); and you have a water-tight case. Truth therefore fails to mature to fact when it is not presented in a visible medium of argument. Thus, if the holders of the truth are voiceless; sorry, they lose!

3.      ACTION means “WORDS”
To the lay man, Legal ‘action’ sounds like an affirmative activity; for example, punching a defaulter in the eye.  But it actually means a battle of words, complete with opposing counsel and a public gallery. Presidential action is the same; a plethora of words. Copy: “The Presidency shall take urgent action on the Benin-Ore Road.” This translates as- we have instituted a committee to chair a public hearing to discuss the initial report on the issue. In the law courts, during legal action, counsel debate and adjourn to make further findings. And this may last forever. Presidential action functions in no less a manner- The committees adjourn and retreat to some cosy island to work out forward looking modalities. Afterwards, members of the opposition are invited to a press conference to continue the debate. The decision is summarized in a report and another retreat is organized for a follow up summit to develop a viable Action plan.

4.      GROWTH is measured by Number of JUNIORS.
As a lawyer, if you run a scanty office, you have gone nowhere at all. Nobody cares about how efficiently your small establishment operates. On the day of reckoning, you would not smell the juicy plums of SAN-ship. Therefore, the more juniors you have milling about your office, the more visibly effective your Firm is.  Let them swarm around, even if they just help carry your briefcase and dust your files. The ideal Law office should be an unending buzz of motion. Hemmingway failed this one when he said – never mistake motion for action. He did not recall that motions are the fulcrum of legal action. Now the Presidency’s operations are a perfect clone of this scenario: Once you are elected(?); employ an unprecedented number of ministers (Make sure to double the figure of the last regime). Carve out more commissions, agencies and department. More juniors! Of course, each department should have a Special Adviser who has a PA. A typical chain of command should run: The Chief Assistant to the Personal Assistant to the Special Adviser to the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on blah blah blah…

The fearful warning issues to every aspiring lawyer: You will never be called to the Bar if you ever miss dinner, or any like designated social gathering of the Legal Council! Yes, even if you make a First Class grade, missing one Dinner is enough to mar you. Yes, the Council does not give two forks, literally. The Presidency has the same orientation. You can achieve all you will in professional service, business, or politics, but if you miss out on the right Party, forget it. Awards and medals will always flow, but do not ever stop to imagine that you will make the Honours list. Merit and Positions go to those who are present and registered in the designated Parties. Otherwise; you are not fit and proper...

Boldness is the mark of the good lawyer. Thus, when they appear in court, they do not timidly mumble their names. No, they stand up with all the majesty they can muster. They sweep their flowing robes in a swish of flamboyance (maybe knocking up the heads of a few poor counsel sitting nearby) and pronounce their names in that slow and deliberate manner that jars a sense of their fearsomeness into the minds of the litigants huddled at the public gallery. The Presidency announces his appearance no less vigorously. The wailing sirens are usually not enough, and must be accompanied by menacing soldiers with furiously contorted features, wielding clubs and SMGs. Did the good Machiavelli not say that it is better to be respected than to be loved? The masses can borrow a leaf: To feel the sweetness of power, you need to inspire fear… not love.

It is a mortal sin for a Lawyer to have a record of debriefing. No, you must follow a client to the bitter end. At some point in your relationship, the client’s willingness or otherwise, no longer matters. The lawyer thus becomes a necessary aspect of his life, and upon expiration, his Brief is renewed for another tenure till death do them part. (Yes; death; because judicial decisions can always be appealed against, again and again). If the client proves unduly troublesome, the lawyer simply inserts the necessary ‘claws’ that ensure a carry-over of pending issues to a compulsory next term. Now, need we illustrate how this applies to the Presidency? One Term is never enough. And who gives a damn what the voters think?

8.       And FINALLY…
The presidency is at liberty to experiment with the nation’s economy as it pleases. After all, Lawyers assure that - the worst possible scenario for capital offences is… debt.

I rest. 

Thursday, 10 November 2011


                Guest written by Ken Uzim

Art by Sugabelly

The New Recruit had a fancy Masters’ degree and a funny accent. Bespoke tailoring and a top-of-the-range mobile office. In the words of the HR Manager, he was “…brimming with the sartorial urbanity of a supremely confident professional and possessed demonstrable expertise in telecoms law. A most invaluable addition to the pool of specialists required for exponential growth of the Office’s business”.

The Chairman approved and they hired him on the spot. They made him a Senior Manager, four cadres above the long-suffering office mule, Eze. Eze, whose only claim to ‘offshore content’ was a laminated cardboard ‘Identification Tag’ dangling from a loop of colored rope, which was given to him during a workshop on the modalities for cross-border network expansion that he attended in the Niger Republic. 

How Eze so cherished that offshore badge of honor! It had a pride of place at his workstation. It represented the one and only time, in his five years of drudgery in the Office –without promotion or pay rise - that he had traveled beyond the shores of the country on business. It mattered not to him that the journey involved a Chanchangi flight to Sokoto via Abuja and an overland, twelve hour trip in an open Hilux truck through the rugged rocky plains of no-man’s land that separated our French-speaking neighbors from the Northern borders.

