Timber Boy Who Became SAN

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Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa

In a country like Nigeria, it’s hard to see anybody go through what Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa went through to live good life and come out with his head high, Davidson Iriekpen writes

Human rights lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa was among the 38 senior lawyers the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, swore in as Senior Advocates of Nigeria penultimate week. For this hardworking and determined legal practitioner, his new attainment did not just come overnight. It came as a result of a strong determination to succeed in ones chosen profession.

When he daily reflects on his sojourn on earth, he cannot but give glory to God for what he has attained today. Born in a rural community of Ilaje, Ondo State cut away from all developments, his mother died during his childhood years after enduring child labour for three days without any hospital around. He suffered persecution at home and was pushed to a boarding school far away from home.

Without supervision or mentoring, he was denied basic supplies and financial support. This led to his dropping out of secondary school. He later joined a cart-pushing (omolanke) company, loading local gin for sale and becoming a cart pusher for over a year, until sympathisers pleaded with his father to relocate him back home to complete secondary education.

Still for fear of persecution at home, he was sent to Lagos after secondary education to join his uncle in timber business, and was in timber business for about five years, traversing the forests of Ondo, Edo and Delta States, navigating through Ifon, Sobe, Owan, Iguobasuwa, Nikrogha, Koko, Sapele, all in search of logs, but still pursuing self-development via personal coaching.

Adegboruwa later gained admission to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and became part of the students’ union. He was expelled from the university along with 61 other students for leading students’ protest. The late Chief Gani Fawehinmi took up the case in court and all the students were re-instated.

Even when he was reinstated, there was still no peace for him. He was persecuted by a lecturer for his membership of the students union and was compelled to repeat a class while classmates proceeded to the next level. He was later re-instated after a successful remarking of his scripts by external examiners, who all confirmed that he truly passed the course but his lecturer failed him. He was re-instated to join his colleagues preparing for their final year exam, which he took and passed.

His challenges were yet over despite his reinstatement as he was again denied admission into the Law School following a petition from the Faculty of Law of the OAU on account of membership of students’ union. Gani again intervened and he was admitted and eventually called to the Bar.

Just when he thought he had overcome the university authorities, it was the turn of the government. In 1997, the government of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, ordered his arrest and kept him in custody for nine months. He was only released after his death. His troubles were not over yet as a mysterious fire razed his first law office without any single item of value salvaged.

With his frequent appearance on television, radio and pages of the newspapers to comment on burning national issues, he equally tasted the wrath of the present administration. In order to silence him, he arrested and charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) but was subsequently discharged by the court.

Adegboruwa attended St. Luke’s Primary School, Ode-Etikan; Ilaje Grammar School, Atijere; Community Grammar School, Zion-Pepe; Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; Nigerian Law School, Lagos. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1995, whereupon he joined Gani Fawehinmi Chambers, from 1995 to 2000, when he set up Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa and Company.

Knowing that he could not have attained success in life, Adegboruwa turned to God. Today, after pasturing many parishes of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), he is currently the pastor in charge of Zone 8 of the church’s Lagos Province 20.

For his pastoral calling, he attended the Leadership Institute for Bible Studies, Ikoyi, Lagos; The Redeemed Christian Bible College, Lagos; The Redeemed School of Disciples, Lagos; The Redeemed School of Missions, Lagos and Ede.

Adegboruwa has a life history full of activities. He was students’ leader in the university; Public Liaison Officer, Law Students’ Society of Obafemi Awolowo University; Public Relations Officer and later President, Obafemi Awolowo University Students’ Union between 1992-1993. He was a member of Senate of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), 1992-1994; member, Legal Committee of United Action for Democracy; Acting Publicity Secretary, United Action for Democracy; (2002); Founder and President, GSM Subscribers Association of Nigeria; former Deputy Editor, Human Rights Law Reports of Africa; former Senior Assistant Editor, Nigerian Weekly Law Reports; founder, Law and Justice Forum; public affairs commentator and analyst, social critic and pro-democracy activist;

For his doggedness, he has severally been honoured, some of which include: OAU Junior Chambers Award for Human Rights and Child Development, 1998; Senior Advocate of the Masses, National Association of Nigerian Students; 2015 Human Rights Defender, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Lagos State Chapter, 2016; Defender of Truth and Justice, Anglican Church, Ode-Etikan, 2017; Senior Advocate of the Masses, by the National Association of Nigerian Students; Award for Excellence by Law Students Association of Nigeria, Elizade University and many others.

Adegboruwa, who is cited in Nigeria’s Who is Who, page 41, dislikes any form of human oppression. He has fought many legal battles either to alleviate the suffering of the masses or to defend their rights. He has appeared to prosecute and defend cases in all courts in Nigeria, from Customary Courts to Magistrate’s Courts, Tribunals, High Courts, Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. He is actively involved in public interest litigation for the protection and defence of the rights of the common man.

The new silk defended the murder charge against Professor J.G Chinwa of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology and the case to re-instate him back into the university against unlawful dismissal. He was part of the lawyers who defended Ken Saro Wiwa, Ledum Mitee and other Ogoni activists at the Ogoni Civil Disturbances Tribunal constituted by the military government to try them in Port Harcourt. He also handled the case to secure bail for the Ogoni 19 on behalf of Chief Gani Fawehinmi.

He successfully defended criminal charges against OPC President, Gani Adams, by the state. He prosecuted the landmark Supreme Court case of Fawehinmi v. Abacha on the status and enforcement of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, up to the Supreme Court. He is currently handling various cases on land disputes, chieftaincy, contracts, maritime, constitutional law, tort, matrimonial causes, company disputes, libel, election petitions, landlord and tenant in various court across the country.

He pioneered the legal struggles against the collection of toll fees on roads and bridges, leading to the landmark judgment of the Federal High Court againt the Lagos State Government in March 2014, which annulled the toll collection. In 2016, he filed a suit at the High Court of Lagos State to stop the planned privatisation of the Probate Registry.

In March 2016, he secured judgment from the Federal High Court, Lagos, which annulled the restriction of human and vehicular movements on the last Saturdays of every month on account of environmental sanitation. In February 2017, he filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos to compel the president to accept the recommendation of the Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.