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Robbery incident: Ozekhome reacts to “no authority” claims over detained late Abiola’s children

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Chief Counsel/Head of Chambers, Mike Ozekhome’s Chambers, Chief Mike Ozhekhome (SAN) on Sunday reacted to the press release by Barrister Debo Adeleke of Maritime, Commercial and Immigration Law Chambers, saying that he was not briefed to release the two children of late MKO Abiola currently detained by the Police.

Reacting through a statement he personally signed and made available to CAPITAL POST in Abuja, he said:

“Our attention has just been drawn to a viral press release made by one Maritime, Commercial and Immigration Law Chambers and signed by Debo Adeleke, Esq, purportedly on behalf of the late MKO Abiola family. We are Counsel to Messrs Kassim Olajide and Aliyu Ngaba Abiola (“our clients”). We believe they are also members of the MKO Abiola family, being his biological children.

“We are constrained to react to the said press release, not only because it did not give the correct factual situation, but more significantly, because it appears, albeit obliquely, to question our retention and bona fides as counsel engaged to handle Suit No: REF538792020: KASSIM OLAJIDE ABIOLA & ALIYU NGABA ABIOLA V COMMISSONER OF POLICE LAGOS STATE.

“We were personally briefed to handle the above brief through series of telephone calls on Sunday, 6th and Monday, 7th September, 2020, by Mrs Olive Abiola, the very Cameroonian mother of the duo, who lives in Zimbabwe, and who told me she sought and got my numbers through a Nigerian friend of hers and through internet.

“We never knew her in person and have never met her before the said brief, and up till now.

“It is therefore professionally unfair and extremely preposterous for anyone (let alone a law firm), to suggest, imagine, or even day-dream, that at our level, we would ever jump up and take up a matter we have not been properly and adequately briefed on to handle. We are the more taken aback that such a most unfounded allegation could ever be made against us, and signed by Mr Debo Adeleke, on behalf of the above law firm.

“The reason is simple. The said Mr Adeleke knew the undersigned better, way back in the 90s, when we were lawyers to Chief Great Ogboru and his company, FIOGRET NIG LTD, whom he (Adeleke) worked for as a non-lawyer, in a senior management capacity. We had therefore interacted severally for many years, for him to know that we would never jump into a case we had no authority to handle.

“Upon being fully briefed to handle the matter, we instructed our senior lawyers, Messrs Chimaobi Onuigbo and Ejieke Onuoha, to go and meet physically with, and interview Messrs Kassim Olajide Abiola and Aliyu Ngaba Abiola, the two detained children of late Chief MKO Abiola.

“This was after we had been fully briefed by their biological mother, Mrs Olive Abiola. This, our lawyers did on Monday, 7th September, 2020, five clear days after the children’s illegal detention. Section 35(5)(a) of the 1999 Constitution prescribes a reasonable time of 24-hours detention.

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“The two detained young men gave our lawyers further full verbal briefing, in addition to that already given by their mother via series of telephone conversation.

The statement averred that Mrs Adebisi Abiola wasn’t joined in the suit deliberately, continuing that:

“The facts as copiously given to us by both mother and detained children were so ugly that we could easily have joined Mrs Adebisi Abiola as second defendant in the fundamental rights matter, a move we however advisedly and cautiously discarded.

“We did this because the undersigned was a close ally of late Chief MKO Abiola and his children, especially Hafsat, in the long-drawn battles of the June 1993 struggle to reclaim his stolen Presidential mandate. Everyone in Nigeria knows that Abiola paid the supreme redemptive price for our democracy. Only very few Nigerians have, perhaps, written or participated on, issues surrounding Chief Abiola and the June 12 struggle, as much as the undersigned had done.

“This is all so evident on Internet. It was to skillfully manage this delicate situation that we sued only the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, who is directly illegally holding over the two children in the SARS custody. We also did this to prevent any schism in the Abiola clan.

“It is therefore preposterous and insultive in the extreme for Mr Debo Adeleke to have termed a proper brief given to the law firm of Mike Ozekhome ‘s Chambers by the detained persons and their mother as “the wrong and ill-advised move by a third party who is not a known member of the family in filing a fundamental right enforcement suit for the release of Kassim and Aliu Abiola”. Let us ask some germane questions here.

Expressing more concerns, the statement raised further issues thus:

“When did blood consabguinuity become the determining factor as whether or not a lawyer should take up a brief he has been voluntarily approached to handle by some willing clients?

“The press release by Mr Adeleke was made on the 12th of September, 2020, on behalf of Mrs Adebisi Abiola, 11 whole days after the Abiola children’s detention; 6 whole days after our Chambers was consulted to handle the matter; 3 whole days after the fundamental rights matter was eventually filed on Wednesday, 9th September, 2020.

“It was fixed for hearing on Friday, 11th September, 2020, being a very urgent matter. The presiding Judge was having her last day in court as the vacation Judge of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja division. This was why she adjourned the matter to the 15th of October, 2020, after court resumption.

