- Malami, Dongban-Mensem, Osipitan, Yadudu, Nweze, Idornigie Bag Fellowship
- Justice Abdullahi Urges Govt, Past DGs, Stakeholders to Support Professor Ladan to Achieve Mandate of the Institute
- Taiwo Osipitan Calls for the deletion of 2011 ‘Evidence Act’
By Waziri Isa Adam
The President of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, Justice of the Supreme Court, Hon. Justice Chima Centus Nweze, Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami and three other legal scholars/experts were among those that were conferred the Honorary Fellowship of Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS).
The 17th Conferment of the Honorary Fellowship of the Institute which took place Tuesday at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre, Abuja, also featured Special Lecture delivered by Professor Taiwo Osipitan.
The three other Honorees were Professor Auwalu Hamisu Yadudu of the Faculty of Law, Bayero University Kano, Professor Taiwo Osipitan of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, and Professor Paul Obo Idornigie (SAN) of the Faculty of Law, Veritas University, Abuja.
Speaking earlier, in his welcome address, the Director-General of the Institute, Professor Muhammed Tawfiq Ladan, eulogized the Honorees who he said were carefully selected for the award in view of how they have excelled and distinguished themselves by the way they have been adding exemplary values to the law profession in Nigeria and beyond. He said apart from being respected legal experts that have carved a niche for themselves in the law world, they have all taught at a particular time in one law faculty in one Nigerian University or the other.
Also, speaking at the event, the Chairman, NIALS Body of Fellows and Chairman of the Occasion, Rtd. Hon Justice Umar Abdullahi, commended the Director- General for the wonderful and unprecedented work he is doing at the Institute. He called on all previous Director-Generals of the Institute and other influential stakeholders to team up with Professor Ladan to make the Institute the pride of all, being the first of its kind not only in Nigeria, but in Africa.
He particularly called on government and influential stakeholders to support the ongoing revolution championed by Professor Ladan at the Institute, especially his unwavering efforts to complete the construction of the Institute’s Permanent Site.
Speaking, in his presentation at the One Day event, the Guest Lecturer, Professor Taiwo Osipitan, called on both the National Assembly and the Judiciary to look into the nation’s decade old ‘Evidence Act’ with the view of making it more relevant and useful in the judicial system.
Professor Osipitan who admitted that even though, “the Act has positively impacted on the development of our Law of Evidence, however, there are problems and issues associated with the Act which merit Legislative and Judicial attention”.
The legal luminary and Scholar, therefore called for the deletion of ‘Law of Evidence’ in the Exclusive Legislative List of the National Assembly. “This”, he said, “is necessary in view of the growing public calls and as a strategy for reducing the scope of powers of the National Assembly. He therefore emphasized the call that the ‘Evidence’ be deleted from the Exclusive Legislative List and made a concurrent Item.
He categorically stressed that the words, “and of no others”, which for example feature in section 1 of the Act should be deleted from the Act in order to erase the wrong impression, that the Act, is the only source of Law on admissibility of evidence in Nigeria. Further, the relationship between sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Act should be clarified in order to acknowledge “the Act, other Acts of the National Assembly, Legislations that are validly in force in Nigeria” as the principal sources of Law of Evidence in Nigeria.
The deletion of the residual provision of section 5 (a) of the repealed Act from the new Act, suffocates the development of our Law of Evidence. Advantage can no longer be taken, of decisions from other Jurisdictions in cases where the new Act is either completely silent or not sufficiently far-reaching on an issue. Given the slow pace of Legislative response to gaps in the Law, restoration of 5 (a) of the repealed Act in the new Act, will be a right step in the right direction.
“Heads of Courts, have in the exercise of their constitutional powers to make rules inserted in the various rules of court evidentiary provisions. There is therefore nothing special about Law of Evidence, that justifies its inclusion in the Exclusive Legislative List of the National Assembly” He opined.
Section 91 (1)(c) of the Act, which insists that only Certified True Copy of a public document is admissible as its secondary evidence has been demonstrated as capable of promoting injustice. It is suggested, that the problems posed by the provision should be legislatively and judicially resolved. A case has been made for liberal interpretation of the provision against the backdrop of fair hearing provisions of the 1990 Constitution.
The various problems associated with admissibility of electronic evidence under the Act have been highlighted above. The need to legislatively address the question, on which of the computers involved in the in the process, that resulted in the electronic generated evidence that is being tendered requires certification, has been made. Similarly, a case has been made for Legislative intervention with respect to authentication of the security of the relevant computers, which produced the electronic documents.
In His vote of thanks, on behalf of the Honorees, professor Auwalu Hamisu Yadudu said, “I must confess that I have no idea why the choice fell on me to give these remarks. I can only surmise that I do so on behalf of the Honorees not belonging to the Bench. Although, I stand before you to speak for the Chief Law Officer of the Federation and two other colleagues, who all wear the silk, I must enter a necessary caveat that we have not had any prior consultation on what to say. I guess the organizers have exceptionally indulged me to shoulder such a role presumably owing to my seniority by age, call to the bar ad appointment as a Professor of Law. For full disclosure, I am approaching my 69th birthday anniversary. I was called to the bar in July 1979, and promoted to the rank of Professor of law by BUK in October 1995. I observed that the choice is exceptional because if these were formal proceedings before a court of law, I know where my proper place would be: somewhere else within the premises but not at the front bench. However, I take comfort in the fact that, all three being distinguished Professionals, fellow teachers and researchers, none may find cause to disagree with me on account of the words I would utter.
