Recent Posts

The Legalnaija Blawg

Nigeria's 1st online legal education platform.

The Nigerian Blawg

Using innovative ways to empower Nigerians with legal information.

Follow @Legalnaija On Social Media

Your Favourite Law Blawg

The Legalnaija Blawg

Legal information at your finger tips.

The Nigerian Blawg

The 1st online legal education platform.

Dec 27, 2017

Paul Usoro responds to Chidi Odinkalu


Re: “The Nigerian Bar Association: Leadership, Values and the Future”

In his recent article with the above title, Chidi Odinkalu, in continuation of his campaign against me founded ostensibly on the cash gifts that I gave to Honourable Justice James Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court (“NIC”), accuses me of professional misconduct, in the terms of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007 (“RPC”). His earlier allegations of bribery against me, having been effectively debunked by the factual rebuttal that was issued by my colleagues in Paul Usoro & Co (“PUC”), Odinkalu now purports to anchor his campaign against me on Rule 34 of the RPC which stipulates that “a lawyer shall notdo anything or conduct himself in such a way, as to give theimpression, or allow the impression to be created, that his act or conduct is calculated to gain, or has the appearance of gaining special personal consideration or favor from a Judge” and claims that my gifts to Agbadu-Fishim J offend theseRules.

Dec 20, 2017

Hijab & Call to Bar - What the Law really says | Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem


There have been many opinions on the refusal of the Body of Benchers to call Firdaus Amasa to the Bar because of her hijab. I however noticed that most of the opinions were more of emotional outbursts rather than exposition of the provisions of the law on the subject matter. This piece will be x-raying the position of the law on the right of the female Muslims to wear the hijab on the call to bar.

Dec 16, 2017

Rainmaking for Associates | Yimika Adesola


Rainmaking for Associates – winning clients for your law office"


Wikipedia defines rainmaking as (in business)bringing in new business and winning new accounts almost by magic, since it is often not readily apparent how this new business activity is caused. Investopedia further defines it as bringing clients, money, or respect to one’s organization solely by one’s associationEssentially, a rainmaker “makes it rain” in the colloquial sense.

Dec 11, 2017

Senator Ashafa urges the Minister of Transportation to deliver on rail




DELIVER ON CRITICAL RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE BEFORE 2019, TO EASE TRANSPORTATION FOR ALL NIGERIANS- ASHAFA TO AMAECHI

Senator Gbenga Ashafa, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport has urged the Federal Ministry of Transport to ensure delivery of standard gauge rail lines and other vital rail infrastructure to Nigerians before 2019.

Dec 8, 2017

Paul Usoro SAN's Goodwill Message to Bwari Branch of the NBA


It is with immense delight that I felicitate with the executive Committee and the entire members of the Nigerian Bar Association, Bwari Branch, on the auspicious occasion of the Branch’s 2017 Law Week, which commenced on the 7th of December 2017, and accords with the long established legal tradition witnessed every year.

How to Compensate for Mental Stress at Our Workplaces| Michael Dugeri


Work-related mental stress has been described as the adverse reaction experienced by workers when workplace demands and responsibilities are greater than the worker can reasonably manage or are beyond the workers’ capabilities. Therefore, it has been advocated that employers need to balance both demands and resources in the workplace in order to manage work-related mental stress.  This is because high levels of job demand and low levels of job resources could easily result in mental stress for the workers.

10 Things Some Sars Officers Don’t Want You To Know


1.     Bail is free

2.     Upon arrest, you are liable to remain silent; Section 6 of the ACJA Act 2015; Section 35(2) 1999 Constitution

3.     When been questioned, you must have your lawyer present. Section 6(2)(a) Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015)

10 tips for participating in the World Human Rights Day protest #EndSars


1. Know the law - no Nigerian law requires a police permit before one can participate in a protest.

2. Dress appropriately- wear comfortable shoes & clothes to cover your skin.

3. Charge your phones - for communication & recording incidents of police brutality against protesters.

4. Make bold and legible signs on cardboard indicating your protest message.

5. Tell a friend whose not going of your location and have them check in on you at intervals.

6. Write an emergency contact number on your person.

7. Don't allow thugs hijack your protest, it’s the only excuse given by Nigerian police when breaking up a protest.

8. Don’t act unruly or attack police officers.

9. Share your experience via a hashtag, social media or blog post.

10. Plan your exit in case violence erupts.




Dec 2, 2017

Appeal Court holds Sentaor Akpan as winner Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District


Yesterday, the 30th of November 2017, marked the date of the long-awaited judgement in the dispute regarding the PDP Primaries for the North-East Senatorial District of Akwa Ibom State. 

