During the election petition legal tussle between Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the Peoples Democratic Party and Mr. Rauf Aregbesola of the former Action Congress in 2007, the lawyer to Oyinlola, Mr. Kunle Kalejaiye (SAN), reached out to Justice Thomas Naron, the Chairman of the Osun State governorship election petition tribunal.
Having been totally compromised, the judge went to the ridiculous extent of exchanging text messages with Kalejaiye on the pending election petition before him and his colleagues. Some of the many text messages contained detailed information on the strategies that should be adopted by the lawyer to ensure the dismissal of Aregbesola's petition. The tribunal acted in line with the agreed strategies and the petition was dismissed in a questionable judgment read by Justice Naron on behalf of the tribunal. But the judgment was so perverse that the Court of Appeal wasted no time in setting it aside.
A whistleblower who was privy to the illegal communications between Justice Naron and Kalejaiye exposed the fraudulent judicial proceedings of the election petition tribunal. The National Judicial Council (NJC) acted promptly by sacking the judge for his gross misconduct. Despite the pressure of many senior advocates to shield Kalejaiye from sanction, Mrs Funke Adekoya SAN, the Chairperson of the Disciplinary panel of the Nigerian Bar Association, stood her ground and insisted that justice had to be done. And it was done as the panel recommended that the senior lawyer be derobed to serve as a deterrent to other corrupt lawyers who usually go around to pervert the course of justice. The recommendation was accepted by the authorities, as Mr. Kalejaiye SAN was derobed as a member of the legal profession.
Mr. Joe Nwobike SAN and Justice Mohammed Yunusa, who refused to learn any lesson from the fate that befell Kunle Kalejaiye and Justice Thomas Naron, embarked on perversion of justice with impunity. Apart from exchanging texts directing court officials to assign his case before Justice Yunusa, Mr. Nwobike SAN paid money to the accounts of judges and court officials. Through such manipulation of the Federal High Court, Nwobike SAN won all his cases before the highly compromised judges. The NJC investigated Justice Yunusa and removed him for granting perpetual injunctions which restrained the anti-corruption agencies and the Police from arresting and prosecuting many corrupt politicians. Nwobike SAN was the lawyer who used Justice Yunusa to confer permanent immunity on the corrupt people. In addition to his removal from the judiciary, Justice Yunusa has been charged with perversion of justice before the Lagos High Court for collecting bribes from Nwobike SAN and Ricky Tarfa SAN.
While the trial of Ricky Tarfa SAN is ongoing, that of Joe Nwobike SAN has been concluded. He has since been convicted and sentenced to prison term of 30 days by the Lagos High Court for perversion of the course of justice. The trial judge is Justice Adebiyi, the second woman to have axed a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. We commend the judge.
However, many people have expressed the view that the sentence of one month was not commensurate with the offence, since Nwobike was convicted in 12 of the 17 counts. But we disagree. It has to be realised that if Nwobike loses his appeal, he will cease to be a SAN. He will also be derobed as a lawyer. Even if he was convicted for one day, the judgment has sent a clear message that the legal establishment has finally decided to rid the legal profession of corrupt lawyers.