Why I Will Never Apply for the Award of SAN – Basil Momodu, Esq.

In this interview, Basil Momodu, Esq. talks about his books, how he began writing and why he may never apply for the Award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

QUESTION: Tell us about yourself?

ANSWER: I think this should be the last question in this interview. If you get familiar with my recent books, you will notice that “About the Author” does not appear at the outer part of the back cover but in the last inner page so that the entire outer part of the back cover can be dedicated to blurbs. I think I should say, even at the risk of getting into pedantry, that a man truly sent by God to deliver a message cannot be bigger than the message. A proclivity for grandstanding is a relapse into anomalous social condition. I will like to talk about my books and other matters relating to them first.

QUESTION: can you tell us about your books?

ANSWER: I actually started writing when I was in secondary school. I have always been writing even when I was in public service. But the first indication that my books can be commercially active came after I published the books titled: “Limitations on Police Powers in Nigeria” and “Law and Practice of Criminal Investigation and Prosecution in Nigeria” which were more of law enforcement books than regular law books. They were published when I was still in public service. But my super books (i.e the last four books I wrote) were published after my retirement from public service.
When I voluntarily retired from public service, the money in all my bank accounts put together was not enough to take care of my expenses for up to two months. I reasoned that the only way to push away poverty that was already knocking on my door was to quickly perfect works on the manuscript of a book I eventually titled, “Preparing for Trial in Murder and Rape Cases.” Coincidentally, the book was ready when the 2013 Bar Conference was around the corner. I took about 500 copies of it and some other books, a total of 700 books to the Bar Conference at Calabar and all sold out. I was greatly encouraged.
It was at the Bar Conference in Calabar I caught the vision for my serial publication: “Court-Room Rapid Reference Handbook” which stopped at the sixth volume. The series which where my first attempt at putting together a “one-stop shop” of legal principles and their case law authorities in easy-to-use format, sold like cold water in a very hot weather. But the inadequacies in the serial publication brought about the need for “Encyclopedia of the Nigerian Case Law Principles and Authorities”(Vol. 1&2).
“Encyclopedia of the Nigerian Case Law Principles and Authorities”(Vol. 1&2) are designed to provide answer to every conceivable legal question in an easy-to-use alphabetical format, first of its kind in Nigeria. They are well received by lawyers of all classes and even non-lawyers who commend the scholarly originality and versatility.
There is another one I titled: “Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015: A Sequential Analysis.” The book examines topical provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and the effectiveness of legislative efforts through the Act to promote efficient criminal justice administration in Nigeria.

The book was written when the Act was relatively a new legislation and as such there were not many direct judicial pronouncements on the provisions of the Act. What I did was to conduct research along the line of criminal legislations whose provisions are in pari materia with the provisions of the new Act upon which the courts have made pronouncements.
Then in respect of the provisions of the Act where no judicial pronouncements were found, the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria were employed in testing their legality. With judicial pronouncements now coming directly on the provisions of the Act, I’m excited because so far so good. It is our hope that the book will continue to be found immensely useful and of high scholarly value.
Now, about my new book, “Modern Appellate Procedures: Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Nigeria.” Like Prof. Chinua Achebe will say about one of his books, “Arrow of God,” this book is the one I’m most likely going to be caught reading again and again. The book is an embodiment of judicial consensus on appellate procedures as case law principles gotten by sifting through avalanche of cases were lavishly employed to drive home legal points. Like I said somewhere, with a great sense of humility, the book is likely to be found one of the most authoritative legal literatures on appellate litigation in Nigeria.
I also did some books in law enforcement specifically on criminal investigation: “Law, Rules and Procedures of Criminal Investigation in Nigeria,” “Law and Practice of Criminal Investigation and Prosecution in Nigeria” which have been found very useful in the law enforcement circles.

