‘Nigeria needs special courts for corruption matters’
NOT many have the capacity to effectively and efficiently combine two demanding endeavours successfully. That is the reason the old adage: “Jack of all trade, master of none suffices.” But this assertion indeed does not apply to everybody. There are few who have and are still engaged in a number of endeavours and are making a success of them all. Barrister George Eke, falls into this class.
He is running a successful law firm in Lagos and at the same time keeping tab of every political development in his home state of Imo and the country generally. A former governorship aspirant in Imo State, Eke who studied law after getting a masters degree in another field of study is obviously in love with law practice.
Before reading law at the University of Lagos, he had acquired a Bachelor Degree in Sociology from the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He also holds a Diploma in social welfare Administration from the same University.
He also obtained a Msc degree in Sociology of crime from the University of Lagos. He has worked in both the public and private sectors before setting up his chambers, George Eke & Company (Enwe chambers), a firm of seasoned legal practitioners, where he is a principal partner. He is also on the board of a number of companies among which are Assay Group, George Kendif Oil & Gas Ltd as well as Jojieke & Coy Ltd.
He has made temendous contribution to the development of Nigeria’s jurisprudence through some of the landmark and high profiled election petition matters he had handled.
Eke is an outstanding and reputable Lawyer. He is versatile in the area of constitutional law, having written several articles and legal opinions on several contentious constitutional questions. He is also a public policy commentator in radio and Television programmes in matters of good governance and rule of law.
He recalled the circumstances under which he decided to return to school in other to be a lawyer. “Law as a profession is something I had always admire, but incidentally, I started my career by studying Sociology. I read Sociology at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. “When we were doing Youth Service in Kaduna those days, there was this case of Rabiu who was being charged for robbery. He was represented by Chief Rotimi Wiliams. A number of us used to peep from the window to enjoy the legal acrobatic he was doing in court. Some among us that were Youth Corps lawyers were feeling so proud and tall as almost like we did not go to the University because they kept referring to us as merely educated, that we were not learned.
“To rob it in, we were accompanying them to such court sessions, which was like a soap opera in those days and I made up my mind that I was going to be part of those poeple who would be the movers and shakers of the court room. And I worked for awhile, but I still had my eye on it and eventually went and do law. I can now tell you, that probably what gave me the inspiration was Rotimi Williams himself. And more than anything, we as Sociologist then because of the training and upbringing we had, believe we knew literary everything.
“But at that point in time, we now found out that there are some areas that we did not know because they mesmerised us with some of those legal terms that are quite exoteric. At times, they will delve into Latin to win an argument and we won’t even know what they are talking about. That is what sorrounds legal practice. I can confess to you that I was quite mesmerised then. As a result, I promised myself that I was going to read law”, he stated, adding that his sacking of a staff as a personnel manager which resulted in litigatio also expopsed his inadequacy and stimulated his interest in law the more.
After his graduation, he had his legal pupillage in the chambers of Ricky Tarfa and Company. According to him, the Principal partner in that chamber, Mr. Tarfa endeared himself to him through his amazing legal prowess. “He is a man I admire because each time I followed him to court as it were, one of the things that struck me is that once somebody finished making submissions in other cases, often times, lawyers in other side would ask for adjournment to enable them respond on point of law, but I found out that he is one of the lawyers that would respond right on his feet there.
“It was like he knew every part of the law and could quote every part of the law report. That gave me another confidence and inspiration in litigation and getting invloved advocacy”, he declared.
Interestingly, his first day in court without a senior happens to be at the Court of Appeal. According to him, the incident through itself up as he was not prepared for the appearance. He said his senior who was to lead him was in another court when their matter was called. Left with no other choice, he braced the odd and counted on the confidence he had already acquired as a matured lawyer and wriggled out of the embarrassing situation.
Expressing his view on the postponment of the general elections, Eke said: “I am happy that that election was shifted or postponed. I was not sure if the chairman of INEC did tell the country all that was in that matter. I saw him speaking from two sides of his mouth, in the sense that he came out in a press conference to tell Nigerians that it was because security forces were unable to provide him with security. I disagree with him entirely. Later he came out to allude to the fact that he will use the time of the postponment to complete one or two tasks that were hitherto uncompleted. And I see those tasks as major. One of which is the distribution or collection of the PVC. Collection on the part of the electorate and distribution on his part. Some people have said it on good authority that as at today, the PVC is still arriving the country. In other words, few days to the election, the PVC is still arriving to INEC and INEC is yet to distribute them.
“There is no doubt that we are not going to achieve 100 percent collection. But let it suffice that the cards are there for people to pick. Let it be that those people are not able to pick them. We can go to the election without them. As at the time the election was postponed, we heard from INEC that about 20 million PVC’s have not been collected. In other words, about 20 million Nigerians, ab initio, would have been disenfranchised. But when we breakdown that statistics, the devil in it is that quite a number of the States in the North have very high rate of collection such that places like Gombe, Adamawa and Borno have upwards of 80 percent collection while some of the States in the South have 50 percent.
“And we are saying that there is something curious about a situation that a war-torn area has already collected 80 percent. Who were those cards given to, when we know that most of those people are in Internally People Displaced camps? They have even left there houses and one of the things you would not take as your valuable property is the voters card. It will only lead us to one opinion that these cards are probably in the custody of some individuals. What they want to do with it, we dont know”, he said.
The accusation that PDP led Federal Government instigated the postponment in order to forestall defeat, lawyer turned politician made an instructive remarks.
His words: “In politics, there is this incurable optimism that everybody carries around that makes you continue to spend money when it is obvious that you are loosing. It used to make you feel that you are about delivering a budget speech, makes you imagine yourself as the president of Nigeria even when your chances are so low. “Even those you haven’t heard their names before would be busy describing how they are going to be the president. That is the feeling most politicians have. I dont begrudge the opposition for having that feeling because they require it, that is the fire they need to continue to work hard. But elections don’t go that way. Chances are that a man who think he would have a walk-over would be the one that would loose. That is not to say that the opposition don’t have a chance. Every contestant in election have a chance. What is required to win a election is 51 percent.
“So it is important also for the ruling party to imagine a situation where the unlikely happens and the opposition wins the election such that it will not be a big shock. It is also good for the opposition to realise that over and above what they have said about change and all that, that Nigerians can still go ahead and vote for the incumbent government. This is good to ensure that tensions are doused, because when tensions are high, it often results to violence in the sense that you never imagined that you would loose. Propaganda is not the same thing with votes. You can have it all over the world, the newspapers telling you what you want to hear. Politicians like to listen to what they want to hear. Often times, politicians get drunk on what they want to hear. “That is why once you print the poster, you begin to get the appellation – his excellency, hourable, most distingusihed, and so on. You have not even won the election, but people around you have told you that you are already there. If you are not careful, you will begin to think that translates to victory. That is the problem of the opposition. They think that they have overrun them.”
Eke also used the opportunity to renew his call for special courts for corruption. He noted that corruption has become a major factor, given the fact that several government agencies now investigate and prosecute corruption cases, which usually compound the court dockets, the need for it is now.
He said the judiciary that is saddled with too many to continue to hear corruption cases. “If a matter is this serious that it is almost like stifling life out of our economic existence, we should also respond in a special manner by giving it a special court such that particular judges are saddled with the responsibility of dispensing justice in such matters judiciously and expeditiously”, he stated.
Eke, a father of three plays golf and reads voraciously. His favourite colour is white while he enjoys eba and okra soup with oil beam. He is also a member of Rotary Club, a philantropist and an opinion leader. He advises young lawyers to be focused and work hard so as to get to the peak of their careers.
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