Justice at last for Fadipe, the masses’ lawyer

“If he who breaks the law is not punished, he who obeys it is cheated. This, and this alone, is why lawbreakers ought to be punished: to authenticate as good, and to encourage as useful...
The late Fadipe
The late Fadipe

• Judgment is a good one, but will not bring him back, says head of his chamber
“If he who breaks the law is not punished, he who obeys it is cheated. This, and this alone, is why lawbreakers ought to be punished: to authenticate as good, and to encourage as useful, law-abiding behaviour.” These words of Thomas Szasz, an American academic, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst gave credence to the death sentence passed on Oluwaseun Oladapo, the killer of Lagos lawyer and member of The Guardian Editorial Board, Olakunle Alex Fadipe.

Family and friends of the fiery but quiet human rights’ lawyer had been worried at the time of his demise that Fadipe’s case might turn out to be the latest addition to the growing list of unresolved killings in recent times.

But the court’s ruling at the weekend has changed that narrative. The culprit, Oladapo, 27, was sentenced to death on Friday.
Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, sentenced Oladapo to death by hanging for killing Fadipe. The judge found the convicted person guilty of a five-count charge of murder, armed robbery and assault occasioning harm.

According to the judge: “On count one, you, Oluwaseun Oladapo, are to be hung by the neck till you are dead. On count two, you, Oluwaseun Oladapo, are to be hung by the neck till you are dead. On count three, you, Oluwaseun Oladapo, are to be hung by the neck till you are dead. On count four, you, Oluwaseun Oladapo, are hereby sentenced to three years in prison. On count five, you, Oluwaseun Oladapo, are sentenced to three years in prison.

Oluwaseun Oladapo

“The terms of imprisonment of counts four and five is that they should run consecutively. This is the judgment of the court. May the Lord forgive your soul,” the judge said.

Earlier before the sentence was passed, counsel to the convict, Mr. Worer Obuagbaka, pleaded for mercy on behalf of his client.

“I ask this honourable court to give him a second chance. He is a young man who is still useful to society. I urge this court to please temper justice with mercy,” Obuagbaka said.

But the prosecutor, Mrs. O.A Olugasa, said “the deceased was not given a second chance by the convict. His children were also not given a second chance to have their father with them.

“I urge the court to give the convict the most severe punishment so that justice can be seen to be done,” she pleaded.

Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, the Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, led the prosecution alongside Mrs. Idowu Alakija, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).
Oladapo was also charged with the murder of Mrs. Cecelia Owolabi, the mother-in-law to the late Fadipe, but the court commuted the murder charge to assault occasioning harm.

Fadipe, a frontline lawyer was murdered in his home around 3:00a.m. at his residence located at No. 1 Harmony Estate, Ifako-Ijaiye, in Iju area of Lagos on Thursday, July 3, 2014, in a most brutal manner by an assailant, whom the police later arrested.

A purist, especially in matters of the law, injustice, for him, began with obfuscation of issues. Hence he was always clear in his submissions and insisted on clarity from others.

He was capable of holding his own in the midst of the best in the profession, not the least because he had had the best of breeding and education.

After a degree from the University of Lagos, where he was President of the Law Society and his call to the Bar after attending the Nigerian Law School where he was the Secretary General of the Students Council, Fadipe received his practical training under the late irrepressible Gani Fawehinmi and went on to become the head of the chambers of the late TOS Benson.

He once served as a Federal Commissioner in the National Human Rights Commission where he did his best to improve the lots of fellow Nigerians and also make the nation’s prisons as well as other places of detention truly reformatory.

Fadipe loved his country and wrote passionately about the ills afflicting Nigeria. He was total in his commitment to the nation’s unity, unwavering in his faith that Nigeria could be great and diligent at every opportunity to do his own bit.

He was eternally denied the honour of being the head of his family and father to his three children, as well as the pleasure of reading his last op-ed piece published in The Guardian of the next day, Friday July 4, entitled: A Justice Delivery System So Unfriendly.

Tumultuous crowd had gathered at the Fadipe home a few weeks after life was snuffed out of him, to pay their last respect to a man described as ‘the masses’ lawyer’.

It took the intervention of the men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and local council traffic officers at the time to contain the traffic caused by persons, who came to pay their last respect to the lawyer.

One year after his death, members of his chamber organised a public lecture to mark his anniversary.

Speaking on the judgment, head of Fadipe chambers, Biola lauded the judiciary for giving the case an accelerated hearing.

According to Biola, “the judgment is a good one although the sentencing cannot bring back Fadipe but we thank God he did not go scot-free. Other people who commit crime would know that justice would one day prevail on them. I also appreciate the fact that the case was given accelerated hearing.”

For Fadipe’s widow, Kemi, the killer got what he deserved. “The judgment was fair enough. Although it took sometime but we are satisfied with it. The killer was not let loose to begin to kill more people. We got what we wanted, which is justice.”

But for pressure from the human rights’ community and the media on the Nigeria Police, Fadipe’s killing would have become one of the myriads of unresolved killings in the country.

Ogunbayo Ayanlola Ohu, popularly known as Bayo Ohu, was murdered in cold blood on September 20, 2009 by unknown gunmen. Five assailants were said to have attacked Ohu, stealing his laptop and cell phone.

Ohu worked as the Assistant News Editor of The Guardian before he was killed. Till date, his killers are yet to be apprehended by the police and brought to justice.
Another gruesome killing Lagosians cannot forget in a hurry is that of Chief Funsho Williams, a governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Williams was killed on July 27, 2006 at his Dolphin Estate home in Ikoyi.

Also, on December 23, 2001, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, was shot dead in his bedroom at his Bodija, Ibadan residence in an apparent assassination.

It was gathered that the gunmen shot the Cicero of Esa-Oke around 9p.m. that fateful day with a single bullet to his heart. He had returned from Lagos around 8:30p.m. Till date, the killers of the then country’s number one judicial officer are yet to be found.

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