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Stakeholders urge entrenchment of legal history in Nigeria

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Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN)

Poised to bridge the knowledge gap in Nigerian legal history, some prominent lawyers have decided to promote research, book publishing and archiving of legal history in the country.

The lawyers are Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN), Prof. Fidelis Oditah (QC, SAN), Prof. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), former commissioner for justice and Attorney General in Lagos, Mr. Supo Shasore (SAN) and London based historian, Mr. Edward Keazor.

According to Chief Idigbe, the lawyers decided to bridge the knowledge gap through the incorporation of Legal History Society of Nigeria, which he said was set up to encourage the study and advancement of knowledge of the history of Nigerian law.

“The society was set up in February this year with primary goal of enriching and preserving Nigeria legal history. Its membership is not limited to lawyers,” he explained.

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The greatest resource to legal history in Nigeria, he said, is the newspapers. According to him, journalists, librarians, courts and historians, who keep archives, play a great role in legal history in Nigeria.

“African Times or Lagos Records capture some of the history we talk about. Also, court records are very relevant to legal history but we need to make sure that those court records are preserved and put in a condition where they can be retrieved.

“If you go to our courts today, you will find out that it is practically impossible to obtain a written record of the last 50 years, not to talk of retrieving such records from the comfort of your home,” he said.

To achieve their purpose of documenting and preserving legal history in Nigeria, Idigbe said the society is organising a maiden conference with a focus on how those dynamics play and result in policies and law.

His words: “We will be having our maiden conference 10th October 2019, starting 9am at Lagos Oriental Hotel. The theme of the conference is: Does legal history matter? Panelists will discuss topics relating to the relevance of legal history in relation to Nigeria’s economic advancement, the history between legal history and politics, the relationship between newspapers and legal history and others.

“The keynote address will be delivered by Gerald Phillips. He is a professor of legal history in Toronto, Canada. Some of the other speakers and moderators are myself, Mr. Ikazor, Oditah, Ajogwu and Shasore.

“The conference is intended to officially announce and to flag off the society’s existence and to showcase and create awareness about the relevance of preserving Nigeria’s legal history in a manner that meets with international standards.”

He stressed that the society intends to run the conference annually, support book publishing and research on legal history, train and archive legal history, which, he said is presently very weak.

“We also want to pursue oral history where things are not written. For instance, if something happens, you may see the documents, but you will not see the emotions, the passions and the perceptions unless you have an oral interview with the parties or person involved,” he stated, adding that a society without history is dead.


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