By Uche Amunike
Here’s the second part of the brilliant interview granted by the controversial Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, Principal Partner, Malcolm Omirhobo & Co. I culled it from the Guardian Newspaper and he bared his mind on trending national issues that will surely interest you, as he fielded questions from Chijioke Iremeka of the Guardian Newspaper. Recall that he was the fair complexioned lawyer that wore ‘native doctor’ attire to one of Nnamdi Kanu’s court cases, months back. I most sincerely apologize for not sending it last week. It was as a result of circumstances beyond me. Please read…
What’s your position on the Supreme Court’s judgement, which gives Muslim faithful the right to wear hijab in public school as part of their uniform?
I’ll borrow a leaf from the words of the dissenting judgment of Hon. Justice Okoro Inyang. He said the reasoning of the justices of the Supreme Court majority that held that decision was right, but their conclusion was wrong. I must state categorically that the judgment of the Supreme Court must be complied with. It’s an order and decision. It’s a judgment; it’s a decision that must be upheld and must be followed. But understanding the power that they have, they ought to have been very careful coming to that decision. Every school will now have to wear hijab, even in missionary schools. So, if you come to my school, I have a Baptist Missionary College and you know the dress code, but because of that judgment, you can come to my missionary Baptist School and wear hijab. It doesn’t make sense. They did it in Kwara State and they brought it to Lagos. The Lagos High Court judge, the Court of First Instance, did well by saying ‘no, you cannot do that, because hijab is not part of the education of the child.’ Hijab is not part of the fundamental rights of the child. Even, the hijab is not something that is fundamental to worship in Islam; it’s not a must be. So, what happened before now, when people weren’t going to schools with hijab? Did they die? Did it make them more pious, more religious, or close to God? It has not. So, it is the judgment of the Supreme Court. I disagree with it, but then, we must comply with it. I’m a trained lawyer and must comply with this. The Lagos State must comply with it hoping it’s upturned. You must comply with it. Everybody must wear a hijab and everybody must also wear his or her religious clothes for worship to school and to anywhere. That’s why I also went to the Supreme Court dressed in my Igbe clothes.
So, we will comply with the judgment of the Supreme Court. I’m aware of a family that said its children would go to school dressed in Igbe. Are you going to take that away from them? If you don’t accept them, it’s discriminatory. If you allow this person to wear religious attire to school because it’s the mood of the person’s worship, and you say no to another, it becomes violation of their fundamental rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Then, if you must allow others to do the same, how do you think Nigeria would look like where you see Rastafarians, you identify them; you see celestial that wears dread locks, you recognise them. Does it make sense? We now leave our lives and face religion. Religion is a private right and private right cannot override the public right or interest. No right is absolute as far as law is concerned. Once everybody is not allowed, then it becomes the violation of rights to he or she that were not allowed.
Section 10 of the Constitution whittles down Section 38, which is that Nigeria is a secular state. Or that nobody or state should adopt any religion as a state religion; the federal, state and the Federal Capital Territory. Nobody should adopt a particular religion as his or her own. What’s adoption? It means this is not actually your own, then you take it and cater for it. That the government does not have any religion, but the government has taken part of a particular religion and adopt it. Adoption means taking; when you take, you’re going to cater for, you’re going to sponsor, you’re going to protect, you’re going to advance. These are the things you have to do for anything you adopt, because it becomes your own.
So, saying that people can wear hijab in the public schools now funded with public funds, then, the implication is that you’re now propagating Islam over and above other religions. Okay, you will now say, why did other people not wear theirs to school? No, they won’t, because they know that Nigeria is a circular state. How do you feel as a teacher when you see a child with charm in your class, will you feel safe? So, this is why I’m in the forefront of activism in Nigeria, because I have seen what Nigeria did for me, not directly.
