Sunday, 6 May 2018

A DAY IN COURT: YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE

The five justices of the Supreme  Court were in a good mood; that much was apparent from their calm handling of the defective application before them.
The Respondent's Counsel, Mr ABC, had filed a preliminary objection on issues of jurisdiction. Rather than chewing Counsel out, the court courteously asked how he wanted to proceed.
With much confidence and ASSURANCEπŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰ ABC proceeded to begin to move the defective application. (Here's a tip completely on the house: lawyers will attempt to get away with anything if you let them).
The Appellants' counsel Mr XYZ, jumped to his feet and objected stridently. He informed the court that the application could not be heard. No big surprise. According to the Rules of Court, the preliminary objection should have been subsumed in the Respondent's Brief.
Yours truly kept whipping her head this way and that watching as the lawyers argued back and forth. I have since learned in this profession that a child who asks questions never loses his way. And that's why I never go to court on any given day without opening my eyes and ears wide to pick something here and there.
Law practice is an art and like all arts, you attain a certain elegance when you study the masters.
Anyway, the Court was quick to agree with Mr XYZ, the Appellants' counsel that Mr ABC, had filed a defective application possibly in order to waste the time of the court.
Defeated, Mr ABC withdrew the offensive application  and requested an adjournment to effect the correction.
Seeing the court's sympathy for his argument, the other lawyer, Mr XYZ began to milk it. He was elderly and stooped with age, cutting a fragile figure.
He tilted his head to the side as he rose to his feet and  began to wring his hands as he listed his many sufferings at the hands of the Respondent's counsel. By the time he was done, a passerby might have been moved to tears on his behalf.
"So, Mr XYZ what is your application?" The Presiding justice demanded, after we had all been subjected to an endless litany of his woes.
Counsel puffed up his cheeks and let out a put-upon sigh as though considering the matter. And then with great reluctance stamped onto his angular features, he said, "My lords we shall be consenting to an adjournment to enable Mr ABC put his house in order. But we shall be requesting a minimal cost of N100,000 Sirs."
The bench dissolved in laughter as their lordships engaged in a rare show of hilarity. "You want 100 thousand? In this economy? Mr XYZ!"
And they laughed some more.
Mr XYZ silently resumed his seat in dignified silence.
"Did you hear him Mr ABC? He asked for 100 thousand," one of them shouted down to the other lawyer against whom the cost was demanded.
Mr ABC  got to his feet, hesitated in the face of five laughing judges and equally sat down himself joining in their laughter.
I threw him a worried glance. Wasn't he going to oppose the application at all?
He wasn't looking at me; he and other lawyers were laughing along with their lordships... it was the polite thing to do.
I faced forward, sober as a judge; and no the irony was not lost on me.
Three minutes later, after managing to scribble a few words whilst fighting down their laughter, the Justices quieted.
The Presiding Justice raised his head, "Cost of 100 thousand granted as prayed. Case adjourned to 23rd October 2018."
I felt shock reverberate through Mr ABC who  happened to be seated right beside me. He threw me a glazed look as he tried to figure out how to inform his client of the costs he had just earned him. He had apparently thought it would not be granted or at least not the full sum; perhaps 50?  He leaned over and whispered as much to me in dismay, "They granted the full amount"
I let my unsympathetic gaze do the talking for me,  "You snooze you lose."
He had not opposed the application so of course it was granted. Equity aids the diligent... in law, and in life.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

PEOPLE OF THE EARTH SERIES: SHERINA AND THE PERFUMED DRIVER.

