AGF Malami, Gov Okowa absent as Supreme Court mourns Justice Oseji

Even as the valedictory Court session  in honour of late Justice Samuel Chukwudumebi  Oseji  slated for 10  am on Thursday, November 4th, 2021 did not start until about 11 am, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), and Governor of Delta State Senator Ifeanyi Okowa did not attend.

The office of the AGF did not also send a representative or an apology though he was listed as the number two in the programme  to pay  tribute. 

The chief mourner and  Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad who paid a glowing tribute  devoid of  any specific  erudite judgment of the decease to the growth of legal profession, twice invited the Attorney General of Federation to deliver his speech.

There was no response. CJN asked, any of his representative? No response. CJN therefore invited Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN) to deliver speech on behalf of the  Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

Prof Nwabueze (SAN) was also conspicuously absent.  The mantle now fell on Dr.Awa Kalu (SAN) who was the most senior lawyers in attendance . He spoke extemporary  and very short mourning the decease.

Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa  was absent at the valedictory. Though no role was  assigned to a governor of the state where decease justices of the Supreme Court hailed from, Governor’s presence in such occasion  have become a tradition and mark of honour. Late Justice Samuel Chukwudumebi Oseji who hailed from Idumuje-Uno in Aniocha North Local Government of Delta State meritoriously served Delta State.

President of Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), Olumide Akpata paid a deserving tribute to late Justice Samuel Chukwudumebi Oseji. In a 4 page tribute that chronicles the life of the decease and his career from June 2nd,1954 to September 28, 2021, when he died , 10 months after his elevation to the Supreme Court bench , Akpata alluded to the recent assault on the judiciary.

My Lords, on a day like this when His Lordship is being honoured by us all, this session should ordinarily be about the life and times of Hon. Justice Oseji and I ought to continue with my rendition of excerpts from his very many erudite judgements. 

However, it is pertinent that I pause at this point to dwell on the recent assault on the sanctity of this Court by agents of this government who laid siege on the home of the Hon. Justice Mary Odili on Friday October 29, 2021. 

“I am of the firm belief that My Lord Hon. Justice Oseji himself would not forgive us if all we do today is to celebrate his life whilst we turn a blind eye on the actions of these agents of government who are obviously intent on desecrating and denigrating this Honourable Court and indeed the entire Nigerian judiciary.

This sting operation by faceless security personnel calls for grave concern as it is undoubtedly an attempt to intimidate the Judiciary and to dissuade our Judges and Justices from dispensing justice without fear or favour.    In his reference to late Justice Oseji contribution to the legal profession, Akpata said “there is a Yoruba proverb that says where a carver ceases to carve new works, the ones which he has carved previously will not perish. 
Hon Justice Oseji has gifted our law reports with expositions of principles of the law that will continue to adorn their pages.
 “I have taken the liberty to review just a couple. In the case of Lagos Sheraton Hotel and Towers v. Hotel and Personal Services Senior Staff Association (2014) 14 NWLR (part 1426) 45 at page 71, paras. E-G, His Lordship gave a sound exposition of what was the law at that time when he stated thus: 
“I will add here that litigants who seek to circumvent or evade the provisions of section 243 and of the Constitution by seemingly waving the magic wand of fair hearing or breach of fundamental right with the main motive of having access to appeal against a decision of the National Industrial Court on matters falling outside the allowed scope should be advised not to under estimate the sharp sense of perception and wisdom of the appellate courts to sift the wheat from the chaff. 
“Undoubtedly, in deserving cases, the court will not relent in defending the course of justice given its status as the dynamic agency for the protection of the rule of law.”

It is often stated that judges of our court should not do justice by technicalities. This view was aptly articulated by Oputa JSC in Bello v. A.G. Oyo State (1986) 5 NWLR (PT.45) 528 when he held thus: “The picture of law and its technical rules triumphant and justice prostrate may, no doubt, have its admirers. But the spirit of justice does not reside in forms and formalities, nor in technicalities, nor is the trump of the administration of justice to be found in successfully picking one’s way between pitfalls of technicalities.” 

My Lord Justice Oseji was obviously an adherent of this principle and this was evident in the case of a N.P.A. v. Okereke (2017) 17 NWLR (part 1564) 323 at p.337, paras. E-G where he held that “where a party referred to a wrong statute or section of a statute in his claim this does not operate to frustrate his case or deny him of the reliefs sought. What matters is whether he is entitled to the remedy he seeks from the court,” he stated.