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Legal education in Nigeria is so low ~ Barrister Ugwuonye

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I was representing a man who was being tried by the EFCC. He was accused of being a yahoo boy (advance fee fraud). After the EFCC arrested him, they began to do magic with him. They held him till evening. It was a Friday evening. Around 9pm some of the officers took him to a night club. They drank and danced. Then they brought him back to their station. Immediately after they brought him back around 11pm, another set of the officers said they needed to take his statements immediately, so they would not have to come back to work the next day. That was how they took his statement. They told him to confess that there would be no problem. He confessed.

When I showed him his confessional statement, be told me he did not remember when he wrote that, that that was not what happened, that he wrote whatever they told him to write.

In court, the EFCC tried to tender into evidence that confessional statement. I objected on the ground that it was not a voluntary statement of a free mind. A trial within trial was called for. My client told the court how they drank and enjoyed at the club less than two hours before he wrote his statement. I thought that the EFCC lawyers would deny that they took him to the club that night. But surprisingly, the EFCC lawyers focused on the fact that my client was not forced to go to the club. She argued that he went to the club voluntarily. She focused all her efforts on the voluntariness of the going to the club. She kept asking my client: “Did anybody force you to go to the club? Did they force you?” My client answered no. She continued: “Did you not enjoy the club?” He said he enjoyed it. The lady continued: “We even heard that you danced with some girls at the club and you kept ordering drinks for everybody, is’t that true?”. My client looked at me and I nodded for him to answer that too. He answered yes, that he drank and danced freely.

I knew that the EFCC has lost the cast. The lady misunderstood the meaning of voluntariness. It is the making of the confession that is required to be voluntary, not the going to the night club.

The EFCC lost the case. Their main evidence was the confessional statement. They thought they got it. But they had nothing. The confession was the writing of a drunken man. It did not depict the truth of what happened. The fact that he said he did not remember what he wrote and that he wrote what he was told to write and that he was drunk. That was the end of it.

I felt sorry that the quality of legal education in Nigeria is so low. EFCC lawyers did not understand such basic thing.


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