After the Judgement of the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, the Appellant, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan, sought to rectify the several manifest inconsistencies in the judgement by appealing through his Counsel Mr Paul Usoro SAN, to the Court of Appeal.

Nov 26, 2017

Onigegewura on Paul Usoro: The Viewpoint of An Amateur Historian



The Paul Usoro that I know is not a greenhorn as far as leadership position is concerned. As an undergraduate in then University of Ife, Paul displayed exemplary leadership qualities as the President of the Law Students Society.

When there was allegation of examination leakages in the famous institution, it was Paul Usoro’s petition as the leader of law students that led to the setting up of Adegbola Commission. And of course, Paul was the first witness to testify. If you have not, please go and read the case of Akintemi v. Onwumechile (1985) 1 NWLR [Pt. 1] for the full facts of the incident. By the way, that’s the first volume of Gani Fawehinmi’s Nigeria Weekly Law Report.

Nov 23, 2017

Marvin Gaye v. Robin Thicke: How Blurred Are The Lines In This Copyright Suit?


On 6th October 2017, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams filed an appeal at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit against the decision of the District Court for the Central District of California (District Court) which decided that they had infringed Marvin Gaye’s copyright in the song “Blurred Lines”.

Wills And Codicils 101 | eberechi may okoh


 Lawyer: Have you written a Will?

Client: Nope, not ready to die yet.

A Will is a testamentary deposition of a person’s assets, and in some cases, liabilities. Simply put, a Will is a document a person prepares to communicate how he/she will want his/her estate distributed after death. Being ambulatory, it only takes effect after the death of the testator (maker of the Will). A Codicil on the other hand is a document supplemental to a Will in which a testator makes further provisions for his/her estate. It may be used to distribute assets to which the testator got entitled after executing his/her Will, revoke gifts given in the Will, appoint new executors to replace previously appointed executors who may be unable to act, or such other supplemental issues that may arise after the execution of the Will.

Nov 22, 2017

NEC Quarterly meeting begins with NBA President, Paul Usoro SAN and other distinguished members of the Bar


NBA President, Usoro, others kickstart the NEC Quarterly meeting

Nigeria's foremost communications law expert and astute litigator, Paul Usoro, SAN, joined other legal luminaries in a cocktail event today.

Nov 21, 2017

Why Legal Due Dilligence is important for corporate transactions/Chidiebere Odoemenam

The importance of conducting a “legal health check” on corporate organizations which are the subject of corporate transactions such as mergers, acquisitions and financing cannot be overemphasized. 

Nov 19, 2017

Living Apart As A Ground For Dissolution of Marriage | Simileoluwa Owotomo

INTRODUCTION AND RELEVANT FACTS
Under the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1970, the grounds for dissolution of marriage are succinctly stated in Section 15(1), (2), (a)-(h), (3) with supplementary provisions in Section 16, MCA. For the purposes of this write up, the provisions of Section 15(2) (a)- (h) and 15(3) of the Matrimonial Causes Act will be stated as follows;

Nov 18, 2017

That we be governed by law and not by the whims of men | Adedunmade Onibokun



Our founding fathers and our powers-that-be have opted for the rule of law in preference to the rule of force and absolute totalitarianism.
 – Nnaemeka – Agu JSC;
A.G Bendel V. Aideyan(1989) 4 NWLR (Pt. 118)671[i]

Nov 17, 2017

We hit 5000 followers on Twitter


Yaaay, Legalnaija is making hits back to back πŸ•ΊπŸ½πŸ’ƒπŸΌπŸ₯πŸŽΊπŸŽΈπŸŽ»⚖️⚖️⚖️⚖️⚖️⚖️⚖️⚖️⚖️⚖️

Just yesterday we trended on Twitter and today we hit 5000 followers πŸ˜ƒπŸ‘ŒπŸ˜

Special thank you πŸ™ to everyone of our followers and to everyone whose ever liked, shared or retweeted our post and a warm hug πŸ€— to everyone whose visited the Blawg. We love ❤️ you so much 😘

We shall continue to provide you with information on your legal obligations and how you may protect your legal rights under Nigerian laws. 