The sweltering heat of the Abuja sun was merciless and before I had taken more than five steps under it, I'd lost my good humor. My umbrella was doing its level best to shield me but it was no match for the determined, piercing rays of the sun.
As I walked, I cast a longing glance at an ice cream parlour with its lights blinking merrily on one side of the street. I grit my teeth and kept putting one foot in front of the other.
I got to the side of the road and several taxis began to hoot as they  frantically tried to one-up one another in the race for a passenger; namely, moi.
I ignored all of them and they sped off huffily. Finally I flagged down an oncoming Abuja taxi for the simple reason that I felt it would be cheaper. (Yeah, Buhari has made us all misers. Sue me😎). It careened to a halt, the driver practically fighting with the steering. He was sweating profusely; and no wonder since he had chosen to keep a full beard.
"Wuse 2, how much?" I asked.
"Aunty that one naa N700" he announced.
I gave him a gimlet-eyed stare and strode away in offended silence. Usually before I approach any taxi, I always come armed with my maximum offer price in mind and today, my mind and I had decided on N300. I had spent just that amount from my office to where I was; I certainly didn't see why the return trip should cost a penny more. I just needed one taxi man to see reason huh?
Anyway, three taxis later, one private taxi slid to a smart halt a few feet away. He was parked awkwardly in a manner that blocked several others behind him. I hurried towards the taxi but before I could get a word in, several cars honked loudly behind us with the impatience that was normal for Abuja drivers.
The man hurriedly motioned for me to enter and when I did he sped on. I looked over at him, noting the expensive perfume and clean cut.  I didn't need to be psychic to know he would be outrageously expensive. I told him my destination and asked the price.
I won't quote figures but suffice it to say that
 when he opened his mouth all I could do was gape in angry disbelief. If looks could kill he would be picking himself off the floor.
"Stop! Right now!" I ground out. Sheer daylight robbery! I considered it my civic duty to nip it in the bud! Why, at that price I wouldn't be paying him to take me to my office, I would be BRIBING him! Maybe you haven't heard, but we're all against 'kwarruption' these days.😎😎😎
He stopped at once and I alighted, grumbling about having to trek back to where he had picked me up. As though to rub it in, he slowly drove onto the shoulder of the road and began to navigate a u-turn that would take him right past the spot where he had picked me up; and no, he didn't offer me a ride back to that spot.
I trekked back with a matyred expression stamped onto my features. Luckily, I flagged a rickety looking cab that drove up just then and the driver immediately demanded N400.
Sold.
Boldly I asked if he would be willing to go for N300 and he immediately agreed. As I entered the back seat, I threw the perfumed driver of the other taxi a triumphant glance as he drew even with us. He gave me a glare of his own. It bounced right off as I faced forward, savoring his pique.
Morale of the story? There's always a bargain price.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

A DAY IN COURT: THE SUICIDAL DEFENDANT (Part 2)


Pandemonium reigned supreme. Everyone was talking at once and the usual reserved ambience of the courtroom had changed into one of tense anxiety.

Almost all lawyers in the room began to speak and interestingly, they were all pleading for leniency for the recalcitrant Defendant. (I was practically the only one observing silently because hey, someone has to do the honours of providing gist for you guys right? 😘)

Anyway, the incredulous and panicked reaction of the lawyers and even other litigants finally began to penetrate the Defendant's possibly drunken haze. She began to realise that she had just committed an unforgiveable faux pas; one that could earn her a one-way ticket to the seamier side of life. Visions of handcuffs, slamming jail doors and hardened criminals as roommates apparently began to flash through her brain. When she caught the gloating expression on the face of the Plaintiff, her brain reset immediately and her entire demeanour changed as she realised she really was in trouble, because why else would the Plaintiff look as though he had just been served a bowl of chicken right there in court?

She began to stutter even as the policeman roughly pulled her towards the door. "My lord... my lord... I'm sorry. I'm not rude ooo, I'm just trying to explain."

Laughable.

The honourable court was done listening, "Take her away!"

The policeman immediately resumed his frantic tugging at the woman's elbow evidently trying to restrain himself from lifting her bodily since she had two kids with her.

"Please sir I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that," the woman pleaded, facing the judge.

Her two-year old had begun to look confused by all the yelling adults and his head kept whipping this way and that as he tried to follow what was going on. He looked on the verge of tears.

The elderly lawyer who had risen to his feet hissed at her out of the side of his mouth to keep quiet. He urgently approached the Bench. "May I as a friend of the court, plead for leniency from this most honorable court. The Defendant was out of line and while ignorance of the law is not a defense, Sir, I plead for leniency. For the sake of her children, please sir. She deserves incarceration because this is a clear case of contempt but my lord, have mercy. If she is locked up with these innocent children... the Bar apologizes on her behalf sir."

Other lawyers were all nodding frantically, wordlessly lending support to his appeal.

The Judge paused, looked around to weigh the general demeanour of the courtroom. Then he cast a disparaging look at the woman, disgust stamped onto his dignified features. "The only reason I'll let you go is because of your children. But I'll be seating first thing tomorrow at 9 o'clock sharp and your husband had better be in court. Meanwhile, you must stand over there in that corner for three hours, that's your punishment."
A collective sigh of relief swept through the courtroom. The Judge was apparently in a particularly fine mood because he tilted his head to the side as though considering and then he said, "One hour. Stand for one hour and keep your mouth shut! This case is adjourned to the 31st day of January 2018."

The unwise Defendant lifted a hand, "Sir I want to say something."