To put matters mildly, we all are pleasantly surprised but deeply grateful to be conferred with the Honorary Fellowship of the premier Legal Research Institute in Nigeria: The Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. We cherish very highly such an honour.
For me personally, I have scratched my head, in total astonishment, to understand what it is that I have done in my academic and professional career or public service to belong to such a distinguished league of Fellows which comprises legendary legal icons, judicial paragons and erudite academicians. How deserving am I to be placed along the side of Justice Teslim O Elias, who was Dean of Law, University of Lagos, the founding father of this institute, a former Hon. Attorney General of the Federation, a former Chief Justice of the Federation and Justice of the International Court of Justice at the Hague. Or to rub shoulders with the distinguished Prof. C.O Okonkwo, perhaps he oldest Law teacher in the Nation. Or Mrs Folake Sholanke, the first female to take the Silk in Nigeria. Or the very jovial and extremely entertaining Prof David A Ijalaye, whose classes and seminars at Obafemi Awolowo University were delight to participate in.
What could Prof Osipitan have done in his professional and teaching career or as a researcher to rub shoulders with Timi the Law, Chief FRA Williams, whose towering height and colossal size in both physique and intellectual prowess were unmatched during his days. Or Justices Kayode ESO or Chukwudifu Oputa-whom Justice Bello, the CJN, described as “The Socrates of the Supreme Court and who both left their indelible mark on our jurisprudence, judicial pronouncements and verdicts. Or Prof AB Kasumu, a foremost law teacher, advocate and author. Or justice Maryam Alooma Mukhtar, another Amazon who reached the pinnacle of the judiciary to serve as Chief Justice of Federation.
Although Hon. Malami may have briefly taught at Usmanu Danfodio University and is the incumbent Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, I would think he too would find it hard to comprehend which of his modest accomplishment has qualified him to be elevated to sit on the pedestal occupied by the likes of Justice ML Uwais, so far the longest serving Chief Justice of the Federation or Justice Abdul Koroma, a former Justice of the International Court of Justice at the Hague and head of the judiciary in Sierra Leone or the foremost constitutional lawyer, author and advocate, Prof. B.O Nwabueze. Or even Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, the former President of the Court of Appeal.
I can visibly see Prof Idornigie scratching his head with equal amazement wondering how has he been found deserving to join the ranks of Justice IT Muhammed, the Chief Justice of the Federation, former law lecturer and chairman of the Governing Council of NIALS. Or Justice Umaru Abdullahi, former President of the Court of Appeal, former Chief Judge Katsina State and Chairman of today’s occasion. Or join the ranks of Prof IA Ayua, a former Director General of NIALS, Solicitor General of the Federation and, for many years, a distinguished Professor and Dean of Law at ABU Zaria and Benue State University. Or Prof Jadesola Akande, former distinguished professor of Law and Vice Chancellor, LASU and another Amazon in the legal profession which doesn’t recognize ladies at the Bar.
But here we all are standing before you: honoured and elevated to the premier league of towering judicial officers, living and deceased, who have served the nation meritoriously. To be among outstanding legal luminaries, living and deceased, who are household names and revered advocates and legal scholars of local and international repute. We are deeply grateful to the Governing Council and the DG of NIALS for the recognition and accolades.
For me personally, today’s occasion has afforded me an opportunity to reminisce. In 1997, I had the rare privilege to deliver a Special Lecture, similar to the one just presented by Prof. Osipitan, on the occasion of conferment of similar honours to very deserving legal icons of the day. The title of my presentation was: The Nigerian Legal Profession: Towards 2010 and was published by the NIALS. However, going through the list of its publications on display, I cannot locate it. I am not too sure if it is out of print. Although I cannot recall the central theses of my presentation- and they may have no relevant or resonance today- little did I know that today, a whole decade and a half later, would be my turn to be honoured. Only recently in February 2020, just at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, NIALS was gracious enough to host me on a one-year sabbatical leave. Regrettably, I could not fully utilize the facility offered nor spend much time within its premises due to the prolonged lockdown period. I recall that the most I could offer or participate in were virtual seminars.
Moreover, and at the risk of personalizing matters, I know that the chairman will indulge me one more favour to seize this moment to offer prayers for the repose of Mallam Alfa Ladan and Dr Abdulmuyassir Ladan. The former being Prof. Tawfiq’s father of blessed memory and Headmaster of Dantata Memorial School, Kano, my alma mater. He enrolled me to start off my elementary education in 1960 and nurtured me during those faltering infant days at the school. The latter was Tawfiq’s elder brother, a class mate of mine at ABU Zaria and fellow learned colleague called to the bar on the same day in 1979.