Questioning Conscience of Counsel
From the word counsel, one can say the original ambition of the word is to render advice. Barristers or legal advisers conducting a case are referred to as counsel – those who give advice as a result of consultation. Like everyone else, they are supposed to have conscience.
The dictionary gives the meaning of conscience as a person’s moral sense of right and wrong. Example, “he had a guilty conscience about his desires”.
This article is coming pursuant to a clip I received from a friend this morning, taken out of the popular Berekete family reality television talk show, that focuses on human rights, with special bias to the rights of the downtrodden.
I was touched to the point of emotion when I watched the narration of a father, who introduced himself as Sani Umar, from Kano. Sani Umar told the sad story of how his 8-year-old daughter, Aisha Sani, was murdered, after being kidnapped on her way back from Islamiyya school, by the childhood friend of her mother, his wife.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Sani Umar told the crowd how the decomposed corpse of his 8years old daughter was discovered in a well, after she was abducted on her way home by a woman, Fadila, his wife’s childhood friend. Fadila was not only a childhood friend of his wife, but a frequent visitor to the family.
The anguish started when her sister, Mama, said Aisha had accompanied aunty to buy biscuit. The aunty gave me one biscuit and said Aisha should follow her to buy another biscuit. From then on, we started looking for her everywhere without success, which made me to report to the police, who in turn directed me to the anti kidnapping section.
The next day, my wife and I received text messages saying, Aisha is with us, and that they would not release the girl until we gave them N20million. He said the messages were sent in piecemeal, after which, the phone would be switched off. We negotiated to N10 million, with a threat that they would kill her if the money is not paid.
While we were on that, they said I should take out N80, 000 out of the money and give my wife to take to a location at a female toilet in Nasarawa Hospital, Kano. I took my wife, wrapped the money in a black polythene bag and she dropped it at the specified location.
We thought we would receive Aisha as agreed, but their phone was off and we waited at the hospital gate un end. I told my wife to go back and check if the bag was removed. She came back to say, yes it was removed. We waited for good six hours, without the arrival of the car that would deliver Aisha.After all efforts to secure the release of the child proved abortive, he contacted the DSS and the police, through whose relentless efforts, Fadila was arrested.
“The most painful aspect of it was that Fadila came to our house the Friday before the kidnap on Saturday, and my wife designed beautiful lalle flowers on her hands. While my wife was doing the lalle, she asked her which Islamiyya school Aisha attends. Aisha herself answered innocently that she attends Ihiya’ussunna, not knowing that it was a plan to abduct her. It may interest you to know that I used to take care of the family’s medical bills, her husband inclusive. At one time, when she had a miscarriage, I footed the entire medical bill “. -Sani Umar.
The main reason of writing this article is to ask about the conscience of some of our lawyers, because, according to Sani Umar, the criminal Fadila, engaged a female lawyer, who, during cross examination, asked him about 120 questions, one of which was why did he report the matter to the police and the DSS?
Can you imagine? Someone’s daughter was kidnapped and killed, and someone has the effrontery to question the rationale of reporting the matter to the police. All in the name of playing a counsel.
Although a lawyer friend had told me the weighty nature of murder trial, and because the matter has to do with culpable homicide, the trial is not only done thoroughly, but a good defence would strive to get technical loopholes, no matter how silly, all the same, methinks in doing that, the counsel must always act according to the dictates of his or her conscience.
The Sani Umar case is not something that happened recently; it happened sometimes in 2019. Long before the case of little and beautiful Hanifa. I don’t know the position of the case now, whether the suspect had been convicted or discharged, but its a case that would continue to question the conscience of the counsel.
The accused was a lady. The victim was a girl. The lawyer was a lady and the judge was also a lady, as narrated by the father of the girl killed.
Late chief Gani Fawehenmi, SAM, SAN, once told me that, before accepting any brief, his law firm always juxtapose the morality of the case against its legality. Where there is any thing that conflicts with his conscience, he was never afraid to turn down the case on moral grounds. In other words, he was putting morality above legality. That was Gani Fawehenmi, the Senior Advocate of the Masses, SAM. May Allah forgive his sins, ameen
Counsels with conscience should work towards the original ambition of the word, by rendering advise in concert with its meaning, out and out.
It is heartless, insensitive and cold-hearted, for a counsel to subject a victim in court, to some silly and unsympathetic questions, under the guise of looking for technical loop holes. If Gani, SAM, can engage morality, I think other lawyers with conscience can also do same.
Share your thoughts on the story with NigerianSketch in the comments section.