Court ordered trial, but I wasn’t prepared — Adetola-Kazeem

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In this interview with RAMON OLADIMEJI, activist lawyer, Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, recollects his early days in legal practice, his dreams and the people he admires in the profession[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_tta_accordion][vc_tta_section title=”When were you called to the Bar and how many years have been in law practice?” tab_id=”1496998393364-e79eae4a-4f9a”][vc_column_text]I was called to the Nigerian Bar on November 4, 2009. It was a special moment because it was my 26th birthday. This is my seventh year in practice.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Have you had any embarrassing moment in the course of practice? If yes, how did you handle it?” tab_id=”1496998393509-defa61ac-ac48″][vc_column_text]One embarrassing incident I can recall vividly was in 2010 during my service year. My boss, Mr. Obiora Obianwu (SAN), handed me three files to attend to in court the following day. As a matter of practice, I normally ensure I study my files well to avoid any surprise in court. However on this particular day, I had a clear instruction from my boss to take an adjournment in one of the cases which was slated for trial.

On getting to court, I indicated that the trial will not be going on because my boss who wanted to handle the case personally was not in town. The opposing counsel insisted that the matter must go on and the judge, Hon. Justice Abai, agreed with him. I was sweating profusely not knowing what to do in the circumstance. One of the lawyers in court advised me to ask for a stand-down to enable me familiarise myself with the file. I followed his advice and the court granted my request. I went out of the court with the very bulky file and yet could not make any sense out of the content as the matter was filed under the old dispensation when there was no frontloading of processes. I put a call through to my boss, who then instructed a senior in chambers, Mr. Dozie Ogunji, to come and lead me. When he came, he simply spoke with the counsel on the other side to allow the court to adjourn. Surprisingly, the counsel obliged him simply because they were from the same town.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Are there factors you consider before taking a brief or you accept all briefs that come to you?” tab_id=”1496998599503-a4e29676-112a”][vc_column_text]l accept cases that conform with my principles and cases that are within my firm’s areas of competence.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”When is your normal reaction when you lose a case?” tab_id=”1496998663973-87d86344-682d”][vc_column_text]My philosophy about life is ‘we win some and we lose some’. Though, so far, so good, I rarely lose cases, I lost one recently and my reaction was that even the very best of lawyers in history lose cases. Furthermore, if a case is bad, it is bad; a lawyer will only try his best and see if the court agrees with him. On the flip side, if I feel I have a good case and I lose, I will appeal if the enabling laws allow it.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”What do you hope to achieve in practice i.e. your ambition?” tab_id=”1496998758015-c5fdd087-bb1b”][vc_column_text]I want to be the most influential legal personality of my generation in knowledge and in character. I want to be a senior advocate of repute whose legacies will remain on the sand of time and in the heart of men.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”What are the major challenges of young lawyers in Nigeria?” tab_id=”1496998814949-2c861242-c469″][vc_column_text]The major challenges facing young lawyers in Nigeria are impatience and lack of mentorship. Most young lawyers suffer from the get-rich-quick syndrome. Whilst it is desirable to be rich, I think it is necessary that young lawyers take time to learn the rudiments of the law and find an area of special interest and develop competence in such an area. Young lawyers should be ready to make temporary sacrifices for the actualisation of their vision and dreams. It is also imperative for senior lawyers to mentor the younger generation and show good examples. Senior lawyers should invest in the development of their juniors and should at least pay them living wages. Senior lawyers must realise that they have to build the future of the legal profession they will be happy to see.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_accordion][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_tta_accordion][vc_tta_section title=”Can you recall the first time you appeared before a judge after being called to the Bar?” tab_id=”1496998391661-adcc1e32-e7ad”][vc_column_text]My first appearance was before Honourable Justice Abai of the High Court of Abia State in the Aba Judicial Division. I appeared before her during my National Youth Service Corps assignment in January 2010. The matter was for ruling and because of the drilling that I had undergone at the Law School, I was not apprehensive.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Which has been your most challenging case and why?” tab_id=”1496998391780-4a51fee2-e79e”][vc_column_text]My most challenging case involved Ibrahim Abdul-Ghanniy Jumah, a cleric arrested in 2014 on the suspicion of terrorism. I had received calls from about six different people who had read a feature in Saturday Punch about the arrest of Ibrahim and his wife, titled “Every Knock on our door is like a death sentence” , to take up their case. I got the contact of the neighbor who witnessed the arrest from The Punch correspondent who reported the story. I filed a fundamental rights application on their behalf and the matter was listed. Various issues cropped up at every stage of the case. Because of the nature of the case, the judge who handled the case was extremely cautious and this had a negative effect on me. Even though there was proof in the file that the Attorney General, who is the 3rd respondent in the matter, was served with our processes, the court wasn’t amenable to hear the matter, particularly because no counsel represented the AG. After about three adjournments, spanning about seven months, I was forced to withdraw against the AG and proceeded against the Department of State Services. The matter was heard and the court ordered my client’s release and also awarded damages against the DSS. The DSS failed to release my client two months after the judgment. I initiated contempt proceeding against the Director-General of the DSS for disobeying court orders. The impending contempt proceeding and the publicity of the case in the media ensured that my clients was finally released.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Have you ever had to discourage or advise a client who comes to you from going to court?” tab_id=”1496998635777-2905786a-be44″][vc_column_text]Yes, I do that quite often. I encourage my clients to explore Alternative Dispute Resolution, particularly when the likelihood of success in the particular case is slim or where the disadvantages of pursuing such a case far outweighs the advantages.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”What informed your decision to study law and are you finding fulfillment in it?” tab_id=”1496998729685-e5f15d10-7b9b”][vc_column_text]My dad is a lawyer and growing up I wanted to be like him; so, the decision to become a lawyer came naturally. Also, I wasn’t good in Sciences and anything that had to do with calculation, so, the only safe haven to progress in Senior Secondary School was to ‘quarantine’ myself into Arts class. When I got to the university, seeing the injustice being perpetrated around, I was emboldened to take up the profession as a passion in order to give voice to the voiceless and that I have been able to do within the limit of my resources.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Who are the people you look up to or admire in the legal profession?” tab_id=”1496998784992-7bd675e6-51d3″][vc_column_text]First and foremost I look up to my father, Alhaji Gani Adetola-Kazeem (SAN), whose humility is unparallel; he is brilliant yet unassuming. He is my mentor and teacher. In the field of activism, I admire late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) for his strides as a crusader for justice; I also admire late Bamidele Aturu for his approach to activism, he was not the usual noise-making activist and he rarely played to the gallery or showed off — I think he was sincere. I also admire Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) who is always willing to help and one of the few individuals who are trying to ensure corruption does not kill us. I look up to Mr. Abdul-Jelil Owonikoko (SAN) for his intelligence which many senior lawyers and judges have attested to. I admire Mr. Yemi Candide-Johnson (SAN) for his high ethical standards and for his strides in the field of Arbitration (I hope to become one of the most sought after Arbitrators someday). I am equally thrilled by the achievements of Mr. Gbenga Oyebode in revolutionalising the “business of law” in Nigeria. I will not forget my mentor, Hon. Justice Habeeb Abiru of the Court of Appeal and Hon. Justice Babatunde Adejumo of the National Industrial Court for his unrivalled leadership and his strides at the National Industrial Court. If I can combine the attributes of these great men, then I will be rest assured of being a forerunner in my generation.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_accordion][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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