Keep learning & sharingπŸ˜€πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘πŸΏ, let’s build Nigeria πŸ‡³πŸ‡¬ together πŸ˜€πŸ™‚


Thank you ⚖️πŸ˜„πŸ‘ŒπŸ˜˜πŸ˜€πŸ˜ƒπŸ™

Nov 16, 2017

Paul Usoro, VP Osinbajo, Chief F.O Fagbohungbe Joins Other SANS to Welcome New Members Into BOSAN



Vice Chairman of the Event Planning Committee of the umbrella body for SANs, Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), Paul Usoro, SAN, has challenged the newly inducted SANs to uphold the legal profession with integrity and honor.

How Young Lawyers can participate successfully in today’s Political and Economic Climate


Paper delivered at the Legal Marathon Summit, 2017
Oduduwa Hall
Obafemi Awolowo University

3rd November, 2017.

On Friday, 13th October, 2017, I was invited by Global International College, a secondary school located in Lekki, Lagos, to speak to the students at their University and Career Fair day.  As a lawyer, I was particularly to address students who desired a career in law on the profitability and fulfillment of having a legal career.

Nov 15, 2017

“Uncle, Stop Touching” “Sorry Madam, Sorry | Chika Maduakolam


For some of us not in the know, there is a hot-cake scandal of a big Hollywood exec who has been alleged to have assaulted and harassed several women in Hollywood. Following the allegations, the #MeToo movement on social media is to enable other women around the world identify if they have been victims of sexual assault and harassment. In brief, the purpose of this movement is to stand against sexual assault and harassment, saying enough is enough.

My Adventure into Communications Law – Paul Usoro SAN


Before the GSM revolution in Nigeria, communication was a huge nightmare. The age-old cable telephone system in the country was as inefficient as it was costly.  Except for those at the topmost stratum of the society, possession of a telephone line was largely a luxury.  And it almost cost a fortune to get hooked up to the national trunk.  

Nov 14, 2017

Nigerian Senator calls for State of Emergency in Educational Sector


ASHAFA JOINS CONCERNED NIGERIANS TO CALL FOR STATE OF EMERGENCY IN EDUCATION SECTOR

Just a day after the President hosted the Federal Executive Council to the Presidential Summit on Education organized by the Honourable Minister of Education Alhaji Adamu Adamu, where the President decried the rot being experienced in the Nigerian Educational Sector, Distinguished Senator Gbenga Ashafa representing Lagos East Senatorial District has also joined other concerned Nigerians calling for  a State Emergency to be declared in the Education Sector.

Today In @ngrsenate Plenary


*PROCEEDINGS OF THE NIGERIAN SENATE OF TUESDAY, 14th NOVEMBER, 2017.*

Welcome to a new Legislative Day in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu took the official prayer and led the Senate into today's proceedings at 11:01am.

Nov 11, 2017

Behold The Next Generation Of The Nigerian Bar


Growing up, we were always told that we were the Leaders of Tomorrow. Well, fast forward to today. Welcome to the tomorrow that we looked forward to yesterday.

Nov 9, 2017

Understanding Copyright Protection In Nigeria (PART 1) | Davidson Oturu MCIArb


Introduction
Copyright is a form of intellectual property. It has been defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th Edition as a right granted to the author or originator of certain literary or artistic productions, whereby the creator is invested, for a limited period, with the sole and exclusive privilege of multiplying copies of the literary or artistic works and publishing or selling them.

Nov 3, 2017

Video: Adedunmade Onibokun on how young lawyers can excel in Nigeria


As part of activities at the on-going Legal Marathon Summit 2017, @lms2017_ organised by the Liberation Chambers and held at the prestigous Oduduwa Hall, of the Obafemi Awolowo University.

Adedunmade Onibokun (@adedunmade), Founder @Legalnaija, delivered a speech on "How Young Lawyers Can excel in Nigeria's Political & Economic Climate.

It was an amazing event and every young Lawyer should watch and learn.

Safeguards against Breach of the Lawyer’s Duty of Confidentiality | M. Dugeri


It is commonly understood by lawyers that they are under a duty to protect confidential information relating to their relationship with clients. The law imposes on lawyers a strict obligation to safeguard client’s confidential information.  

