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Femi Falana left me at the mercy of judges – Funmi,wife

Funmi Falana is the wife of renown lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN. She speaks on her life as a legal practitioner and issues in the profession. Specifically, she shares her first experience in court with her husband.

By Simeon Ndaji

Everybody knows you are the wife of Lagos Lawyer Femi Falana. But from your own viewpoint, who is Mrs Funmi Falana?

I trained as  a lawyer – and  everything  about me: the  school I  attended,my family, where  I  was  born,my  marriage;and  I have  the zeal to defend the right  of  the masses. Everything combined to make me  what  I am today.

How  did you meet your  husband, Femi  Falana (SAN)?

I  can’t remember. How does that affect  the suffering masses. A lot  of  people  are dying everyday,and you are asking  how I met  my husband. Why don’t you ask  me about the society?

What have you  to say about the society?
My concern is that so many people are  dying,and some  people are stealing money. Look at  what happened in Port Harcourt,Rivers  State recently;as many as 96 people died. There  are so many senseless deaths that could have been averted if  we have responsible and responsive government. They would have evacuated everything  before  people came to scoop  the  fuel, at least the people did not come immediately to scoop the  product.

The appointment of  First  Lady Patience Jonathan as permanent secretary is  condemnable. Permanent  secretary is  a  career position and executive. Mrs  Jonathan stopped working  since 1999;and  I  learnt  she was on Sabbatical  and she was  brought  to head a portfolio. Is she going to jumble the job—in  Bayelsa and Abuja  at the same time?This is just a ploy to siphon government money. Does that suggest  that  the First  Lady will  shuttle between Abuja,perform her function quote and unquote, and  in Yenagoa where she is expected to sit behind her desk and perform the duties of  a permanent secretary?  It is  only in Nigeria  that such thing will happen;are we in Banana Republic?In America,will you ask Mrs  Obama to be in Chicago Illinois and in White House?

A new Chief  Justice for the federation has  just  been appointed, and  she is a woman. How do you assess  the appointment?

I commend the appointment of  Justice Aloma Mariam Muktar. It shows that women are coming up in Nigeria,and this is the first time a woman  is appointed  the Chief  Justice  Nigeria. In 1981,the same woman was made  the Chief Judge  in Kano, they said it was unIslamic to put  a  woman in a position  of  leadership,and she was transferred to Portugal. She spent 17 or 19 years marking time at the Court of Appeal just because she is  a woman.

Thank God she was able to wait until the right time she was remembered for such appointment. We also condemn  the ploy of government then not to make her  the Chief Judge of  Kano State. That same  woman is heading the judiciary of the whole country today. We know from her antecedents that she is  incorruptible and upright. We hope she is going to sanitise the  judiciary.

This appointment  is coming at  a time the judiciary is  at the lowest ebb,and people are almost losing confidence in the  organ of government. We  believe she will carry her uprightness to the judiciary,lift the image of this arm of  government,and chase out the bad eggs.

Let us talk about  the strangest thing  that happened to you?

I can’t remember any strange thing. So many strange things are happening in Nigeria that will not happen  in a civilised  country. That a First Lady  is made permanent secretary is strange in a civilised country, and it  is only in Nigeria  that  it can happen. An  Army General was butchered  under the bridge while people were passing, and,  up till now,  nobody has come up with any clue, is  that not strange?  A  lawmaker allegedly took a bribe of  $500,000  cash, and he put some in his pocket,some in his cap—is  this not strange?

Are there no strange things you have encountered in your life or your legal career?

The first day  I appeared in court several years ago;it was  in Appeal Court,and my Principal(Femi Falana) was  to lead me, but suddenly , he went to  the  toilet and the case was called in his absence; I felt like  the  ground should open and swallow  me  because I did not know  how to go about it. However, I managed to summon courage to talk… .There was another strange thing that happened in 1990 when the SSS people kidnapped my husband  very early in the morning and dumped him at  Epe and threatened him not  to criticise  government  again,and  Dr Beko Ransome Kuti was dumped  at Badagry  Road,and he was warned as well.


Some other time they came to arrest my husband,and we went to the  media  to shout and he was released. Another time they came, I told my husband this time  you’re not going anywhere. I locked him in the room and refused to allow them  to take him  away and, while I shouted  people gathered in  support, and the SSS people ran away. It is  very funny.

Do you agree with the claim  that Nigeria is neck deep  in corruption?
Corruption has become  an epidemic in our society,  from the top to bottom. This is really sad. The  problem is that,  today, corruption has become a norm. But, worse still, is that  the cankerworm has affected our justice system;.from the leadership—they are  so corrupt  to the extent that this anomaly has become a norm. It is all over…even in the Ministry  of Justice; movement of files from office to office cannot be divorced  from corruption. Every segment of the  society, the various arms of government—the Executive, the  House of Assembly and   parastatals, is  affected by the menace. Look at the Farouk  Lawan and Femi Otedola saga. We thought  Farouk is a man of  integrity, and that holds   until he clears himself  of the bribery saga.However,the giver and  taker  are both guilty. Those so accused should be investigated and subsequently charged. The  bribery  claim  should be investigated,and Farouk  and  Otedola  charged.

What  does the future hold for Nigeria?
To have   a  better   future, we must  rise up to fight  corruption. The leadership,policy makers,the press,the police,and the entire people of  Nigeria must be involved in this crusade against corruption.Those caught  in corrupt practices should  be prosecuted and corrupt  judges  rooted out. However,the case of Farouk case  should not   be  rushed,  rather it  should  be properly investigated.  It is sad that people can put in so much and we are getting so little. We have no choice, the struggle continues.

You mean  Nigerians  are adopting corruption as a  way of life?
No! I disagree. The problem is poverty! Nigerians  protest  even when the police try to extort money from them.

How come we are classified among the most corrupt nations in the world ?
Our leaders are very greedy and selfish. Others may blame their attitude on poverty. It is not poverty. Our country is so richly endowed with natural and human resources;  yet we suffer so much.

How can we eradicate corruption ?
We are so corrupt. Some said corruption was copied from  the Western world. I don’t believe corruption is alien.
Looking at what is happening in  our society today, you wake up one morning and,  all of a sudden,  somebody  becomes rich over-night. Nobody will ask him questions about this sudden wealth,rather he is celebrated in his community, and even in the larger society.

It was not so in those days. People will ask questions about your sudden riches. We must start from somewhere. We must introduce societal ethics, moral studies in  the school curricular; teach African values and norms. Start the process of re-orientation in our children.

I attended Missionary Catholic School, and we were taught moral studies. This is how we can begin the process of eradicating corruption in our society.

This panacea is a long term solution. What about  the short  term solution ?
We have to change the bad system to move forward.  One day, a leader may come to wipe out corruption, and proffer  a  lasting solution… Every Nigerian should be determined to root out corruption. People found guilty of corruption should go to jail. EFCC should be more serious to carry out investigation and to prosecute offenders.

The masses, the press (most importantly) should be serious in doing their job.



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