Everyone gasped, including me. Had she learned nothing? This woman shouldn't be allowed to speak in public I reasoned. She was one of those people who had a foot permanently wedged in her mouth. She was very close to my chair so I shook my head signalling her to end the drama now. She tried to speak again but the registrar suddenly leaped to his feet on a stroke of genuis and in an excessively loud tone, boomed the name of the next case, drowning out her nail-on-chalkboard voice.

As the new set of litigants headed for the front of the courtroom, we all faced forward, glad a disaster had been averted. Three minutes into the next case, a slight motion to the right of the room drew my gaze and I gaped in furious disbelief as the suicidal defendant surreptitiously curved a hand backwards and pinched the bottom of the sleeping baby on her back as hard as she could. The baby woke up immediately and began to scream its lungs out.

She let it cry, facing forward woodenly and evidently hoping to disrupt proceedings further.

The Judge ignored her for as long as he could while she fought back a malevolent grin. Then he lifted his head and snapped at his Bailiff, "Take her outside. Let her stand outside for one hour and DO NOT allow her to sit."

The Policeman rushed forward, moving so fast he was practically a blur. He was evidently glad to finally be useful as he grabbed her by the elbow and hustled her outside. The moment the door closed behind the duo, almost everyone heaved a sigh of relief.

The woman had acted as though she had a death wish but who knew what her village people had done to her before she came to court, right? The Judge had been the very soul of kindness and patience; a less tolerant judge would have tossed her in jail and thrown away the key.

Just as all the drama was rounding up, the registry finally discovered my own case file from the archives they had consigned it to and I gratefully turned my mind towards the business for the day.

Morale of the story? You tell me.

A DAY IN COURT: THE SUICIDAL DEFENDANT (Part 1)


Today's performance was riveting!!! Yours truly was seated in court contemplating my fate since the court staff, whether through negligence or contrivance had misplaced my file.

The registrar announced a particular case and from hearing the name of the case alone, I knew there was no lawyer involved in that matter: the defendants had been listed as Mr and Mrs xyz. (Any lawyer will tell you for free that Mr and Mrs is not a person known to law and the suit is defective ab initio).

The Plaintiff immediately walked forward upon the suit being announced; he was his own counsel, hence the ill-advised 'Mr & Mrs'. One of the Defendants, the "Mrs" in the equation, had to be called in from outside the court. She straggled in, dragging a grubby looking child of about two years old by the hand. She also had a toddler strapped onto her back with the aid of an even grubbier wrapper. As she walked, she dragged her feet with every step, drawing every gaze as she went. Her dark skin told tales of mismanagement and poor hygiene and her shaggy hair was a testament to poverty of the dirty variety.

As she headed for the front of the courtroom, she paused to seat her two-year old on an empty seat before striding to stand before the court.

Her entire manner was quarrelsome and reeked of a preparedness to engage in conflict. The Court asked her a few questions and she responded sulkily each time. Finally the Court demanded to know why her husband was not in court since he was a co-defendant and that was when the real drama started.

"He cannot come," she tossed at the Judge.

He waited a beat for an explanation. When none was forthcoming, he inquired calmly, "Why can't he come to court? Is he bedridden?"

"My husband is a very busy man. He doesn't have time to come here."

In the silence that followed, you could have heard an ant sneeze. The bailiff who had been half-asleep in his seat behind the judge sat up straighter; the registrar who had been doodling idly on a writing pad in front of him ceased the motion; several lawyers stopped whispering to each other and turned collectively to gape at this wonder woman.

The Judge's eyebrows snapped together in a deep frown as he glared down at her from the bench. "What did you say?"

The woman continued with dangerous nonchalance, "My husband doesn't have time to come here. He's a very busy man."

The Judge let his silence express his displeasure with that response and her manner. Then he stated calmly, "I'll adjourn this case and if your husband is not here by the next date, I'll issue a bench warrant to compel his presence. Madam, that means if he's not here on the next date, he would be arrested and brought here by force. This is a court of law. You cannot disobey the court."

The woman hit the roof, "You're a very wicked man! Just wicked! I knew from the moment I came here that the plaintiff paid you. So you want to lock me and my husband abi? Who do you think you are?"

"Madam respect yourself! You're in court," the Judge warned testily.

"And so?" She snapped, practically foaming at the mouth.

Brethren, at this point I think my jaw must have dropped to the very floor. Never, in all my years of practice as a lawyer have I witnessed such a clear case of contempt of court. The Judge was beside himself. Desperate hushed whispers erupted all over the court as well-meaning lawyers urgently tried to get her to head off the angry judge with an apology.

One elderly gentleman of the Bar even leapt to his feet in a desperate bid to do damage control but as he opened his mouth, the Defendant cut him off, "Why must you see my husband? By the way did we say we will not pay the landlord? You can't do anything to me! Who do you think you are?"