Nov 2, 2017

Event: Should I stay or should I go – Building a successful practice: UK or Nigeria?

 

The British Nigeria Law Forum and Stephenson Harwood LLP invites you to a seminar: 

“Should I stay or should I go – Building a successful practice: UK or Nigeria?”

Nov 1, 2017

AELEX Annual Lecture 2017 / Save The Date


AELEX One of Nigeria’s foremost corporate and commercial law firms, shall be holding its annual lecture on the 22nd of November, 2017.

Oct 31, 2017

Lawyer Profile - Paul Usoro, SAN, FCIArb


Paul Usoro, SAN is the Senior Partner and founder of Paul Usoro & Co (PUC), a top commercial law firm headquartered in Lagos with offices in Abuja and Uyo. He heads the Advocacy and Dispute Resolution Practice Group and the Communications Section of the Firm. 

The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria” (BOSAN) to host Party

An historic event is set to occur in Nigeria’s legal history. For the very first time, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) will come together in Lagos to hold its maiden Dinner on the 11th of November 2017. The event will be held at the Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Senate Urged To Intervene In Failure To Complete The National Library After 11 Years



The Senate on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 criticized the inability of the Federal Government to complete the National Library Building Project eleven years after the contract was awarded.  Which has become a preventable economic loss and a national embarrassment.  The matter was recently brought to the fore of burning national issues during Tuesday’s senate plenary via a motion sponsored by Senator Olugbenga Ashafa representing Lagos East senatorial district captioned “The Preventable Economic Loss and national Embarrassment arising from the failure of the Federal Government to complete the National Library.”

Oct 30, 2017

The Future of Petroleum in Nigeria – Why the FUPRE Bill, signed into law, is a failed venture


Introduction
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, 17th October 2017, signed into law the Bill establishing the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, Delta State. 

Oct 28, 2017

Paul Usoro's Goodwill Message to the Eastern Bar


The quarterly meeting of the Eastern Bar Forum which is an association of lawyers who practice or come from Abia, Imo, Enugu, AnambraEbonyi, Cross River, Akwa-IbomBayelsaand Rivers State began today in Abakaliki the Ebonyi State capital.

Paul Usoro Supports the African Women Lawyer’s Association


Yesterday the 27th of October, 2017 was the 1st year anniversary celebration / shelter fund raising event, organized by the River State branch of the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) Nigeria.

Oct 26, 2017

WIN 100k via #PAULUSOROCHALLENGE - My Pro Bono Story


Instructions:

Share a touching Pro-Bono story on a case you have “handled” via a short Instagram video using #PaulUsoroChallenge as the hashtag on the video and you stand a chance to be a part of the 6 outstanding heroes who will win 100k each.

My Pro Bono Story | Adedunmade Onibokun


Several weeks ago, I visited all 3 Kirikiri Prisons, including the Maximum, Medium and Female Prisons. My experience that day has stayed with me till now, I remember walking into the Medium Male Prison and thinking it was the most hostile place, I had ever visited, particularly due to its over crowdedness and the look in the hundreds of stares that followed us around as we were given a tour of the Skill and Acquisition Centers in the prisons.
 It’s where I met one of my Pro Bono clients who is currently in remand at the prison while awaiting Trial. The visit had been coordinated by my friend and Mandela Washington Fellow, Ahmed Adetola Kazeem who is the Executive Director of Prisoners' Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI),a non-governmental organization providing pro-bono legal and rehabilitation services to prison inmates, follow the link to read about  My Kirikiri Prison Tour.

Oct 25, 2017

Text Of Nba President’s Tribute Delivered By Paul Usoro San In Honour Of Paul Nwokedi Jsc


A special session of the Supreme Court was held today in honour of Late Honourable Justice Paul Nwokedi who died on the 3rd of September 2017.
Paul Usoro SAN who was officially requested by the President of the NBA, Abubakar B Mahmoud SAN to represent him  and the entire bar delivered  a heartwarming tribute that demonstrated leadership,experience,intelligence and excellence.