Eze was proud of the trip, nonetheless and took several snapshots of the giraffes whose – in his words, “majestic” – strides across the road, constantly punctuated the journey. He would be quick to retort at any meddlesome inquirer seeking to mock his means of travel that he would not have beholden any of those ‘majestic’ creatures if he had travelled by air. Not like Eze could have travelled by air anyways. You see, there was no direct commercial flight from here to Niger; so, you would have to fly Air France to Paris and connect Niamey but Eze was considered too small a fry in the Office’s pond for such an executive treatment. Eze insisted he would still choose to travel by road should he ever have the opportunity again. As if he had a say in the matter!

Eze’s workstation was a box-sized cube in the Office’s shop floor, crammed end-to-end with burgeoning paper files. His writing desk, oftentimes, was on his laps as the only available free space on his table was already taken up by the keyboard. The Office was cutting costs, you see, and believed in optimal utilization of every square inch of the premium space. The New Recruit, however, had a corner space to himself, an enclosed cubicle with an oversized mahogany desk and fireproof filing cabinets. Unlike Eze, the New Recruit had a well-stocked refrigerator for ‘refresher time-outs’ and a dedicated air-conditioning unit not subject to the petulant whims of the central cooling system.

It was true that Eze had no post-graduate training, whether offshore or otherwise, nor did he possess the affable dapperness of the New Recruit, but Eze had grown on the job: poring over files and relevant laws, being hands-on in regard to legal issues touching on the Office’s telecommunication business and making good friends with experience. However, the powers-that-be believed that Eze’s ‘wealth of on-the-job experience’ was trumped by the glossy embossed certificate, issued to the New Recruit by one outlandish university in the remote reaches of the United Kingdom.

And so it was that Eze’s monthly pay remained a paltry fraction of the New Recruit’s weekend allowance. Was Eze grumbling? No. Was he envious? May be. Was he moved to spite? To resentment? If he was, he masked them well. He remained his old self, slowly and silently being buried under the mounting pile of paperwork that overran his desk.

By and by, it came to be that the Overlord of the Penthouse, as the Chairman was known, found out that the Office was being owed arrears of interconnect debts running into hundreds of millions of Naira. The errant debtor, despite collecting and aggregating these monies up front at the time calls were terminated, had failed to remit the Office’s share. The Overlord was livid. It was bad enough that he had to find out by himself that a liability of such magnitude existed in favor of the Office but what he found ‘criminally unpardonable’ was that none of his Executives or mid-management staff had brought the spiraling debt to his attention.

Legal, give me advice ASAP on what can be done immediately to mitigate our losses!
The New Recruit’s return mail was brisk: Disconnect them from the Networks, sir.
Meanwhile, Eze, who had received the same email from the Overlord wrote a reply to the New Recruit ‘for-your-eyes-only’ pointing out that the NCC regulations forbade disconnection of interconnect partners by operators on any ground whatsoever without recourse to the Commission, but the email went straight to the New Recruit’s junk mail folder, where, he had directed all emails from the disdained mule.

And so it was that the interconnect partner got disconnected, subscribers who couldn’t access the interconnect network complained and it got to the ears of the NCC who investigated what had happened and found out there had been a disconnection and instantly slammed the Office with a hefty fine for breach of regulations and advertised the fine in the National dailies, for deterrence.

The Overlord was mightily embarrassed. The Office inquisition was short and swift. The New Recruit was summarily dismissed for giving wrong legal advice and for ignoring the email warning against unilateral disconnection. Eze was promoted two levels with increased benefits.

But Eze submitted his resignation letter that same day and walked out of the Office taking only the keepsake from the Niger Republic.

They say he now runs his own private practice advisory on telecommunication laws.

Friday, 4 November 2011

In the Case of SAMSON v. THE FOOTBALL FEDERATION (A Sneak Preview)

(DISCLAIMER: The following article is entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead and other similarities to real-life circumstances are purely accidental and the author offers his sincere regrets)

We got in touch with the Mr. Samson’s legal team and they let us in on their proposed arguments. We are overawed by the pure genius and cannot help reproducing them here for our readers:

Your Lordship, for no ascertainable reason, the defendant (hereinafter “the Football Federation”) has always given our client a raw deal despite the fact that he always maintained a quiet and harmlessly brooding mien, and stayed free of controversy. If you recall my Lord, in his days as a player, they gave him the Number 13 jersey despite strong historical evidence that the number bodes ill-luck.  All pleas by our client bounced off their obdurate ears, and my Lord, we all recall the consequences only too vividly. Our client missed that crucial penalty in the semi-finals against Cote d’Ivoire at Tunisia ‘94 and almost gave the nation a collective thrombosis before the game suddenly turned around on its head.  

Yet, our client’s insistence on a Jersey change was scorned as superstition and there was even talk of dropping him from the team until that second game in the USA 94 World Cup against Argentina. My Lord no doubt joined the euphoric crowd of Nigerians to celebrate our client’s excellent strike.  Yes, we eventually lost to suspect officiating, but we joined the golden ranks of underdogs who scored against the Diego-era of Argentina. Why? Because our client had persevered and obtained a jersey change! (He wore the Number 12 at the competition!) We are constrained to add here that a certain Mr. Ezeugo who inherited the number 13 got involved in a career threatening car crash shortly after the Mundials. Enough said.

