By Dele Sobowale
NOTE: Last week the first part ended without getting the real story published. This week, we publish the rest of this series.
This is developing to be a serious case of persecution of a Yoruba businessman by the Federal Government. Bi-Courtney had sued the Federal government for breach of contract and had been vindicated by the courts, both at the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
The Federal government had been ordered by the courts to pay damages. Instead of paying for its transgressions, the government had resorted to arm-twisting tactics. It shouldn’t be allowed to work. Part two concludes this series; part 3 exposes who is behind Babalakin’s travails. It is all about ethnic cleansing.
“Are you going to hang him anyhow and try him afterward?” Mark Twain, 1835-1910.
Here in Nigeria, millions of innocent people are railroaded into jail by being asked, or forced or intimidated, by law enforcement agents to write statements, which are later submitted as evidence, without a lawyer within ten kilometers of the interrogation room.
Why should Babalakin, a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, subject himself to that sort of travesty of justice – just to please the EFCC? As for those who would wonder why Babalakin, as a SAN, cannot handle his own case, the answer was provided to me, in 1966, by my surrogate father in the USA, late Mr Miller, a lawyer, when his friend, another lawyer engaged Miller to defend the friend on a charge.
I had asked Mr Miller why the friend was wasting his money engaging a lawyer when he was a lawyer himself. According to Miller, “A lawyer who has himself for a lawyer, has a fool for a lawyer”. Babalakin would have been a fool to go in there representing himself.
Then, last week, AMCON, relying on an ex-parte order of a court, went in search of Babalakin’s properties to seize on account of the alleged $13.5 billion owed to banks. On Monday, February 12, 2013, Babalakin called a press conference during which he claimed that, on the contrary, Bi-Courtney was the one owed N132.5bn by an order of Justice G Olotu, of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in a judgment delivered on April 5, 2012. That is almost ten months ago. I will discuss the suit next week.
On Wednesday, February 13, 2013, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, apparently representing AMCON, called his own press conference, asserting that Babalakin owes the banks, not N13.5bn but N60bn. Agbakoba, then made a curious observation, he claimed that Babalakin “was using the rule of law to avoid payment of his debt”, according to the PUNCH report of Wednesday, 13, 2013, on page 26.
The question which one must ask Agbakoba, since he represents those torturing Babalakin, is: “what else can a law abiding citizen use but the rule of law?” If Babalakin is “using the rule of law” (their own words if the PUNCH report is correct) then they must be adopting the rule of the jungle – might is right. Next week, readers will see that, indeed, the Federal government and its agencies are acting like lawless brutes in this case.
Furthermore, it is interesting that Agbakoba, who apparently has disdain for anyone “using the rule of law”, failed to acknowledge the outstanding judgment in favour of Bi-Courteny and Babalakin. More to the point, if AMCON says Bi-Courteny, or any other customer for that matter, owes N13.5bn, what business is it of a legal counsel to inflate the figure to N60bn?
Finally, everybody, even those with fading memory, should recollect that a few years ago, the abuse of ex-parte injunctions, by courts, was nationally condemned – especially, when the subject matter cannot disappear if due process is followed. It is inconceivable that Bi-Courtney could very quickly dispose of its assets at Ikoyi, Trans-Amadi Layout and Abuja and escape from the country without the knowledge of AMCON and the banks.
So, why, in the interim, seal the properties, strangle the company, as well as other businesses sharing the premises, which are not part of Bi-Courteny? Jungle justice can hardly be better defined than that. And if Babalakin is “using the rule of law” to fight injustice, then he has my support. The tyranny of governments, even if demonstrated in subtle ways, should be condemned by all right thinking people.
If you think the title is unnecessarily alarming, then, you don’t know what impact persecution by government can bring about. It can result in mental illness and premature death. Already, the Federal government and everybody, who has followed this story, knows that Babalakin is not fully fit.
They chased him all the way to his hospital ward; and camped around the hospital to prevent his “escape”. Today, one Maina cannot be found. While Babalakin was charged with helping Ibori to launder Ibori’s money, Maina is alleged to have stolen the funds himself.
Despite that difference, it is Babalakin who is being hounded. It is simply not fair. And you can bet, if Babalakin is ever convicted, which I doubt, he will not receive a slap on the wrist such as the one delivered by Justice Talba to a convict from the “right” part of Nigeria. As a former inmate of Abacha’s detention centres, I have seen people slump and die before help could reach them in their cells.
Today, it is Bi-Courtney. Tomorrow, it could be First Bank Plc or Shell. Today, it is citizen Babalakin who is being hammered mercilessly. Tomorrow it could be citizen Dele Sobowale.