By Innocent Anaba
Legal History Society of Nigeria, has been inaugurated with its maiden conference with the theme: “Does Legal History Matter?” held in Lagos.
The body, boast of imminent personalities as members, which include Chief Anthony Idigbe, SAN, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, SAN, Prof. Fidelis Oditah, QC, SAN, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN, for Attorney General of the Federation and former President of Nigerian Bar Associattion, NBA, Richard Akinnola, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, Thisday Newspaper Publisher, Mr Supo Shasore, former Attorney General of Lagos State, Prof. Philip Girard of Osgoode Hall School, Canada among others.
They noted at the event that preserving the legal history of the country in such a manner that it could be easily retrieved when needed, would assist future generations in terms of understanding the reasoning behind every piece of legislation.
Stressing the importance of legal history, Idigbe, SAN, who is President of the body, explained “If legal history is not preserved, we may be doing things the wrong way in the future or do them differently. “So, it is not just the issue of preserving legal history, it is about the ability to recall or retrieve it and use it. You should not work for what has been worked for in the past. We should be building on what has been worked for instead. In a situation where there is a gap between what we do today and what was done in the past, it will result in doing the things all over again and that will limit our experience. The more experienced you are, the easier it is to do things,” he said.
According to him, the society is trying to identify where the history can be found, retrieve it, and store it in a manner that it can be recalled, be it in the manner of electronic format, books and oral history.
Ajogwu, who chaired a panel on Legal History and Politics said, “If you don’t know the reason why certain laws are passed or what led to some reforms, the next time you are about to do it, you might not know how to proceed.
“If you listen to the debate on how certain laws are made, they aid in adjudication and deciding what was the mischief it sought to cure. We felt that it is important not just to be quoting English laws, we need to document our own legal history.” According to him, the case of Ahmed Tijani and Adesugba, a 1920s matter dealt with ownership and integrity of the judiciary at that time and specifically the politics of that time because the country was than a protectorate.
He further said, “If you drive around Ikoyi, Lagos, you will see Bourdilion and McPherson. Those are our history. We cannot just assume that future generations will know. They deserve to really know what our legal history was. That is what Legal History Society is doing – showing the nexus between laws and society, laws and religion as well as laws and politics. It touches every other thing because a lawless society is not a society.”
Speaking as a panelist on legal history and the role of newspapers, publisher of Thisday Newspapers, Mr. Obaignena said: “If you run a good company, you can attract investment from anywhere. We have to determine our future in 2023. It is how we build that future that will determine our development. And in doing that we need a strong legal institutions and services as well as a robust media.”
Akinnola, a media expart decried what he described as lack of research and in depth investigation among journalists and expressed optimism that the society would help to deepen learning in that area.
While Girard delivered the keynote address, Ojo, who chaired the event gave the opening speech.