We saw, with distress, on Wednesday, the 4th day of July 2018 a video making rounds in social media of men of the Nigerian Police Force beating up, and threatening to shoot with a pistol, an unarmed young man, at the law office of Oluyomi Olawore LLP.
We were also informed that the victim in the video is a young lawyer, whose only offence was to demand for his just entitlement after working for the law firm.
Considering that a young lawyer was involved, the Chairman of the YLF, Ikeja Branch, Mr. Ezekiel Bodunde Esq. immediately set up a fact-finding committee headed by Miss Grace Ajayi, with Miss Adeola Folarin and Mr. Olumide Ajayi, as members to investigate the issue. The Committee met on short notice and decided to visit the persons involved on a fact-finding mission. It presented its report to the the EXCO of the YLF on Friday the 6th of July, 2018.
The Committee spoke with Mr. Olakunle Karimu on phone and thereafter visited the law office of Oluyomi Olawore LLP at Itiku House, McCarthy Street, Onikan, Lagos Island. Upon getting there, the Committee did not meet Mr. Oluyomi Olawore, and got their own share of hostility from his secretary who refused to give them his contact details, refused to contact and inform him that they were there to speak with him, refused to give them an appointment for a subsequent visit, and called one Joseph on phone (who later introduced himself as the facility manager) to come walk them out, referring to them as “crazy people”. The Committee quietly left the facility, and have up till this time been unable to have access to Mr. Oluyomi Olawore, to hear his side of the story.
Although the lawyers in Mr. Oluyomi Olawore’s office refused to comment on the issue, the Committee spoke with some other lawyers who work in the same building, but not in Mr. Olawore’s office and some lawyers who were former staff of Mr. Olawore, as well as an extern with the law firm of Oluyomi Olawore LLP.
We are aware that Mr. Olakunle Karimu has filed a petition with the Disciplinary Committee of the NBA, Lagos Branch, and that the leadership of the NBA Lagos Branch has taken up the matter with the Nigerian Police Force. We will therefore not comment on the merit of what is already before the Disciplinary Committee. However, this case raises some recurring issues which has long plagued our profession, and are getting worse by the day. They are first, the work place hazards that young lawyers face daily as employees in law firms, and secondly, police brutality on young lawyers which has become so common place that it no longer make news when it happens.
Since the emergence of the Olakunle Karimu video, a lot of revelations have emerged of young lawyers who face such inhuman and degrading treatments, ranging from physical and verbal assault by employers, to emotional harassment, sexual harassment, refusal to pay just entitlement of lawyers, to being used as domestic staff in the houses of employers. In particular, a member of our Branch has spoken to us about receiving the Olakunle Karimu kind of treatment in the law office of Oluyomi Olawore some time ago. We strongly condemn all such practices in law firms. But beyond condemning, the YLF, Ikeja Branch shall take proactive steps in ensuring an end is put to such practices. And in particular, we shall:
i) Immediately sponsor a proposal to the National Executive Council (NEC) of the NBA, to ensure the NBA creates an employment policy with minimum standards for employee treatment which all law firms employing young lawyers must comply with.
ii) In the coming days set up a help desk, where young lawyers who are abused in any form whatsoever may make complaint, and we shall work on all such complaints promptly.
iii) Liaise with the leadership of the NBA Ikeja Branch ably led by Prince Dele Oloke (which has shown so much interest in the affairs and welfare of young lawyers) to provide human resources and personnel management training to lawyers in our dear Tiger Branch.
We encourage all young lawyers who are facing harassment in any form whatsoever, to always speak out. We also encourage young lawyers to be their brother’s keepers at workplace as we collectively seek to put an end to workplace harassment which has become so common in law firms.
In recent times, we have heard tales of lawyers brutalized by police just for doing the job of a lawyer. From the busy city of Onitsha, to the quiet town of Umuahia, to Nigeria’s federal capital, Abuja, and West Africa’s largest business city, Lagos, we hear cries of young lawyers, who are brutalized mercilessly, with threats to their lives, in the course of promoting the rule of law, by law enforcement officials who have the primary duty of maintaining law and order. It is indeed a baffling paradox that beats any sensible imagination.
We sympathize with all young lawyers who have been victims of such brutality, especially Mr. Olakunle Karimu. We again strongly condemn the actions of the police in the treatment meted on Mr. Karimu, who at that moment saw his life flash before his eyes, with those pistol-wielding policemen who are nothing more than bloodthirsty men on the wrong of society. Persons like the police officers who assaulted Mr. Karimu, are those law enforcement agents should be trying to suppress rather than being law enforcement agents themselves.
We are aware of the statement of the Nigerian Police Force where it stated that its officers were not at their professional best in assaulting Mr. Karimu. We respond by stating that it is the duty of the Nigerian Police Force, not only to employ persons of impeccable character, but also to train its men adequately on how to act in their professional best. The NPF cannot continue to expect to be absolved from the illegal acts of its officers, as it has become one case too many, and it appears that its unprofessional officers greatly outnumber the professional ones.
We expect that those officers will be decisively dealt with, and be used as example to those who may be tempted to act in such manner subsequently. We also expect the NPF to henceforth employ only persons with history of impeccable character, and vigorously train all its officials thoroughly on how to act in their professional best, as anything short of that will only paint the increasing brutality against young lawyers as a deliberate policy of the Nigerian Police Force.
The Legal Aid Committee of the YLF, Ikeja Branch, has been directed to render pro bono legal services to Mr. Olakunle Karimu, in all matters related to his assault by men of the Nigerian Police Force on the instigation of Mr. Oluyomi Olawore.
The Young Lawyers’ Forum, Ikeja Branch restate its commitment to advancing the welfare and wellbeing of young lawyers.
Ezekiel Bodunde Esq. Adejo Mordecai Adejo Esq.
Chairman, YLF, Ikeja. Secretary, YLF, Ikeja.