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Gani and his many battles

In 1969, Gani handled a case     against the secretary to the military government of Benue-Plateau, Andrew Obaya, who was alleged to have snatched a peasant’s wife, Mallam Bala Abashi, leading to his first brush with detention which landed him in Kaduna prisons for refusing to withdraw from the case.

In 1971, he dragged the aide-de-camp (ADC) to the then Governor Alfred Diette-Spiff of Rivers State to court after he (ADC) ordered a reporter with observer newspaper, Mr Minere Amakiri, to be beaten, his hair shaved with an old blade and then bundled into detention for publishing a story that embarrassed the governor on his birthday. Gani won the case as the court awarded N10,000 damages to Amakiri.

Also in 1971, Gani defended the students of University of Ibadan before the Justice Kassim Commission of Inquiry over the killing of Adekunle Adepeju, an undergraduate who was shot dead during a students demonstration.
In 1985, Gani engaged the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in a battle of wits after he, in contravention of the NBA’s directive, appeared before the Decree 3 Tribunal (Recovery of Public Property (Special Military Tribunals) of 1984 to defend his clients. The NBA had threatened to open a book of roll of dishonour for any member that appeared before the tribunal. Gani took the NBA to court on the issue and won.

Several litigations

The murder in 1986 of Dele Giwa, the founding editor-in-chief of Newswatch magazine, by a parcel bomb, the first of its kind in Nigeria, led to several litigations initiated by Gani, Giwa’s friend and lawyer. The issue led to a record number of cases in which there were at least 214 court appearances and Gani appearing before 24 judges from the High Court to Supreme Court. The cases ranged from several applications of mandamus, libel, slander, seizure of books, assault and criminal defamation to contempt.
In 1994, Gani and his National Conscience Party, NCP, battled the then First Lady, Mrs Maryam Abacha, over the legality of her Family Support Programme, FSP, which attracted hundreds of millions of naira in donation by government agencies.

In 1995, Gani, leading the defence counsel in the case of murder against Ken Saro-Wiwa, the then president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and eight others, withdrew from the suit on the grounds that their continued appearance at the tribunal will serve no other purpose than to mislead the public into believing that the tribunal was set up to pursue justice.

In 1998, he had a traumatic experience in Bauchi  prisons under General Sani Abacha when he was kept in a cell meant for animals. Gani challenged his arrest and detention under Decree 2 which culminated in the landmark case that had to do with the interpretation of the African Charteron Human and Peoples Rights of which Nigeria is a signatory.
In 2002, Gani led 33 political associations to battle INEC over the bid to deny the right to operate as political parties.

 The activist legal trajectory of Fawehinmi encompases a gamut of various litigations in defence of the oppressed. For example, it was Fawehinmi that took up the legal battle for the reinstatement of the then dismissed controversial police officer, Alozie Ogugbuaja,  who expressed views on national issues that his superiors were uncomfortable with.
Culled from Prisoner J. 60, the legal struggles of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, and what it means for all of us, written by Richard Akinnola.


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