A former Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Uwemedimo Nwoko, alleged that your problem is that you lack proper mentoring, and the fact that you never had any form of pupilage is the cause of your problems. That you haven’t learned to say ‘as the court pleases’ and other nuances of the legal profession. What is your response to this? 

“Let me be frank with you, I was going to ignore the vituperations of Mr. Nwoko, SAN against me because I firmly believe that every rational person that watched the widely circulated interview that he granted to malign me would easily decipher that his assertions were actuated by malice, made in bad faith and dictated by uncontrollable vindictiveness. You know in this part of the world when a younger person responds to an elder, some people will see it as an insult, irrespective of what the elder may have done or said against the younger person. So, I initially did not want to respond to him.”

“But, on second thoughts, if I do not respond, the remarks he made may be referenced in the future, and mistaken as truth. I was on the same flight with Nwoko, SAN from Uyo to Abuja on July 25, 2022. As I boarded the aircraft, I saw him seated in one of the front seats. I greeted him by saying Learned Silk, good afternoon Sir. He just smiled dismissively, and I passed. Every single time that I meet Mr. Nwoko, I always accord him respect. Even though I fundamentally opposed the way he conducted himself while in office as Attorney-General (AG) and do not share his political ideology, I have never treated him with disdain. I have always greeted and respected him, as my senior at the Bar. Regrettably, Mr. Nwoko does not reciprocate the courtesy that I accord him. He has consistently sought to put me down. With the sort of bitterness and animosity that he exudes towards me, one may be tempted to think that I made advances toward his wife or that I eloped with his daughter. How else would you describe the sort of condescending and diabolical comments that he made against me, while I was in prison? He showed neither empathy nor a desire for justice. I am much younger than him in age, and at the Bar. But, he reacted to my incarceration as if I were competing with him. He has always treated me, as someone who is a threat to his source of livelihood and standing in the society.”

“For the benefit of those who do not know, Mr. Nwoko’s animosity towards me assumed a dangerous dimension after a certain young man by the name of Kufre Carter was arrested in April 2020 by the SSS on the instigation of the Akwa Ibom State Government, over alleged defamation. The case was politically motivated, legally indefensible, and initiated in a desperate attempt by the State Government to cover the perceived fraudulent manner that the government handled funds collected from donors to contain the spread of Covid-19. I took up the case of the young man, pro bono. Mr. Nwoko SAN was the AG at the time. The Chief Magistrate Court had imposed stringent bail conditions on Carter, including that he should produce a surety who must be a Permanent Secretary or a level 17 Civil Servant, and imposed a bail bond of N3 million. I filed a motion at the High Court, praying for a variation of the onerous bail conditions. Mr. Nwoko decided to personally oppose the application. He appeared in court in person as the AG and argued against variation of the bail. The High Court aligned completely with my submissions and totally discountenanced his arguments. Mr. Nwoko saw the ruling as a fatal humiliation, given the public attention that the case had elicited. Before the legal fireworks began in the court on the day the motion was heard, Mr. Nwoko said to me loudly during the hearing of everyone, “Inibehe, are you aware that your client has apologised to the Governor?” I responded by telling him that there was no apology from my client, and that, in any event, it is the Governor who should apologise to my client for the violation of his rights. He said to me, “Is that so?” and I answered him in the affirmative.”

“The State Government was desperate to get a soft landing through undeserved apology, given the anger of the public over the dubious charge which was eventually thrown out by the trial court. I was also determined to ensure that the government did not resolve the case based on their sinister and oppressive terms, to make them understand that in this country, not everyone will prostrate before corrupt politicians. That was why Nwoko, SAN could not accept the decision of the learned Judge, which set aside all the stringent bail conditions imposed by the Chief Magistrate Court.”

“Immediately the High Court delivered a ruling against him, Mr. Nwoko served us with a frivolous Notice of Appeal and a baseless motion for stay of execution, which is almost unprecedented in the history of legal practice in Nigeria. I am not aware of any precedent where the State represented by the AG, filed an appeal against an order varying bail conditions of a Defendant with a motion for stay of execution. How do you stay the liberty of a citizen, whose fundamental right to liberty is guaranteed by Section 35 of the Constitution? Bail is at the discretion of the court. It was a clear case of persecution. I felt scandalised as a Lawyer. The SSS told me that Mr. Nwoko had written to them, not to comply with the order of the High Court. It was nothing short of prosecutorial misconduct, and gross abuse of office. But because impunity has become a culture in this country, people like Mr. Nwoko, SAN can afford to do whatever they like when they occupy public office, without consequences. I had resolved at the time to write a petition against him to the NBA. But, I reconsidered my decision and moved on, having secured the release of my client.”

“Since then, Nwoko, SAN has bitterly sought to denigrate me at the slightest opportunity. I have respect for Senior Advocates of Nigeria. It is a rank of distinction and honour. However, I believe that the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria would be thoroughly embarrassed by the comments and conduct of Mr. Nwoko. He said that I lack mentorship. That is false. There are a number of Senior Advocates of Nigeria that hail from Akwa Ibom State. I respect them. It is only Mr. Nwoko that has publicly and consistently sought to ruin me. He is a consultant to the Akwa Ibom State Government, and the Akwa Ibom State Government perceives me as their number one nemesis because I have consistently exposed and spoken out against their misrule. How can a learned Senior Advocate say that a lawyer does not know how to say “as the court pleases”? Is that not ridiculous? In the eight years of my practice, no Judge has ever accused me of insolence. I cannot recall ever disparaging any judge or senior colleague in court. His allegations against me are entirely false, and he knows it.”

“Do you know that Mr. Nwoko went to the extent of calling my lawyers Mr. Falana, SAN, Mr. Monday Ubani, and other senior Lawyers in the country and tried to poison their minds against me?  He is using his status as a SAN against me. But, history will vindicate the just.”

Credit: Culled from Inibehe’s interview with Thisday Newspaper of Tuesday, 6th September 2022.

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