By Abdulrasheed Ibrahim, Esq.
The rate at which paternity crisis is rocking the land this time around is becoming overwhelmingly disturbing. Recently, Adam Nuhu, a former Managing Director of FCMB was in the news. He was accused of being the father of children bore by one Moyo who was a former employee of the bank. Moyo was married to a man by name Thomas who had the impression that those children were his but when the truth eventually came out according to the report that the children were not his, Thomas suffered a stroke and later died of heart depression. This incident shook the nation to its root as different versions of stories were spreading on the social media like a wild fire. The Central Bank of Nigeria and the management of the FCMB were put under serious pressure to sanction the man in the news. The group clamouring for that sanction seemed to carry the day as Adam Nuhu was asked to proceed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation. A woman was brought on board to replace him in that position.
As if that was not enough, series of conflicting stories continued to emerge from the social media. While a story had it that the wife of the man in the news, Mrs Hauwa Nuhu was about engaging a lawyer to institute a divorce proceedings against her husband , another one came up that there was nothing of such. Another story was put on social media by those called Moyo’s friends debunking the allegation against her as unfounded and that her children really belonged to her late husband, Mr. Thomas and not to Mr. Adam Nuhu. When the controversy seems to be dying down and going into oblivion, a High Court Judge in Delta State was reported to have summoned the gentlemen of the press addressing them in a press conference disclosing his own share of paternity crisis. As if Justice Anthony Ezonfade Okorodas wanted to avoid the Nuhu Adam’s social media episode, he said:
“…This Press Statement is important in order to prevent damaging speculations, half-truths and outright lies from persons who may want to cash in on the tragedy that has befallen my home. Sometime during the coronavirus lockdowns early last year, I received information from an anonymous source that indicated that the last of three children from my previous marriage was in fact not my biological child. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions at the time, I had to wait until August 2020 to carry out a DNA test. The DNA test result which came out in September 2020 confirmed that I was not the biological father of the child… This repulsive act of my ex-wife prompted me to conduct DNA test in respect of the other two children. A few days ago, the results came out. Sadly, none of them is my biological child… ”
The can of worms opened by the judge has brought about a great argument among lawyers. While some lawyers have saluted the courage of the judge for opening the can of worms, some have condemned the judge for making the declaration openly. Mr. Frank Tietie, a human rights lawyer lambasted the judge for going public with the declaration saying:
“…Such adult children that are affected by an unwarranted public disclosure of DNA test results must be quick to institute legal proceedings against such a father. The legal action must first to subject the man who made such public disclosure of DNA test results, to some form of psychiatric testing in order to determine his well-being, as to his state of mind…”
But another lawyer, Chidi Peter Agbaneje, in a post thought otherwise by putting the blame at the doorstep of the Judge’s ex-wife, who is also a lawyer by saying :
“By foisting children she knew belonged to another man on her ex-husband, Barr Juliet Ototo arguably committed paternity fraud , conduct incompatible with her status as legal practitioner, and should be appropriately be disbarred.”
Agbaneje’s view generated mixed reaction as some lawyers were asking him whether the issue has anything to do with the Legal Practitioner Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) to warrant the debarment of the ex-wife. To another lawyer: “ The judge did very wrong in his actions. Imagine the case of the little boy whom he claims the mum left him when he was only six. Too callous of the judge”. My own question to this was : “If the judge had not spoken ,what would have happened on social media? Have people forgotten the recent incident of the FCMB’s MD now on leave?” With the debate still raging, I submitted further: “Please re-read the judge’s press release .He has not given up the responsibility. If he didn’t speak the self-appointed spokespersons on social media will blow the issue out of proportion.”
The Judge having opening the can of worms, I am of the view that the burden is now on the Judge’s ex-wife to tell the world her own side of the story .Happily the woman in question is a lawyer. The arguments being canvassed by the human rights lawyer, Mr. Frank Tietie are those to be very useful and relevant in the court of law and not in the court of public opinion. They may even find the case of ANOZIA Vs. NNANI (2015) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1465) 241 on issue of paternity very instructive. The woman owes those innocent children the duty to let them know who really is their father .She needs to act urgently in her own interest and that of the children. In Yoruba land, they have a saying that “it is a woman or a wife that really knows the father of her child or children”. According to the judge’s press release, the woman having admitted that the last child was not judge’s, if she is very sure that the other two children are that of the judge, she should immediately as a lawyer takes proper step to challenge the DNA results being relied upon by the judge. Those children should not be allowed to live in total depression for the rest of their life. It is their mother that can save the situation if she really has conscience. The judge had already said it that he has left his ex-wife and her boyfriend to their conscience. Truly “conscience is an open wound ,only truth can heal it” as propounded by Shiekh Usmanu Dan Fodiyo and adopted by the Guardian Newspaper.
I was moved to tears the other day when reading an article written by Chief Dare Babarinsa, a great historian and columnist few years back titled “Gowon is human ,fate is not” where he narrated the story of how General Yabuku Gowon after about 48 years came out to accept the paternity of a son. According to Babarinsa : “Last week, General Gowon issued a brief statement stating that after 48 years, he has come to accept the paternity of Musa. He wanted the public to respect the privacy of his family in this period now Musa needs rehabilitation after serving more than two decades in an American prison…” The story was a very pathetic one that justifies a novelist’s title “The Rich also cry”.
