No retreat No surrender says lawyer to Chioma the tomato paste reviewer

I think it is important for me to respond to those who have been pressuring me to advise Chioma Okoli to beg or settle with Erisco. My attitude to law practice and life in general is one of no compromise on matters of principle, truth and rule of law. I went to prison for one month for refusing to compromise and I am ready to be imprisoned again. But what I will never do is to capitulate. When the policemen sent by the IGP told me yesterday that they were acting on the orders of the IGP to re-arrest Chioma, I told them pointedly that the only way they will succeed in doing that is by breaking into her house and that the directive of the IGP is not superior to the restraining order of the court. They started throwing tantrums, one of them resorted to the usual “charge and bail” insult. I stood my ground despite their threats and bullying for the over ten hours that their illegal siege lasted. If we are going to restore confidence in our judicial and legal system, lawyers in Nigeria will need to stand up against the lawlessness of our law enforcement agencies and insist on the rule of law. In cases of human rights violation, we should always strive to defend the law and not yield to intimidation by law enforcement agencies. This idea that once a “big man” or a moneybag is the one instigating the police or the SSS, the victim has to apologize, cry and beg should not be promoted by lawyers. I have never been in favour of apologizing or settling out of court at gun point or under duress, particularly when I believe that the victim has not committed any crime. Even in cases where governors were the ones behind the arrest, I didn’t renege on this principle. For example, when the arrogant and incompetent former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, instigated the State Security Service to arrest a blogger, Kufre Carter during the Covid-19 pandemic over a viral audio recording which exposed the mismanagement of funds meant for the control of Covid-19, the then Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN insisted that Kufre must apologize to the governor as a condition for his release, I also insisted that it is the governor that must apologize to Kufre. Even when the State Government used the State Chapter of the NUJ to force and or cajole Kufre while in custody to write a so-called letter of apology to the governor, I rejected it when the Mr Nwoko brought it to the court in the name of seeking an out of court settlement. Eventually, we still defeated the State Government in court and Nwoko SAN never forgave me because he considered it as a personal humiliation given that he appeared personally in court to oppose our application for variation of the obnoxious bail conditions imposed by the Magistrate’s Court. It was not a surprise that when I was wrongly jailed by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State on a concocted claim of contempt of court, Nwoko granted a malicious interview attacking me and calling me unprintable names. Disdain has always been and will continue to be my posture towards impunity and abuse of human rights. I believe that the law is greater than money. We should not allow arrogant moneybags to use law enforcement agencies to silence their critics or opponents. If parties to a dispute are to settle, it has to be based on their own volition and not because the Inspector General of Police or anyone else has taken sides. The only way we will change our country is by insisting on doing what is right. Like I said, I served a prison term for standing up for the truth and I have no regrets. If we are too afraid of the price we may pay for not compromising then this country is doomed. I am stating this in response to those pressuring me to advise Chioma to prostrate before the CEO of Erisco Foods Limited, Chief Eric Umeofia. If she decides to do so, it’ll not be while I am representing her.
Those who are trying to convince me to change course on the Erisco matter should direct their time and attention to productive issues. Chioma is ready to pursue her rights through the courts and there is no going back on. Instead of wasting your time pressuring us to settle out of court, why not advise the IGP and Erisco to follow the due process of law? History will vindicate the just.


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