"Respect yourself or I would hold you in contempt and get you locked up," the Court ordered.

"Madam, keep quiet," someone began.

"Leave me let me tell this man something! You people cannot do anything to me. If you like, lock me. I'm not afraid of you!"

Her voice was so loud at this point, it shook the very rafters. Different court staff from different offices and even litigants in other courts dashed in to see what the howling was all about. Everyone wanted in on the drama. I looked around; every single mouth was open as we gawked at her as though she had just exited a space ship. Even the Judge looked flummoxed. Then his rage erupted to rival hers.

"Madam you're in contempt of court!!! Take her away and lock her up!" The Judge thundered from his bench.
The police man picked his jaw off the floor and immediately snapped to attention, his belly shooting out as he gamely tried to look smart. He grabbed the woman by the elbow and began to haul her towards the door with her two-year old clinging to her skirts.

To be continued...

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

SHERINA AND THE STAIRS THAT MOVED.

Whoever built the plaza that houses my law firm is either very tight-fisted or very outdated or both. My office is located at the very top of the building; 4 floors up, and without a single elevator in the entire building.

But I'll lament about that some other day coz in truth, the height "is great weightloss therapy for me" (seriously if you believe that statement, I have nothing to say to you) and I've also gotten used to huffing and puffing up those stairs whilst maintaining the famous British stiff upper lip. Plus it does discourage unserious clients as I've been told. I mean if someone takes 4 flights of stairs up in the unfriendly Abuja heat, you had better believe they mean business. 😎😎😎

Anyway, today something happened. It was 1:38pm and I was already backed up on time to complete some assignments outside the office. I raced down the stairs, taking them two at a time in my haste, my thoughts whirling as I tried to figure out the best way to utilise the little time I had left.

Friday came early for me today which explains why I was dressed in a native top, jeggings and a pair of girly sandals; very casual for a workday but it ended up saving my ankle and probably a few other joints.

As I reached the second floor on my way down, still taking the stairs two at a time, I'll never be able to explain what happened next. I'm half convinced the stairs moved when I wasn't looking: One minute I was racing down the stairs, next I had lost my footing and was sliding down at an alarming rate. I tried to break my fall but realised I would only hurt myself more and so I just went with it. To my amazement I landed on my butt on the last stair; absolutely unhurt.

The noise though must have sounded like a bag of rice hitting concrete at 60km per hour or something because the guy seated in an office facing the stairs jerked around at the sound.  His gaze flew to mine in confused alarm and I could see him already half-rising from his seat evidently bent on rushing to rescue the pretty damsel whose butt was currently keeping the staircase clean. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

My reaction amazed me; I was convulsed in laughter. I raised a hand and offered him a cheerful wave, unable to get a word out as I slapped my thighs in helpless laughter at myself. Automatically, he offered me a wave too, his handsome features wreathed in confusion. I could see him now trying to decide if he needed to get the Firstaid box or strap me in a straitjacket. He couldn't look away; and no wonder. Who laughs at themselves right?

As a kid, if I ever fell down, I became so embarrassed and mortified that I proceeded to transfer the agression to everyone in the vicinity who had witnessed my "misfortune". Looking now at office guy, I realised I had grown up when I wasn't looking; I didn't feel embarrassed in the least, I just wished I had caught it all on camera.

I was still whooping with laughter as I choked out an order across the space separating us, "Pretend you didn't see me!"

He understood at once and obligingly averted his gaze, leaving me to nurse my wounded sensibilities in dignified privacy --- such a gentleman. Sigh. Although I did see his shoulders shaking with suppressed mirth at the impromptu performance he had just been treated to.

Well I don't mind telling you my sensibilities were just fine, thank you. I simply couldn't get over the fact that for the first time in my adult life, I had actually slipped and fallen down and there had been a witness. Honestly I've always secretly wondered what my reaction would be if I were ever to fall down in public.  Now I knew--- it was the most hilarious experience I'd had in weeks.

Morale of the story?

Tsk, tsk. What have I been trying to tell you? There's no Morale to this story.  Stop taking yourself too seriously and learn to laugh at yourself sometimes; then even if people do laugh, they would be laughing with you and not at you.

PS: If you've had a similar experience, I would sure like to hear it. No be only me waka come. 😘

(c) 2017  Sherina Okoye

Friday, 8 December 2017

PEOPLE OF THE EARTH SERIES: THE LITTLE COMEDIAN

She was bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked with skin the color of dark chocolate.  She had mischief stamped onto every tiny feature and she was bubbling over with enthusiasm and more than a little of that mischief peculiar to children her age.

