In the wee hours of today, my sleep was rudely disturbed by a call from a very radical friend. He wanted to find out if I had seen the statement credited to Professor Chidi Anselm Odinkalu on the alleged bribery scandal involving Honourable Justice J. Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court. he told me the statement is all over the (political) whatsapp groups. I rushed to my phone to check out the statement. To put it mildly, the statement from Prof. Odinkalu was daring! In order to confirm what I saw, I immediately visited Prof. Odinkalu’s social media platforms/handle to confirm the authenticity of the statement. There was nothing. I concluded that it would have been some fabrications from PAU’s political antagonist.
I was wrong in my assumptions.
Sometime in the late morning, I discovered that the statement had generated a lot of reactions in the whatsapp groups. In one of the groups where Paul Usoro SAN belongs, he came out to defend himself and it was only at that moment that I took Prof. Odinkalu’s statement serious. I went back and read through carefully.
Prof. Odinkalu alleged that
“Whoever dreamt up this Paul Usoro project to lead the Bar is terribly misguided. The person wishes perdition on the Bar. It is worse than a bad dream and it has to be stopped.
Paul Usoro is charged with having bribed James Agbadu-Fishim, (I refuse to call him “Honorable Justice”), a judge of the National Industrial Court, with N800,000 paid in 3 instalments of N300k; N400k, & N100k. Paul Usoro himself admits to having given the judge at least N450k, claiming it was contribution towards his vacation.
In a sane country, Paul Usoro should be facing disciplinary proceedings at best & should have been disbarred. In Nigeria. Someone is parading him to lead our Bar. That Bar belongs to us all. No one has a right to even think about this.
This idea that a lawyer who admits to having bribed a judge is even considering himself for the office of President of the Bar while the judge that he bribed is being prosecuted & the payments he made to the judge are exhibits in the case is worse than a terrible joke. It is an insult to us all. We all have a duty to stop it.
This Paul Usoro project for Presidency of the Bar has to end, fortwith. By all means let all lawyers of decent standing aspire for the Bar Presidency. I want to go on record: Paul Usoro has no standing in morality &, I would venture, in law to even consider aspiring to the Presidency of the Bar now or ever
He should bury his head in ignominy. The only right he has is to go before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to clear his name or be disbarred. Period!”
In a swift reaction, Paul Usoro SAN reacted to the allegations made by Prof. Odinkalu. In summary, Paul Usoro SAN’s defence are that:
- He was not and is not involved howsoever in the handling of the matter for which an allegation of bribe has been leveled against him.
- He has no basis or reason to have bribed or wish to induce Honourable Justice Agbadu-Fishim or any other judicial officer.
- Rule 3 of Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers in its paragraph F permits judicial officers to accept “personal gifts or benefits from relatives or personal friends to such extent and on such occasions as are recognized by custom.”
Paul Usoro SAN also confirmed that the attention of the NNBA has been brought to the allegations of bribery leveled against him and the leadership of the Bar has assured him that steps have been taken to resolve his concerns.
Here are my worries for Paul Usoro, SAN and his quest for the leadership of the bar:
- Would PAU react to all allegations against him, even when the source is unknown? Except PAU saw the publication and confirmed from Prof. Odinkalu that he wrote it, was PAU’s reaction not premature and politically unnecessary.
- PAU needs to begin to act like a politician and not a fine corporate guru that he is. Politics is a very dirty game. There would be a lot of arsenals. He surely needs to identify when to be silent and when ton speak. Otherwise he would be so distracted and the real issues would be sacrificed for frivolities.
- Would his reaction be the last we have heard of this issue or he would have to come back to it at some point in his political quest? Whichever way it is, the good thing for PAU is that he is not presently being tired for bribing a judge neither is Honourable Justice Agbadu-Fishim being tried for collecting bribe from PAU.