By Sylvester Udemezue
(A). “Again, ex-NBA president Okey Wali abducted in Rivers” [Peoples Gazette; 18 April 2023];
(B). “NBA begs kidnappers to release ex-President, Okey Wali” [Tribune; 18 April 2023]; and
(C). “Whereabout Of Kidnapped Ex-NBA President Still Unknown” [Leadership Newspapers; 20 April 2023].
The last news item has it that “The whereabouts of the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Okey Wali, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) remains unknown four days after he was kidnapped by unknown persons in Port Harcourt. Wali was kidnapped last Monday on top of the Obiri Ikwerre Flyover along East-West road in Ohio/Akpor local government area of the state, when suspected kidnappers hijacked his convoy, killing one of his aides in the process. Also two policemen attached to the former NBA President were seriously injured while giving a hot chase to the kidnappers”.
Crime should be at the lowest ebb where the government is responsible and responsive, because security of lives and properties and welfare of the people are the primary duties of government/governance [see Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999]. As Marcus Tullius Cicero put it, The safety of the people shall be the highest law.
Accordingly, if we lose security, governance has failed as all else makes no sense. However, when lawyers become the main target or object of crime, it means that insecurity has gone out of hand and society finished. Why?
1️⃣. Before the actual trial in court of an alleged criminal, if anyone among members of the public begins to castigate and malign the alleged criminal, the LAWYER is the one who ON HIS OWN comes out complaining publicly against Media Trial which he says is illegal. He then caution members of the public against calling or treating anyone as, a criminal unless such a person has been tried and found guilty by a court of law. In his condemnation of Media Trial, the LAWYER, employing fine Legal English, would warn against public statements likely or capable of destroying a suspect’s reputation, prejudicing his right to a fair trial, and undermining the public’s respect for the way the criminal law is administered.
2️⃣. Now, the law and LAWYERS say you can’t try an alleged criminal in the absence of a LAWYER. Even if (like in non capital offences) the defendant voluntarily opts to defend himself by virtue of s.36(6)(c) CFRN 1999, the matter still cannot be determined save in the presence of and by a LAWYER (the judge/magistrate).
3️⃣. Where the offence carries a capital punishment, trial is outright illegal/unlawful and thus void unless the defendant is represented by a LAWYER to ensure a fair trial. Fair trial is in order to protect the rights of the alleged criminal; as the LAWYER would say, it is better to risk saving a guilty man than to condemn an innocent. Fair trials help establish the truth and are vital for everyone involved in a case. They are a cornerstone of democracy, helping to ensure fair and just societies, and limiting abuse by governments and state authorities. Protecting the right to a fair trial is not just about ensuring that the processes leading up to and following a trial protect an individual’s fundamental rights. It’s also about ensuring that our criminal legal systems, and the societies we live in, are fair, equal and just.
4️⃣. Extrajudicial killings are forbidden because the law and LAWYERS have insisted on ensuring that an alleged criminal must be brought before the LAWYER whose job (either as a member of the temple of justice and or as a minister equally with the judge, in the temple of justice) is to ensure that the alleged criminal is not tried nor punished unless strictly in line with the dictates of law and justice.
5️⃣. Then, wherever injustice is detected or suspected in the treatment meted out to alleged criminals, it’s still the LAWYER who would on his own rise to the occasion, take it upon himself either as a public interest advocate or a human rights activist, to rise in defense of the alleged criminal insisting that justice must be done. The lawyer would then begin shouting for all to hear: “Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum” [a Latin legal phrase, meaning “Let justice be done though the heavens fall”].