QUESTION: Do you plan to apply for the prestigious award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in the near future?
ANSWER: It is indeed a prestigious award most lawyers look forward to receiving. I do not think I will ever have the time and energy to plan for such award. What I’m doing now and what I plan to do after my retirement from active legal research are God given assignments that must not be put aside to pursue any award. I wish the rank of SAN is given the way chieftaincy titles are awarded.
Chieftaincy titles are conferred without the conferee having to apply or pay a huge non-refundable application fee. Chieftaincy title is awarded when the awardee is seen to have done much to deserve it. I don’t know whether I deserve the award of SAN but I know the number of my books in circulation right now. I know the number of courts that have officially purchased my books. I know the number of lawyers that have called to ask when I’m publishing the next book. You understand what I mean?
I tell you that as prestigious as the award is, some lawyers qualified to receive it will never go for it as long as it remains a matter of application. I keep praying to God to give me the energy to do all the things I have to do that are and will be of benefit to people even when I’m gone. I feel honoured by what I hear lawyers say about me. I have this feeling that they will continue to say good things about me even when I’m gone on account of my works. This is more important to me than the award of SAN.

QUESTION: Where did you get the initial idea for these books?
ANSWER: I read one book sometimes ago titled: “Live Full and Die Empty,” I can’t remember the name of the author right now. The title caught my attention. How can a man live full and then die empty? What a paradox? But I purchased the book. Reading it I discovered a great message based principally on the Bible-Jeremiah 1:5, that every man is created for a purpose and that every man must make deliberate efforts to discover the purpose for which he was created in order to live a life of impact. It is when you live a life of impact that you “live full.” You “die empty” when none of those things you are expected to deposit here on earth for the benefit of humanity returns with you to the grave.
I also read, in the Bible, the parable of talents; that you are expected to trade with all the talents given to you. I was greatly inspired. I then started asking myself series of questions along the line of this understanding. For what purpose was I created? How do I know the special talent God has given me? Then one day, in church at Lugbe, Abuja, I heard a pastor saying, if you want to know the special talent God has given you think of that thing you love doing and doing very well effortlessly. In a sober reflection afterwards, it dawned on me that the act of writing is it because I was always writing about things just for fun, approval and commendations from people.

QUESTION: There are a lot of law books out there, what separate your books from others?
ANSWER: There is no doubt that there are a lot of law books out there which fact, I think somehow, reflects the multi-disciplinary nature of law but don’t forget that “there is no traffic when you are on your lane.” My books are unique for their clarity and simplicity. They do not overwhelm the reader but go straight to provide answers to legal questions with avalanche of case law authorities. There are testimonies to these facts from lawyers and judges. Glory to God.

QUESTION: What law practice advice do you have for Nigerian lawyers?
ANSWER: Lawyers in practice should always endeavour to get themselves updated on the current position of the law. The law is dynamic. Changes are made on a daily basis to reflect the reality of a changing society.

QUESTION: What was the most challenging aspect of writing these books?
ANSWER: Getting a good proofreader was the most challenging aspect in writing the books. It wasn’t really easy doing those books but I believe God helped me because He saw my commitment to the task of expanding the frontier of legal knowledge . Recently I started what I thought was going to be my last book but in the midst of it I received inspiration for a project outside these “legal things.” The new project affords me great opportunity to have enough relaxation time. I think I’m through with active legal research.

QUESTION: Now tell us about yourself.

ANSWER: May I say that I am a native of that beautiful town called Jattu Uzairue in Etsako West Local Government area of Edo State and that I was born in June, 1968. I attended the prestigious Azama Primary School, Jattu Uzairue and later Obe Primary school, Fugar both in Etsako West Local Government area of Edo State.
I had my secondary school education at Saint John’s Grammar School Fugar and then proceeded to the then Bendel State University, now Ambrose Alli University for a degree in law. I was called to the Nigerian Bar in March, 1995. I hold a master degree in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State and a postgraduate Diploma in Journalism.
I hold certificates in criminal investigation from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI; Department of State Services, DSS; the Nigerian Police and the ICPC. I was the overall best graduating student Advanced Detective Course 48/2005, Police Staff College, Jos.
I was in private legal practice for some years before joining the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission where, before my voluntary retirement in 2013, I was the head of the Commission’s Zonal offices for Osun, Ondo and Ekiti States. I thank you very much for the privilege you have given me.

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