Retired Judge of the Court of Appeal, Benin Division, Edo State, Justice Fatima Akinbami, has appealed to President Bola Tinubu to engage more citizens in farming, ensure the public and private refineries work optimally, and amend the constitution to put the states in control of their natural resources.
According to Justice Akinbami whose valedictory service was held today in Edo State, the focus of the administration of President Tinubu should be vigorously directed at getting unemployed citizens to immediately engage in farming, in order for Nigeria’s foreign exchange to be used for more critical purposes to grow the economy.
Speaking at the event on behalf of the Body of SANs in the country, legal luminary, Dr. Bolanle Olawale Babalakin (SAN), decried what he described as the disgraceful condition of service of Nigerian judges.
The colourful and well-attended valedictory court session and book launch, in honour of Justice Akinbami, who bowed out of the bench at 70 took place at the Court of Appeal, Aiguobasimwin Road, Government Reservation Area (GRA), Benin, Edo State.
The launched 802-page book, titled: “Fulfillment of a Challenge,” was written by Justice Akinbami, and published by Pearl Publishers International Limited, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The events were also attended by Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu; a Director of Vintage Press Limited, the Publishers of The Nation Newspapers, Prof. Adebayo Williams; Justice Akinbami’s husband, Chief Kola Akinbami; and their three children, one with Doctorate in Law, while the other two are also lawyers.
The Esama of Benin Kingdom, Sir Gabriel Igbinedion; the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Benin Division, Justice Teresa Orji-Abadua; Justice Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo of Asaba, Delta State Division of the appellate court; the Chief Judge of Edo State, Justice Daniel Okungbowa; Edo Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi; and Chairman of Benin Branch/Lion Bar of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nosa Edo-Osagie; among other eminent personalities, also attended the events.
Akinbami, who clocked 70 on August 15, 2023, but the valedictory court session could not be held then, in view of the annual vacation of judges of the Court of Appeal, said: “I am now a member of the select group of elders of our nation. I have the privilege as a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal, to speak on our nation Nigeria.
“On May 29, 2023, a new democratically-elected administration took oath of office. This ushered in new conditions, some are biting very hard. Life is generally hard for the generality of Nigerians. I know as a fact that food items are barely affordable for a great number of our people in all walks of life.
“I have travelled to the six geographical zones of Nigeria, and I observed that a large number of people are not gainfully employed. Adults wake up in the morning, and instead of going to work, they play the game of Ludo, others sit and watch Nollywood movies from morning till night. Most parts of the country are not desert. Therefore, they could be used for agricultural purposes.
“The focus of the new administration should be vigorously directed at getting unemployed citizens to engage in farming immediately. Food production must be pursued by all able-bodied adults. There is no alternative to food production locally. So, ordinary people in Nigeria would have basic food to eat. There is need to curtail the importation of food of any sort. Therefore, the pressure on the country’s foreign exchange would be used for more critical purposes to grow the economy.
“Another area that should be given consideration is the issue of importation of refined petroleum products. There is need for amendment to the constitution in the area of natural resources. The states ought to be allowed to be the main beneficiaries from the different minerals that exist in their states. The current situation is not equitable.”
The retiring judge, who was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 2012, also stated that there was no alternative to food production, but expressed displeasure that the many initiatives for food farming in Nigeria in the past had been abandoned by their initiators, thereby leaving room for shortage of food for the populace, while admonishing that there was the urgency to revamp all food production initiatives.
Akinbami expressed gratitude to the numerous dignitaries that honoured her with their presence and priceless gifts, as well as others who could not attend, but wished her well, while praying God to bless them and their families.
Babalakin said: “I knew some minutes ago that I am the most senior SAN here today. I do not have a prepared text, but I will speak from my heart. Justice Fatima Akinbami married my uncle, Chief Kola Akinbami, who is here. Justice Fatima Akinbami is a reflection of pedigree, scholarship, carriage and elegance.
“The condition of service of judges (in Nigeria) is a personal disgrace for every senior lawyer, that we have not put hands together to position the judiciary in its rightful place.
“We place a lot of responsibilities, expectations and weighty decisions before judges, yet we put them in positions where they do not have the command for the economic situation they ought to have.
“We emulate the English system, in terms of practising this way, but we are a poor contrast, because there is no jugde of the High Court of England that is not exceptionally comfortable. It is not possible to be a High Court judge in England, without being a person of considerable resources. We lawyers are guilty, and we must find a solution to this.
“Let me warn that nobody will do it for us, especially lawyers who go into government, because once they go into government, they become government officials, and they speak like government officials, not lawyers. Lawyers must realise that Law is a profession of distinction and comfort, where they must not lack anything. In any system where judges are not in a position to meet their needs effortlessly, that system will not ensure justice. Let us reposition Law, for the benefit of all.”
Edo deputy governor, in his remarks at the book launch, also stated that there was the need to improve on the welfare of judges, in view of their sensitive position in the society.
Shaibu thanked God for Justice Akinbami, with three children and sixteen grandchildren, to have retired in good health and sound mind by the grace of God, with unblemish careers at the bar and bench, while still being elegant at 70.
The President, Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, in her five-page address at the valedictory court session, described Justice Akinbami as a legal icon, devoted wife, nurturing mother, amiable grandmother and an avid golfer.
Dongban-Mensem, who was representated by Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Benin Division, Justice Teresa Orji-Abadua, noted that Justice Akinbami demonstrated unwavering commitment to the obligations entrusted to a judicial officer.
Orji-Abadua, in her five-page address as the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Benin Division, disclosed that Justice Akinbami was her cherished friend and revered colleague, whom she described as her big older sister, and a beacon of justice and integrity, with unwavering commitment to upholding the law and administering justice.
Edo Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, in his remarks, stated that the celebrator, royalty personified, had an illustrious judicial career and immensely contributed to the legal profession.
The chairman of NBA, Benin branch, who spoke on behalf of all the branches of the association in Edo state: Benin, Auchi, Igarra, Ekpoma, and Uromi, noted that Justice Akinbami always displayed hard work and determination, while she remained committed to equity, fairness and justice, declaring that she would be greatly missed.