6️⃣. In all cases and at all times, the LAWYER is there for the alleged criminal to ensure he’s not punished unless strictly in accordance with law. The LAWYER would even argue that it’s better for ten wrongdoers to go scot-free than for one innocent mam to suffer unjustly. The LAWYER would then quote Daniel Defoe: _”I hear much of people’s calling out to punish the guilty, but very few are concerned to clear the innocent”._
7️⃣. Even where the alleged criminal is thereafter tried in a Court of law, found guilty and sentenced to terms of imprisonment to suffer for his sins under “the wages of sin” concept, it’s still the LAWYER who would go out of his way to start begging the court to *temper justice with mercy. Sometimes, in his plea of allocutus, ON BEHALF and IN BEHALF of the convicted criminal, you see the LAWYER quoting the Holy Books saying _*”My Lord, it’s not God’s desire that a sinner should die but that he should repent, forsake his sins and turn a new leaf”.*_ The LAWYER would then continue, _”My Lord, we know he has offended against the law and thus deserves to get punished. But, my Lord, sending him to prison may make him much worse than better. We want criminals to repent and become better citizens, not to become worse. Besides, my Lord, he is a father of four children all of whom are in school; sending him to jail may deprive his kids of fatherly care — and this amounts to punishing the children for their father’s sins. By the time he comes out of imprisonment, the children, having no one to care for them, might have out of frustration joined criminal activities in order to cope. You see, my Lord, if this happens, it would then be that in our efforts to correct one criminal, we have ended up making more criminals. My Lord, please don’t let this happen, we beseech thee. Look upon the convict with mercy”._
Yes, all these! This is the extent a LAWYER could go in behalf of an alleged criminal or a convicted criminal. No one else in society could go to this extent just to either save a convict or to ensure he is punished according to law!.
8️⃣ If the court refuses the LAWYER’s allocutus plea and sends the convict to prison, only the LAWYER still goes there with the prisoner to ensure the prison environment is safe, conducive and habitable with necessary facilities and amenities in place. Advocacy for pardon of those concerned with or convicted of crimes is championed by the LAWYER. Advocacy for release of prisoners to decongest the prison is championed by the LAWYER! Advocacy for observance of basic human rights of all detainees is championed by the LAWYER! The LAWYER it is who insists that alleged criminals must not be mistreated or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. Meanwhile, the LAWYER knows that inhuman and degrading treatment does not include any pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
9️⃣. As a result of the above, is it not reasonable for a bystander to expect that all criminals and alleged criminals should be *thankful* to, and appreciative of, the LAWYER for being the principal reason society doesn’t subject the alleged criminals to jungle justice and extrajudicial punishments, or to unlawful inhuman and degrading treatment.
🔟. IRONICALLY and UNFORTUNATELY, the alleged criminals and the criminals have now turned against the LAWYERS, killing LAWYERS aways and kidnapping and killing judges and LAWYERS frequently. What an irony! The Nigerian society is finished!!* See: (1) _*”Killing all the lawyers”*_ By Chidi Anselm; 11 December 2022 Odinkalu (Premium Times) and (2). _*”Counting the kidnapped and the killed among Nigeria’s judges and lawyers”*_ By Chidi Anselm Odinkalu (18 December 2022; Premium Times)
Unfortunate! What a country!
No security! No anything good but the negative.
Anyway, I hereby passionately pray the captors, kidnappers or abductors of our ex president, my ex president, to please release him immediately, alive, unconditionally and in good health. He doesn’t deserve to be kidnapped or otherwise harmed. No one else deserves to be harmed. But it’s shocking that the captors have turned against the same LAWYER who wears and works himself out, most times free and freely, in his selfless quest for fairness and justice, and for the protection of the lawful rights of all alleged criminals. Do you know that without the LAWYER, the alleged criminal is likely to be unlawfully dealt with or unjustly punished, by the coercive powers of the State or by the waiting, angry and jungle mob. Sadly, the same LAWYER appears to have become the target, for extermination. Please, again I plead, in tears, dear captors, release to us, safe and sound, the overall head and leader (past) of all lawyers in Nigeria — the respected Chief Okey Wali, Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Hear my prayers, in the name of God. Amen!!
Sylvester Udemezue (Udems)
(21 April 2023)