The tribute read thus:
TRIBUTE DELIVERED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN BARASSOCIATION ABUBAKAR BALARABE MAHMOUD, OON, SAN, FCIArb (UK) AT THE SPECIAL COURT SESSION IN HONOUR OF THE LATE HONOURABLE JUSTICE PAUL KEMDILIM NWOKEDI, CON, HELD AT THE SUPREME COURT ON WEDNESDAY, 25 OCTOBER 2017

My Lords
The Nigerian Bar Association today mourns with the Nigerian Nation, the passage of one of our icons and beacon of hope, the late Honorable Justice Paul Kemdilim Nwokedi, CON.  In mourning His Lordship, we also celebrate his life and give thanks to God for a number of reasons.  For one, we thank God that His Lordship lived a full life and passed on at 90 years having seen his succeeding 3 generations – his 5 children, grandchildren and a great grandchild.  That is not given to all.  His Lordship evidently passed on, on 03 September 2017, a contented man, having raised successful succeeding generations, amongst them, our colleague and member of the Inner Bar, Uche Gringory Nwokedi, SAN.  Even though His Lordship passed on 2 months shy of his 91st birthday which would have been marked on 03 November 2017, His Lordship lived well beyond the three score and 10 years that is given to man and this, by itself is cause for celebration and thanksgiving.

For us as lawyers and members of the Nigerian Bar Association, His Lordship’s life remains a mirror and an exemplar.  In x-raying His Lordship’s life, we perhaps should start from the middle and recall that His Lordship had a very successful stint as a private legal practitioner in a partnership that was then known as P. K. Nwokedi, Ibianwu, Okolie & Co before joining the Bench in 1974 in the then East Central State of Nigeria.  The Bench is traditionally enriched by the diversity of its members’ backgrounds and experiences, constituted as it most often is by legal practitioners coming inter aliafrom the private and official bars, the lower bench and the academia.  Sometimes, making the leap from the private bar to the bench warrants real sacrifice and deprivation particularly where the practitioner was adjudged by his peers to be running a successful legal practice. Honourable Justice Nwokedi made that sacrifice and was a stellar example of the service calling that compels or propels the successful private legal practitioner to abandon his lucrative private practice for service on the Bench.

It is a tribute to His Lordship’s hard-work, intellect and competence that in 1985, about 11 years after his appointment as a Judge, he was found worthy of further elevation to the position of Chief Judge of the old Anambra State which then comprised the current Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu States. We however celebrate His Lordship today as one of the extremely few jurists who successfully made the transition from the High Court Bench to the apex Court Bench as a Justice of the Supreme Court without intervening service years as a Justice of the Court of Appeal.  The ranks of those Justices who made that leap included Oputa JSC, Kawu JSC and Usman JSC and of course Honorable Justice Paul Kemdilim Nwokedi.  His Lordship was elevated to the Supreme Court in 1990 at the time that the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court Justices remained fixed at 65 years.  Thus, did it happen that His Lordship spent a rather brief period at the Supreme Court, retiring therefrom in 1991.  But then, those few years were memorable, with His Lordship leaving his mark and pronouncements in the annals and sands of the Supreme Court and indeed our jurisprudence.

As an Association with the primary goal of protecting, promoting, advancing and fortifying the rule of law, we cannot but highlight, in this occasion, His Lordship’s prescient pronouncement in Agbai & Others v Okogbue (1991) LPELR-225(SC) where the Supreme Court, in His Lordship’s lead judgment pronounced thus:

“Much as one would welcome development projects in the community, there must be caution to ensure that the fundamental rights of a citizen are not trampled upon by popular enthusiasm”.

These immortal words are as relevant, applicable and germane today as they were in 1991 when His Lordship pronounced them. Those words speak to all circumstances and incidents when and where fundamental rights of a citizen may be threatened “by popular enthusiasm”.  As His Lordship reminded all of us, in Agbai v Okogbue (supra) “these rights have been enshrined in legislation, that is, the Constitution”.  These rights are protected even in circumstances where public sentiments, described by His Lordship as “popular enthusiasm” presses for their abridgement. The “popular enthusiasm” that provided the excuse for the abridgement of the appellant’s fundamental rights by the respondents in that appeal was a “community development” project promoted by an age-group in the appellant’s village.  Laudable as the scheme was, His Lordship had no hesitation in striking down the aspect of the community’s custom that constituted an infringement on the fundamental rights of the appellant. This indeed is an object lesson for all of us vis-Γ -vis“popular enthusiasm” that sometimes threatens the rule of law and the fundamental rights of citizens.