Thankfully, our client continued to enjoy blistering form in his meritorious sojourn in France and was deservedly due to retire to quiet enjoyment of well earned splendor. But no, the Football Federation sought him out again. We, his legal team expressed reservations at that initial offer because the Federation has a long history of turning brilliant men to piteous wreckages. But our client humbly accepted to do service to the Fatherland. But our hunch was proved right. The defendants wielded another raw deal in that offer. 

Now, everybody knows that our nation is jinxed in the Under 20 FIFA Championship. We have been so destined since the climax of the Damman Miracle, and every other thing has remained, well…an anti climax. My Lord you can see now that this was another obvious trap to tarnish our client’s golden career. But no doubts sir, you were a witness to how things eventually played out. The trap failed woefully, because although the jinx swallowed our client nonetheless, the circumstances of his defeat kept him on the right side of public opinion, thus throwing a spoke in the wheels of the malevolent defendants.

And, at this juncture my Lord, we would like to move for the National teams of Argentina to be joined as necessary defendants to this suit. Yes, that second defeat at their hands, has been trailing our client’s career in an uncanny way. We suspect some kind of ghoulish vengeance for that daring strike in ‘94 referred to in foregoing paragraphs.

My Lord, the defendants arm-twisted our client to continue to the Beijing Olympics and mandated him to achieve Olympic gold. We saw how he bravely steered the lads all the way to the final. Again, the Argentines (!) stood in the way. My Lord, as usual, the voice of the people moved justice to our client’s favour again. The chants got alarmingly close to threats of anarchy if the Federation ever sacked him. (My Lord certainly understands what anarchy portends for the judicial institution, and we hope this reference serves as useful practice direction).  

However, in the face of unending mediocrities we continued recording at the senior team level, (compounded by yet another cheap defeat by Argentina [again!] at the Mundials; the defendants sneaked up to our client yet again. Our client accepted; and in his characteristic commitment to God (My Lord recalls that his inaugural speech was a gospel tune) and country, he failed to see through the glaring jealousies at work in the Football Federation.

We advised him on the warning signs when the defendants paraded a suspiciously weak (Argentine!!!) team against our senior team which he had given the needed face-lift. Our client scaled through; and the Federation yielded to the alien concept of a second leg in a friendly match (!) just to catch him short.  When defeat only made Nigerians chant his name the more; the defendants executed the ultimate coupe de grace. They infiltrated his camp. His goalkeeper was turned berserk, and on that final agonizing day against the Guineans; the fair legs of his once lethal winger grew leaden and stiff.

The defendants could not resist their glee when the hitherto supportive public poll grew hazy and in the ensuing confusion, they struck- by purporting to SACK him. But my Lord, this Samson may be bald but he is no push-over, emboldened by our robust Legal Practice.

The argument on the other side is that our client failed to meet the milestones stated in his contract. They insist that he was mandated to attain the semi-final spot at the African Nations Cup next year. .But my Lord, we did not even reach the competition on account of force majeure! Oh yes! The sweltering Abuja heat on that fatal match-day was a natural disaster that obviously interfered with seamless performance of his obligations under the contract. Now, if the country had reached the competition and failed to get to the semis, we would not task the time of the court and would gladly accept the defendant’s debriefing.

Here we wish to refer to the case of Avram Grant v. Chelsea (2008, UCL) wherein the plaintiff had been wrongfully sacked because of failure to attain European glory. Of course the highhanded defendant-employer paid millions in compensation, because there was no laid down expectation, thus no failure to perform; therefore the sack was unjustified. The similarity to our case is striking My Lord. The contract was silent on what the liabilities were if the country failed to qualify! And my Lord, it is trite Law that the express mention of something implies automatic exclusion of the unmentioned ones. (Expressio unis est exclusio alterius!)

In the light of the foregoing, we hereby seek the following orders from this Honourable court:

·         That the position of the Chief Coach of the country’s senior team be declared vacant pending the final determination of this suit; and until such further period as counsel on either side have fully and finally exhausted their respective rights to Appeal up to the apex court.

·         That a compensation of Two Billion pounds (amounting to the financial value that would have accrued to our client if he had accepted offers in Europe these last six years) be awarded our client. We gather that Chelsea FC looked his way when they bought his protégé midfielder. (We urge that you dismiss the defendant’s position that our client would not have survived 6 years under Chelsea’s tempestuous ownership-  as mere speculative conjecture)

·         Public Apology from the Argentine senior and age-group teams, as well as a directive to FIFA to stand down any fixture between the two countries for the next ten years.

·         That Mr. Odemwinge be fined a year’s wages in both club and country for “refusing to play” against the Guineans. (See the case of Tevez v. Manchester City (unreported)

My Lord, we humbly close our case with the maxim: Those who live in Glass Houses should not throw stones.