Part of the contention of Mr. Frank Tietie was that: “the public disclosure of the contents of such DNA test results to the the public is most reprehensible. Why would any man subject a child or children born within the wedlock to such psychologically debilitating encounter ,foisting such traumatic experience that will permanently scar the self-esteem of such children, especially older ones ,for life? It is utterly cruel and selfish ”. A response to this was not far fetched in the following words by another lawyer : “It’s very unfortunate that most of us are very hypocritical in our analysis of issues .The woman who committed fraud and left a man to ridicule for several years to the amusement of the public should walk around with her secret intact while the innocent judge who has been made to train another man’s child and still willing to continue with such responsibility is labelled callous because he brought out the truth to the public .Whoever feels that of the judge should pray that him or her male sibling (s) experience that evil that the judge was subjected to and let him or her handle it in his own way.”
There is this saying that think twice and deeply before you act. Did the woman also ever think of what could be the effect or consequence of her act on the children when engaging in extra- marital affairs outside the matrimonial home while still in marriage relationship with the judge? To borrow from the words of Mr Tietie, did the woman also ever think of “such psychologically debilitating encounter, foisting such traumatic experience that will permanently scar the self-esteem of such children, especially older ones, for life?” Is it not seem to be very clear from this incident , why some religious scriptures prescribe serious punishment for those engaging in adultery and fornication?
This incident is not without lessons for those who want to learn one.Why should a man and a woman decide to go into marriage and refuse to be faithful to each other to the extent of having extra marital relationship outside the matrimonial home? Just like the way every segment of human endeavour is being faced with the challenge of morality , so also marriage is being faced with serious challenge of morality. The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was right when he once said that: “Unless our morals are set aright, we can never do anything right in this country.” The late sage was a competent authority to give advice on various aspects of human endeavour including issue of marriage as it was not for nothing that he propounded the theory of “Jewel of inestimable value” to describe his own beloved wife, late Chief Madam Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo. According to Chief Awolowo in his autobiography published in 1960:
“…My wife Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo (nee Adelana) has been a jewel of inestimable value. She is an ideal wife; and I am sure she too regards me as an ideal husband .The outpouring of her love and devotion to me and to our family is exceedingly and beyond words…With my wife on my side, it has been possible for us to weather all financial storms…I owe my success in life to three factors: the Grace of God, a Spartan of self-discipline, and a good wife…It is a matter for joy and profound gratitude to Almighty God that our mutual love and devotion has been richly blessed…”
What this goes to show is that for a man or a woman to succeed in life and have peace of mind, he or she needs a good and ideal partner in marriage with self-discipline, mutual love and devotion. An individual cannot plant maize and expect to harvest yam during the harvest period.
SALAMI ON PROPOSED RETIREMENT AGE FOR SUPREME COURT JUSTICES
I once wrote an article published in the Daily Independent Newspaper of October, 10, 2013 titled : “Salami : Salute to a Courageous Judge”. Justice Ayo Salami was a retired President of the Court of Appeal who saw hell in the hands of the Nigerian politicians who tried to rubbish and disgrace him out of office. When he was retiring from the Court of Appeal, he likened himself in his valedictory speech to the biblical Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers.
Recently, the Deputy Senate President and Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee, Senator Ovie Omo Agege said that the Supreme Court Justices are pushing for their retirement age to be increased from to 70 to 75 years. Presently the retirement age for both Justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal is 70 years. The Judges at the courts below ( i.e. Federal and States’ High Courts) are equally said to be pushing for their retirement age to be increased for 65 to 70 years. Justice Salami has come out to oppose and speak against such move citing some reasons. In his actual words:
“ I contended that very few of us had birth certificate .Invariably we rely on declaration of age , which is generally inflated because they are inferred from incidences or occurrences the happening of which we were not sure of ….Many of them are not healthy. They regularly travel abroad for treatment, and some of them forget easily in addition to memory challenges. In the circumstance some of the justices would only be there as passengers to fulfil statutory conditions without ability to make meaningful contributions. This is a condition that could easily be exploited by dishonest members of the court…”
On my part, I do not see the need for such increase in the retirement age. If our judges and Justices are unanimous on this demand, it means they are all comfortable with what is happening in the system including deprivation of the independence of judiciary, poor facilities and remuneration and the unnecessary work load they are being shouldered with. It was the politicians that insisted the other time that they must be allowed to argue their appeal on governorship election cases up to the Supreme Court which further increase the work load of the Supreme Court Jurists. The appeal on such cases used to terminate at the Court of Appeal. I am of the view that the Supreme Court Justices in particular must be seriously concerned, and be pushing for the constitutional review that will checkmate the nature of the appeal cases that go to the Supreme Court as observed by some Justices of the Court. There are appeal cases that should not have business going to the apex court but should terminate at the Court of Appeal. Another thing again is that we operate a system that encourages people to falsify their ages unnecessarily. It is not surprising that some judges have been sanctioned in recent time for falsifying their ages when going into the system. It is not the number years that a judge put into the judicial service that matters but the positive impact and contributions made. It is for this reasons that I concur with Hon. Justice Ayo Salami (retired) and I have nothing more to add.
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