I’m one of the people that have seen that out of every N1:00, every kobo counted. N1:00 I saw then is now equivalent to N100, 000 today. I’m not kidding you; I saw it. It was painful that people from poor background, people who Nigeria had shown love and gave everything – Babaginda and Obasanjo among others – but see what they have done to Nigeria. I saw unity, I saw peace, and I saw love among Nigerians. That’s why when I see all these happening, it pains me that it is the same people that Nigeria has shown love from poor backgrounds that are the ones doing this to this country. That’s why I do my own in any little way I can, to speak for the voiceless, because majority of Nigerians have been highly oppressed and subjugated.
Coming to crisis at the Supreme Court, especially what played out when the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Hon. Muhammad Tanko resigned and the controversies that followed it, what’s your take?
First of all, I will say that I warned Nigerians about honourable Justice Tanko, that he wasn’t the right person for that position in terms of competence. Go and find out, I said it and I’m saying it again that he was not a fit and proper person. I said he wasn’t the competent person to be the CJN; it is on record. I filed six cases against Tanko to ensure that he didn’t assume the office. If you want, I’ll give you the particulars. Six cases, but nobody listened to me. Today, we can see the damage he has done. He continued to complain each time about corruption. Any gathering he attended, he would talk about corruption. He sings corruption, whereas he does the opposite. He cried that there was no money in the Supreme Court, but he received more money than the past Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, that’s the heads of the judiciary. But what did he do with the money? He converted it to personalised race. He had more money than others, but he was holding it, using the money meant for the fellow brothers at the bench for himself and his family. The Nigerian judiciary was dying in silence until the Supreme Court Justice was able to complain. When they complained, you know it has gone beyond redemption. We used to say something like ‘judiciary should not be seen but heard,’ but that is wrong. Who says the judge cannot sue the government? Who says the judge cannot sue the Supreme Court? I don’t know where we got that from and they were dying in silence until they have to complain. So, the man is corrupt; he converted money.
A day before I went to Supreme Court in Igbe outfit, I wrote the CJN and NJC. The first letter to NJC, I said, ‘give me the amount that you received from the Federal Government that is standing to the credit of the Supreme Court.’ You know how that works, the judiciary, the police, INEC… everybody gives his estimates to the executive.
The executive will now look into it and agree or disagree. Then, it sends it to the National Assembly, which will approve this money through appropriation. Once appropriated, the money that comes to the judiciary is sent to the NJC and it (NJC) will now, from the Federation Account, distributes it to the heads of courts as provided by the Constitution. So, by this, I now asked the NJC to give me the money since 2019 to date that they gave the honorable justice Tanko to run the Supreme Court. That I want to know how much they received and how they disburse. Interestingly enough, they responded. I have given the documents to the accountant, but one of my friends said, ‘no, that was not what you asked for, you asked for an unedited account, but they gave you an audited account. What you asked for was the raw figure. They should tell you how much they received and how much they disbursed simple.’
So, that was not what I asked; I gave them seven days to do so. On the part of Justice Tanko, on the fifth day of this letter, he resigned. Note that before I appeared to the Supreme Court on Igbe cloth, I had sent a letter to NJC and Tanko in his capacity as the head of the Supreme Court based on the Freedom of Information Act 2011. I have explained what I asked the NJC to give me, which they have given to me, but not what I wanted. But, Tanko on the fifth day of seven days, resigned on health grounds. Well, many will not want to say this, but I tell you that he didn’t want to be embarrassed and he knew I was going to do that. Look, which Africa go resign? He’s ready to die. The fire was too much on him from all angles, not me alone, everybody wanted him out and he had to leave. On Arise TV, I said I was going to text him and I’ll find out whether he will not answer me. People are still asking me whether I’m going to continue now that he had resigned or I should quit; they want me to continue. They said that I didn’t write him as a person, but the office. So, the new person should render those accounts. That’s where we are on the matter now. Also, I need to clear the Nigerian public before they will say that I have collected money and dropped the case.
Concluding Part to be Sent Next Week…