Human Rights Activist who is also an erudite scholar, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, has criticized young lawyers hollering for whom they want to be their next Nigerian Bar Association’s President. He had urged them to ask themselves what the NBA has done in the trial of Joseph Odok, who has been prosecuted and denied bail several times just for criticizing Gov. Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers State.

Prof. Odinkalu had put up these posers in a tweet which was sighted by TheNigerialawyer (TNL), in the Thread Reader. Narrating the ordeal of Mr. Joseph Odok, he said that the NBA has not said anything ever since he was prosecuted unjustly. He also asked why the young lawyers put their faith in the NBA, and what they expect if an established lawyer like Joseph Odok can be so forgotten when his kinsman is the President of the Bar.

“For all the young lawyers now excited about the onset of campaigns for the elections into the leadership of Nigerian Bar Association in July, 2020, please take a few minutes to read the story of The trial of Joseph Odok. Odok, is a lecturer, philosopher and, like u, a lawyer. Joseph Odok belongs to the NBA Abuja. He is fully paid up on his practicing fees, has his stamp and seal and practices as a lawyer. He is a former lecturer. He is also a politically engaged citizen, active on social media and a member of the ruling official APC of Nigeria.

“Joseph Odok is from Cross-River state, which is ruled by Ben Ayade of the official PDP of Nigeria. He is a well-known critic of Mr. Ayade. But that is not the only person Odok has criticized. In 2018, Unical took exception to his criticism of their VC on Facebook. Around 26 September, 2019, Joseph Odok disappeared from his residence in Abuja. For over seven days, no one could account for him. On the 4th of October, the Nigeria Police took him to the Federal High Court (2) in Calabar before Justice Simon Amobeda, to apply for an order to detain Odok for 90 days without bail.

“At this time, Amobeda was also presiding over the trial of Agba Jalingo. As if by prior agreement, the court perfunctorily granted the Police a renewable 45-day detention order. This was the first official acknowledgment of Joseph Odok’s whereabouts since his disappearance. It emerged that officers of the Nigeria Police, in cahoots with Ben Ayade had arranged to abduct Joseph Odok from Abuja on the 26th of October. They moved him by road to Calabar, some 12 hours away. There, they showed him in a black site, unknown to anybody until the 4th of October. The NBA said nothing,” he said.

Narrating further, he said that on the 4thof October, the Police had informed the court that they needed time to investigate Joseph Odok for allegations of treasonable felony, terrorism and worse, but ten days later, on the 14th of October, they arraigned him before the same Court on two counts of terrorism and cyber stalking. He added that essentially, the charges in the trial of Joseph Odok accuse him of trying to overthrow the Government of Ben Ayade in Cross-River State, by critical Facebook posts, and that on the 16th day of October, Justice Amobeda denied bail to Joseph Odok, claiming that he had failed to show “exceptional reasons”.

“Following what appeared to be pressure from APC around 28 October, the Police as the investigating and prosecuting entity, applied to Justice Amobeda to discontinue the case. The judge refused, ruling that only the Federal Attorney-General could do that. Thereafter Justice Amobeda invited reopening of the issue of bail in the trial of Joseph Odok. When the Court took arguments on bail on 13 November, the Police’s counsel who had previously sought to discontinue the case, Denis Tarhemba, vehemently opposed bail to Joseph Odok.

“The court adjourned to 21st November to rule on bail. On 29th November, the court deferred the ruling to 27th November. This was later shifted to the 5th December but ruling was not ready on that date either. 30 days after bail arguments, on 12th December, Amobeda finally ruled denying bail. Odok returned to jail. The judge adjourned the trial of Joseph Odok to the 18th December and then to 17th January, 2020, for continuation. This ensured that like Agba Jalingo, Joseph Odok would spend the Christmas and New Year holidays detained at the Calabar Central Prison. When the case resumed yesterday before Justice Amobeda, the defence in the trial of Joseph Odok renewed its application for bail. The Prosecutor was initially missing. Eventually, he showed up to ask for the case to be adjourned by one week so he could oppose the application

“So, the trial of Joseph Odok has been adjourned to continue before Justice Simon Amobeda at the Federal High Court (No.2) in Calabar on Tuesday, 21 January. On that day, Joseph Odok would have been detained without bail on the most specious of charges for 92 days. Through these 92 days, including 8 days secreted in a black site, and 10 court appearances of adjournments, neither NBA Abuja nor the NBA has said pim! No statement, no visit, not acknowledgment, no appearance. It’s as if Joseph Odok has been wiped off the records of the Bar.

“So, for all you young lawyers hollering for whom you want to be your next Nigerian Bar Association president, ask yourself what the association offers you concretely. If an established lawyer like Joseph Odok can be so forgotten when his kinsman is the President of the Bar, what can you expect? Next time anyone comes to ask you to support their aspiration for office in Nigerian Bar Association, please ask them what they have done on the matter of the trial of Joseph Odok and why they have been so silent. If they cannot say anything in defence of year colleague, why should you put your faith in them? he asked.

Practical Considerations to Negotiate an Enforceable Joint Operating Agreement in Civil Law Jurisdictions (Netherlands: Kluwer Law International, 2020) By Professor Damilola S. Olawuyi, LL. B (1st Class), BL (1st Class), LL.M (Calgary), LL.M (Harvard), DPhil (Oxford), Professor of Law and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Nigeria, www.damilolaolawuyi.com. & Professor Eduardo G. Pereira, LL. B (Brazil), LL.M (Aberdeen), PhD (Aberdeen),www.eduardogpereira.com   

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