The driver, as is common with greedy Abuja drivers, had ruthlessly squeezed four grown adults into the back seat of his tiny car and our little comedian was perched onto the legs of the young man seated beside me.

She was three years old if she was a day, with a voice as clear as bells as she made repeated demands of her weary minder.

As the taxi passed underneath the famous Apo bridge,  she suddenly shot to her feet, her eyes scanning the environment while her chubby cheeks danced as she murmured to herself in childish gibberish.  She was so cute.

"Seat down," the young man carrying her ordered, trying to get her to seat back down.

She ignored him.

"Police will catch you ooo," he lied baldly.

Apparently for the Nigerian child, the fear of police is the beginning of wisdom.
She hastily sat back down and proceeded to hide her face in her hands; evidently if her face was covered so was the rest of her little self and the police wouldn't see her. I hid a grin, willing myself not to laugh and ruin the young man's good work.

Few minutes later, just as we were nearing Apo roundabout,  our little bundle of mischief surged to her feet again,  eyes as bright as stars as she looked around.

"Why are you standing up again?" Her minder demanded.

She turned to face him, her expression very adult and wise as she declared in a voice as clear as church bells, "I WANT TO SEE POLICE."

THE entire occupants of the taxi roared with laughter.

Evidently she had decided she had had enough of being threatened with police and was now her own one-woman liberation squad; facing down her fears in the back of a crammed taxi.

Morale of the story? Most children do not truly know what fear is and in my book, that's the best way to live. Preserve their spirit and their innocence for as long as you can. 😘😘😘

Monday, 4 December 2017

A TALE OF SEVERAL DOLPHINS AND A MINNOW

So this evening yours truly had a poolside to-do and while we were seated, I couldn't stop my gaze from straying repeatedly to the pool. It was filled with dozens of little kids splashing around,  shrieking and laughing as they tackled one another in their little watery paradise. A couple of adults were also in the pool and I don't mind telling you, they seemed lip-smackingly happy to me.

I jerked my gaze away, trying very hard to force my attention back to the 'weightier' matters being discussed at my table. Unfortunately, my attention kept wandering right back to the pool because, hey, I love swimming okay?

Anyway, mild interest soon turned to an almost jealous desire to join the happy folk in the pool and I ruthlessly squelched the green-eyed monster when he made an appearance.

Few minutes later, a man showed up dragging his son  by the hand. The boy had reluctance stamped all over his petrified, little features and unfortunately Daddy dearest didn't seem to know how to talk his son out of his reluctance. He apparently wanted his son to join the frolicking kids in the pool; and why not? Every parent wants to watch that carefree, happy abandon on their children's faces right?

I didn't need a fortune teller to tell me we were about to be treated to a scene. The child was clad in a pair of over-sized 'shorts' that came almost all the way down to his ankles; he had on a thick tee-shirt and his googles.

Other kids kept diving into the pool in relentless search of fun whilst screaming at the top of their lungs in sheer excitement. They kept diving in and surging to the surface in wide showy arcs that I couldn't even dare for a fee. They were as attractive as dolphins, I mused in admiration of their water art.

Reluctant boy's dad grabbed him by one hand, lifted him, and placed him in the pool. He stood at one corner of the kiddie pool, fright making his eyes wide as saucers as he gawked at the other kids.

His little size as well as his obvious fright made me think of the little minnow in the midst of dolphins.

His dad smiled with joy that his son was finally swimming (even though I'm yet to see anyone swimming,  successfully by standing upright in one corner of a pool). As Daddy made to step away, one overexcited kid gave a mighty roar and tossed his float in the air. That did it; the dam burst!

Reluctant boy opened his mouth wide and began to wail his hands stretched out as he signalled to his father to pull him out of the pool. He sobbed so hard I was almost afraid he would make himself ill.  His dad pulled him out immediately and wrapped him in a comforting hug while other kids in the pool began to apologise politely for scaring him.

I hid a grin as I watched Reluctant Boy demand an ice cream in a shaky voice. Minutes later, he was also as happy as the kids in the pool but the difference was he had an ice cream in his hands and he was on dry ground. The happiness on his face and the chagrin on his dad's told its own story; he had not wanted to swim but his dad had insisted, thus earning himself a tantrum. Reluctant boy got an ice cream out of the whole ordeal and I guess in his book that wasn't such a bad deal either.

Morale of the story? Kids have a mind of their own. 😘😘😘

Learn the lesson and share the story

©2017 by Sherina Okoye

A DAY IN COURT: YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE

The five justices of the Supreme  Court were in a good mood; that much was apparent from their calm handling of the defective application be...