“This is the normal development that Adeleke’s law firm appeared to have gloated over with glee and eclat. Were 11 whopping days not enough for the Abiola family members he claims to represent to put their internal acts together and cause the release of these young innocent men who are presumed innocent under section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, until arraigned in court and the contrary is proved?

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Ozekhome denied any woman working in his Chambers in Lagos office who was claimed to have made appearance on behalf of the Chambers, while he described as spurious reasons for continued detention of his clients by the Police.

“It is laughable and ludicrous in the extreme to suggest that the bails for the illegally detained children was thwarted by the mere appearance “of a lawyer from the law firm of Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN in company of a woman (who) stormed the Lagos State Police Command and informed the Police of the suit filed in court for the enforcement of the fundamental rights Messrs Kassim and Aliu Abiola”. How? For the avoidance of doubt, no such unnamed woman works in our Chambers in our Lagos office.

“Is Mr Adeleke telling the whole world that the detained Abiola children’s release on administrative bail was ‘thwarted’ (after 9 days of illegal detention) by the mere coincidental presence of our lawyers to serve the Police with the motion on notice court processes, as ordered by the court, after the ex parte hearing?

“How could our lawyers’ mere presence at a Police Station to serve the police court-ordered processes have led to: “the unfortunate turn of events (that) hangered (sic) Chief Mrs Adebisi Abiola and other members of the family and they were thoroughly embarrassed”? so, you are telling the world they are actually the hidden puppeteers behind the poor children’s ordeal, since they have the power to order their release?

“Were our lawyers part of the Abiola family meeting where it was allegedly decided that the children be released? Were they ever apprised of this decision (if any)? No. Never!!!

“Did anyone inform the detained children that “frantic efforts to get them released on bail” were already being made by “other members of the family”, as stated in Mr Adeleke’s press release? If so, why would the said detained children still subsequently go ahead and verbally reaffirm their mother ‘s earlier telephone briefing of our law firm at a meeting with our Messrs Onuigbo and Onuoha at the SARS detention cell in Ikeja?

The lawyer insisted that the detention of his clients were in clear breach of the Constitution saying:

“We are appalled, reading the entire press release of Mr Adeleke, to the effect that the only reason why the Abiola children are still being illegally detained for nearly two whole weeks, is not because anything incriminating was ever found with them after several searches in their personal homes (and as averred to in the affidavit evidence before the court), but for the following extra-legal and extra-judicial reasons which are not connected with the alleged robbery incident. Mr Adeleke’s said press release made the following revealing facts:

“It is on record that while the policemen were interviewing the family members, Mr Kassim Abiola conducted himself in a very rude, ungentlemanly, provocative, embarrassing and suspicious manner and all efforts by other members of the family to make him act in a responsible manner failed.

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“It is further on record that Mr Kassim did not only throw tantrums at the Police but equally threatened to deal ruthlessly with one of the senior police officers whom he (Kassim) claimed to know personally to the extent of describing the senior police officer ‘s car and the location where he will deal with him.

According to Mr Adeleke’ s press release, “these unguarded vituperations and violent conducts by Mr Kassim infuriated the Police and he was subsequently invited for further interrogation for demanding for the presence of the policemen in his father’s house. It is equally noteworthy to mention here that his younger brother Aliu Abiola joined him in his tirade of abuse against the police men who were only trying to interview them and all other persons at the residence with a view to investigating the crime.

“The Police subsequently arrested Mr Kassim Abiola, Mr Aliu Abiola and seven others for further questioning regarding the investigation of the robbery incident which the police suspected to have been carried out through the active connivance of a member of the family or staff considering the ease with which such an ugly armed robbery incident was carried out”.

“Good gracious! So all this is about balming the over-bloated ego of the Superhuman Police Officers!!! So we have descended to the pitiable state of nadir that an altercation with police officers will make them keep the victims perpetually in their dungeon?

“Now that Mr Adeleke ‘s law firm has told the whole world that Abiola’ s two children are being illegally detained by the police for nearly two weeks, not necessarily in connection with a robbery incident, but because of their “ungentlemanly, provocative, embarrassing and suspicious manner” with which they treated our imperial Police Officers, can he now kindly deploy the same “honour and integrity of late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola and his selfless cum monumental sacrifice he made for the nation during his lifetime”, which led Abiola to pay “the supreme price in sacrificing his life got Nigeria”, as he proudly put it ( which we verily believe ) to also massage the ego of the concerned Police Officers to kindly release the duo of Kassim and Aliu Abiola from illegal detention, please? Do they not also deserve to have a decent life, free from intimidation, harassment and humiliation, like all other Abiola children?

“We are waiting. Let those who have power use it with discretion, because power is ephemeral. Let the members of the Abiola family that Mr Adeleke claims to be representing release these innocent Abiola sons by another woman immediately.

“Tell the police officers to stop playing God. They are not. Like the Lord said to Moses, “go to the King and tell him that the LORD, the God of Hebrews, says ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship Me’” [Exodus 9:1], he concluded.

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