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October 21, 2008
Before a conference of over 7,000 eminent lawyers and jurists from across the globe, Nigeria image was hoisted with pride, honour, dignity and respect by not only Nigerians but by fellow Africans and other citizens of the world.

It was at the 2008 annual conference of the International Bar Association (IBA), the only annual gathering of erudite lawyers, impartial judges and progressive government representatives from all over the world, held in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina where the prestigious Bernard Simons Memorial Award for the Advancement of Human Rights was presented to no other Nigerian than the indefatigable Barr. Femi Falana. 

Marking the second of same universal recognition of suicidal sacrifices of Nigerians; Chief Gani Fawehinmi honoured with same award a decade ago, the journey began with the unofficial announcement of Falana’s selection among many other nominees for the award by the board of the Bernard Simons Memorial Award under IBA.

At the official presentation of the award by the President of the IBA were attendance eminent personalities from across world, among whom are; the Attorneys General of Ekiti, Osun, Kwara, Kaduna and Lagos states, Hon. Olubunmi Oyewole, Hon. Niyi Owolade, Hon Saka Ishau (SAN), Hajiya Johana Kadia and Hon. Supo Shashore respectively. Also, at the overwhelmingly relax and back slapping afternoon presentation were; the immediate past president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), current President of NBA, O.C.J Okocha (SAN), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), Joe Gadzama (SAN), Dr. Muiz Banire, Commissioner for Environment, Lagos State, J. B. Dawodu (SAN), Ibrahim Mark, General Secretary, NBA, Justices Oluwayemi, Oke and Oshodi of Lagos State judiciary, Lawal Rabana, Former NBA General Secretary, Lawal Pedro, DPP, Lagos State and Olawale Fapohunda, Coordinator, West African Human Rights Forum and among many too numerous to be mentioned.

International representatives such as; Stenford Moyo, SADC, Sam Okudseto, Former president of Ghana Bar Association, Raj Daya, Law Society of South Africa, Dr. Fernando Pelaez-Pier, Vice President, IBA, Juan Pablo Olmendo, Chile, Edwin Maynard, USA, Lucia Cordero Ledergerber, Ecuador, Carlos Ayala Corad, Venezuela, and Edward W. Fashole-Luke, Botswana among others where also on hand to celebrate with Mr. Falana and his fellow Nigerians, the toast of the world at the years conference.

The president of the IBA, in is presentation remark, congratulated Mr. Falana and other Nigerians on their dogged fight for the enthronement of good governance and democratic rule in the country and singularly commended Falana on his “acknowledged commitment to the promotion of Human Rights and democratic rule across Nigeria and West Africa”.

The emotion laden acceptance and dedication speech of Falana was consistently greeted with applause from the jubilant Nigerians and other well wishers in the hall. Mr. Falana, reflecting on the repressive days of military interregnum in Nigeria, dedicated the award to his pillar of support and soul-mate, Funmi Falana, standing in the crowd, who did not only stood by him during the trying period but held forth when his confrontation with successive military government was tantamount to a “suicidal mission”. 
A dinner held in honour of the awardee by the Nigeria Bar Association was graced by 500 Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike at the conference, among whom were the amiable Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) and Ambassador, Empire Kanu, Nigerian Ambassador to Argentina. With the recognition of personalities at the dinner by the NBA president, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), the Lagos State Governor was invited to make a remark. In his remark, the Governor did not only congratulate Mr. Falana on his historic recognition but also commended him for giving hope to younger generations of Nigerians coming behind. 

In his humorous response, Mr. Falana recognized Governor Fashola as one of the underground and unsung supporters of the fight against dictatorship in Nigeria and went further to thank Nigerians for their solidarity, support and prayers during the period under review. His response ended with a joke that reminds participants in attendance of virtues of truthfulness preached by the Abami eda, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, of blessed memory.

The night came to a close with message of support from Ambassador Empire Kanu, the Nigerian Ambassador to Argentina, who represented the Nigerian Government at the event and expressed pride of the government and, the soft landing the award presentation and the unprecedented presence of Nigerians in Buenos Aires would provide for the president who is expected on an official trip to Argentina in November.

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