J-K Gadzama: Silver jubilee of selfless legal service to humanity
By AMEH EJEKWONYILO On 24/02/2016 03:26:08 AM
AMEH EJEKWONYILO writes on the commissioning of Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN)’s ultra-modern court and 25th anniversary of the chambers headquarters in Abuja.Legal icon and philanthropist, Chief J. K Gadzama (SAN) last Tuesday, February 9, brought people from all walks of life to Abuja, the nation’s capital.
From the cosmopolitan Lagos to the rustic Lassa in Borno State these personalities cutting across the various strata of the country’s economy came in droves to celebrate with one of the finest minds in Nigeria’s legal profession.
They all heaped encomiums on Chief Gadzama for his hard work that took him to the pinnacle of the profession, and more importantly using his legal prowess in rendering legal services to humanity.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Muhammed chaired the occasion. In his opening remarks, Justice Muhammed commended Gadzama for erecting a structure that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also symbolises a physical legacy to the law. The CJN applauded Gadzama’s sophisticated, but selfless disposition towards ordinary people in the establishment of the firm’s offices in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America as well as the rural Lassa in Borno State.
“From humble beginnings in Maiduguri a quarter of a century ago, through various incarnations in its name, the firm has transformed from being a local law firm, as the founder of the firm (Gadzama) humbly claims, to becoming a household name in the delivery of qualitative legal practice in Nigeria.
“The firm’s offices in the UK and the USA further bear testimony to its growth to other climes, but most remarkably its office in Lassa is perhaps a reflection of the founder’s humility and dedication to justice regardless of the locale and calibre of client,” Justice Mohammed said.
After a tour of facilities in the building with other dignitaries, the CJN noted that with the provision of facilities such as a Moot Court, client-oriented waiting rooms, chalets for staff and a well-equipped library complete with a section providing access to the most comprehensible legal research bases in the world, among others, Gadzama in keeping with a career marked by industry and innovation, “has consistently delivered a high standard of advocacy, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and exemplary leadership at the Bar.
“I have always opined that chambers is not only defined by the glitz of the glass. It is shaped by the level of integrity, competence and erudition that is contained within its four walls,” intoned the CJN.
While digressing from the main business of the day, the head of the country’s judiciary, offered some words of counsel to lawyers on the expectations of the legal profession.
The CJN urged legal practitioners to first pursue the end of justice above monetary or any other considerations, reminding them of the charge to “serve Nigeria and serve humanity in justice without fear or favour, affection or I’ll-will.”
“We must all be guided by our conscience and do our part to preserve our independence and our determination to act in accordance with the rule of law, no matter whose ox is gored.
“We cannot bring down the legal profession and we cannot deviate from the path of justice.”
In a keynote address, the immediate past Director-General, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN), lauded Gadzama for establishing a “5 star law office”, saying it is easily the best in Africa South of the Sahara.
Azinege noted that the magnificent edifice when compared with similar law offices in Europe and the USA, it eminently qualified to be classified in the category of “Magic Circle Law Firms.”
He further submitted that Gadzama’s gigantic law firm eloquently tells the success story of the nation’s legal practice.
“Time was when trending law offices occupy just a flat or 2 room apartment at Igbosere in Lagos.
“Today, it is an index of how excellently well, the legal profession in Nigeria has blossomed that we can now afford to compete favourably with the Magic Circle Law Firms and the Niche Law Firms all over the worldd.”
The Learned Silk explained that five star law offices are not luxury apartments, but that they are primarily factories for incubation of ideas and for efficient and effective legal service delivery.
For a former CJN, Justice Mohammed Uwais, hard work and aspiration for the future engineered Gadzama to succeed.
Justice pointed out that such qualities should be emulated by young lawyers if they choose to make a remarkable legal career, lamenting that exposure and skills were lacking among young wigs.
In his goodwill message, the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello observed that the celebrant’s rise to the pinnacle of private legal practice was made possible by his commitment and determination to succeed in the face of daunting challenges.
Justice Bello eulogised Gadzama’s effort in bringing to bare the idea of specialisation in legal practice.
“The edifice is an embodiment of specialisation in law practice. Specialisation will enrich adjudication and enhance speedy dispensation of justice,” Justice Bello said.
Speaking in the same vein, Director-General, Nigerian Law School, Mr. Olanrewaju Onadeko, traced Gadzama’s early beginning as a law student at Igbosere in Lagos. He highlighted that diligence, focus, and discipline for Gadzama’s success, saying it was not sheer luck.
The Law School boss commended the legal icon (Gadzama) for instituting a prize at the law school as a way of mentoring and inspiring law students to embrace hard work, while urging other senior members of the Bar to follow suit in endowing prizes at the school.
While welcoming guests to the epochal event, the Head of Chambers at Gadzama Limited Liability Partnership, Mr. Henry Ihunde, said the occasion marked the fulfillment of Gadzama’s dream of building a magnificent law office that would be the glory of the profession.
In his speech, Gadzama recounted what he termed the “long journey” of his venture into personal legal practice in 1989, after his pupillage with his elder cousin’s firm, A. Ismail Gadzama and Co in Kano where he cut his legal teeth.
He narrated the story thus: “the embryonic part of my legal practice was not easy-going. Armed with my new wig and gown, from Ede and Ravenscroft, London bought for me by my elder cousin, Mallam Hamidu Wathanafa, as I could not afford quality ones, I started off with a N10,000 soft loan from my elder sister, Mrs. Mary Jidai Mamza, which I later repaid.
“From being a local law firm in Maiduguri handling mainly land transactions and simple contracts, the firm now provides a wide range of legal services in various aspects of law ranging from local to international services and transactions.”
Gadzama in his characteristic nature of not ascribing the glory for any of his accomplishments to himself alone, attributed the major strength of the firm to his members of staff, particularly his partners whom he said had worked tirelessly for whatever the has become today.
The emotional point of the event was Gadzama’s mentioning of the Janada International Centre for Arbitration and Mediation which was named after his late wife as well as the Dome (Staff Common Rome) which is to be named after his slain colleague, Pastor Uluba Mai. Jawur, whom he said was brutally assassinated by gunmen in broad day light last year in Keffi, Nassarawa State, while he was on an official assignment to Court of Appeal Jos, Plateau State.
The roll call of dignitaries was endless as both members of the Bar and Bench thronged the event to identify with one of their own in the person of the celebrant.
They include: Former AGF Bayo Ojo (SAN), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Prof. Awa Kaulu (SAN), Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State, Director-General of the Nigerian Law School Mr. Olanrewaju Onadeko, Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court, Chief Judge of the FCT Justice Ishaq Bello among others.
In the words of the CJN, the reward for hard work is more work!