We also fondly remember His Lordship in relation to the principles that guide and gird the interpretation of statutes.  Your Lordships are called upon, on a daily basis, to interpret provisions of legislation, sometimes in circumstances where the draftsman’s words lend themselves to more than one interpretation or are ambiguous.  What should be Your Lordship’s guiding principles in those circumstances?  That was the situation faced by Your Lordships in Idehen & Others v Idehen & Others (1991) LPELR-1416(SC) where His Lordship, Nwokedi JSC made the following immortal contributions in his concurring judgment:

“Where there is an expression used in an enactment which may be susceptible to two interpretations, the Court may consider the consequences of either interpretation in arriving at the intention of the legislature.  That interpretation which appears to defeat the intention of the Act should be bye-passed in favor of that which would further the object of the Act – Hill v East & West Dock Co. (1884) 9AC 488 at 456.  See also Lord Green MR in Hankey v Clevering (1942) 2 KB 326 at 330.  In Rein v Lane (1867) 2 LR QB 144 at 15 Lord Bowen LJ stated the position as follows:

‘It is, I apprehend, in accordance with the general rule of construction that you are not only to look at the words, but you are to look at the context, the collocation and the object of such words relating to such matter and interpret the meaning according to what would appear to be the meaning intended to be conveyed by the case of the words under the circumstances.’

“Our Courts have often adopted the same line of construction of Statutes.  In Savannah Bank (Nig) Ltd v Ajilo (1989) 1 NWLR (pt.97) 305 at 326, Obaseki JSC held that a statute should not be given a construction that will defeat its purpose.  He further held as follows:

“Where alternate constructions are equally open, that alternative is to be chosen which would be consistent with the smooth working of the system which the Statute purports to be regulating and that alternative is to be rejected which will introduce uncertainty, friction or confusion into the working of the system – Shannon Realities Ltd. v Ville de St. Michel (1924) AC 185.’”

Earlier in his Judgment in that Appeal, His Lordship had pronounced on the general and abiding principles of statutory interpretation thus:

“It is a canon of construction, that a statute may be construed ‘ut res magis valeat quam pereat’, that is to say, that the construction should ensure that the intention of the legislature is not frustrated or defeated.  It is the duty of the Court to give meaning to an ambiguous expression.  Bowen LJ in Curtis v Stovin (1889) 22 QED 513 put the position as follows:

‘The rules for the construction of statutes are very much like those which apply to the construction of other documents, especially as regards one crucial rule – viz, that if possible, the words of the Act of Parliament must be construed so as to give a sensible meaning to them.  The words ought to be construed ut res magis valeat quam pereat.’

“Fry LJ in the same case at page 519 held as follows:
“The only alternative construction offered to us would lead to this result – that the plain intention of the legislature has entirely failed by reason of slight inexactitude in the language of the section.  If we were to adopt this construction, we should be constructing the Act in order to defeat its object rather with a view to carry its object into effect.’”

The legislation that fell for interpretation in Idehen v Idehen (supra)was Section 3(1) of the Wills Law, Cap 172, Laws of Bendel State which provided as follows:

–(1) “Subject to any customary law relating thereto it shall be lawful for every person to devise, bequeath or dispose of, by his will in manner hereinafter required, all real estate and all personal estate which he shall be entitled to, either in law, or in equity at the time of his death and which if not so devised, bequeathed and disposed of would devolve upon the heir at law of him or if he became entitled by descent, of his ancestor or upon his executor or administrator.”

The contest in that appeal was whether the proviso that prefaced the provision, to wit, “subject to any customary law relating thereto”, applied to the testamentary capacity of the person making the Will or to the “customary law relating” to the real estate or personal estate that was being disposed of or bequeathed.  In applying the afore-quoted principles, His Lordship, in his Judgment concluded thus:

“One then asks what is the manifest intention of the Wills Law of Bendel State.  The obvious answer is, to give generally testamentary capacity to “every person” of that State.  If Dr. Odje’s construction is applied, every Bini citizen is deprived of this testamentary capacity thereby frustrating the object of the Law.  From the evidence adduced and on the authority of Olowu v Olowu above, on the death of a Bini, all his estate is vested in his eldest surviving male child.  Acceptance of the construction advanced by Chief Williams would help to further the objective of the Law.

“It seems to me therefore that the phrase ‘subject to the customary law relating thereto’ would be referable to the customary law regarding the particular devise or property sought to be devised.  It is my view that Section 3(1) of the Wills Law, Cap 172 Bendel State, did not compel a Bini man to make his Will in accordance with his customary law except where, from the nature of the property devised, Bini customary law deprives him of the capacity to dispose of that particular property.”

Indeed, the facts of that Appeal related to Bini customary law vis-Γ -visthe provisions of the Wills Law, Cap 172 of Bendel State, but the principles that were pronounced upon by His Lordship and which were applied for the determination of that appeal, were and are of universal application and apply equally to interpretation of statutes generally.  These principles are particularly relevant and applicable in circumstances that Your Lordships are called upon, on a daily basis, to interpret and apply legislation, sometimes in manners and in matters that could impact upon the fundamental rights of the Nigerian citizens and/or the promotion and preservation of the rule of law.

Time and space would not permit me, My Lords, to proceed with any further review of His Lordship’s outstanding expositions in the Supreme Court Bench – and there are several more in our Law Reports.  Permit me, My Lords, however, to point out that the common threads which I find run through the judgments of His Lordship, Honourable Justice Nwokedi are his scholarship, his lucidity, the logic in his espousals, his feel for humanity, his sense of history, and, not least, His Lordship’s abiding interest in the use of law for the advancement of the rule of law and the protection of the fundamental rights of citizens.  Possibly, if His Lordship was asked the underlying philosophy for his judgments, he would have pointed to his Catholic upbringing and his socialist bent – a rather ironic twist, i.e. His Lordship’s socialist streak, considering that not only was His Lordship born into royalty, but the practice of His Lordship’s chosen law profession, arguably, has aristocratic history and bearings.

It would actually appear that law practice, in some form, is and was embedded in the Nwokedi family DNA.  His Lordship’s father, Chief Joseph Ndubisi Nwokedi, was a colonial court interpreter who rose through the colonial judicial system to become a customary court judge, working in the different districts of colonial administration in Eastern Nigeria.  As an aside, it would have been interesting to know what the older Nwokedi would have thought of his brilliant son’s expositions on customary laws in the two authorities that we have reviewed in this Tribute! The older Nwokedi went on to become the 3rd Uthoko of Achalla and was married to Mercy Nwaugoye, the mother of Honourable Justice Nwokedi, herself, from the royal Amobi family of Ogidi.  Thus, when we say that His Lordship was born into royalty, we speak, not only of the older Nwokedi but also of his wife, the mother of His Lordship.

Honourable Justice Nwokedi’s brilliance shone through quite early in his life.  His Lordship had his primary education at St. Joseph Catholic School, Onitsha and Holy Trinity Primary School Onitsha.  From there, he gained admission to the prestigious St. Gregory’s College, Lagos where he excelled in academics and passed the Cambridge Senior School Certificate in 1945 in Division 1 with exemption from London Matriculation.  His Lordship studied on his own to earn a University of London BA degree in History in 1951 – a rare feat then and even now.  He subsequently proceeded to the London School of Economics to study Law and graduated in 1959 with an LL.B degree.  He passed his Bar Finals (Part II) and was published as a member of the Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in 1959 and thereafter returned to Nigeria where he went into private legal practice in Aba.  Not to be forgotten is the fact that His Lordship was a devout and practicing Catholic – we have already mentioned this as His Lordship’s possible abiding philosophy in his Judgements.  In his post-retirement years, His Lordship devoted his life particularly to seminarians and charity works.

As we mourn the physical passage of Honorable Justice Nwokedi, we are comforted that he remains alive in his succeeding generations but more importantly, in our hearts and in our Law Reports.  His Lordship indeed comes alive daily each time his pronouncements are read by and/or inculcated in our law students in the various Law Faculties of our Universities and the Nigerian Law School or cited by Your Lordships and lawyers in the various court hierarchies of our land, starting from the magistracy right up to the Supreme Court.  That indeed is what it literally means to live in the hearts and minds of succeeding generations and that is a most befitting memorial to His Lordship.  He cannot and will never be forgotten; he lives on, with us.  That is and should be a consolation to his immediate family and indeed to all of us even as we pray for the forgiveness of his sins and his gentle repose.

Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, OON, SAN, FCIArb (UK)
President, Nigerian Bar Association


Source: Courtroommail