Mrs. Funmi Quadri, the first female to publish a law report in Nigeria, talks about the menace of corruption in the country and the place of the judiciary in the anti-graft war, in this interview with Anayo Okolie. Excerpts:
Nigeria has a vast collection of laws to deal with the issue of corruption and yet the menace continues to thrive in the country. What do you think we are not doing right?
Corruption, I feel, is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into every nook and cranny of this nation. It is never due to failure of our laws. We have adequate laws to deal with corruption cases. We have Criminal Code, Penal Code, EFCC Act, ICPC Act, BOFID, to mention but few. There have been many convictions on corruption cases. From the work I did for ICPC to collate and report their cases on corruption, I found out that they are enormous and ICPC had recorded some victories in curtailing this menace called corruption. The way out is that the law must be applicable to all Nigerians. Whether high or low, people found guilty must be made to face the wrath of our laws.
These successes recorded by the Chief Justice of Nigeria do not come as a surprise. I have known the current CJN for over 25 years. I appeared before her when she was at the Court of Appeal in Ibadan. She is a Judicial Officer par excellence. She has undoubtedly demonstrated courageous leadership. It was her courage that fostered the execution of the necessary reforms that we witness today. She only needs to be supported by the other two arms of government so that she can take the judiciary to an enviable height. However, the judiciary ought to be granted financial autonomy.
Lawyers have been accused of being responsible for the delay inherent in the country’s legal system, do you think they are culpable? And what would you say is the principal challenge of the average Nigerian lawyer and how can it be addressed?
As a young lawyer, getting a firm to work and get paid and be able to afford law reports and other law books was a problem. Lawyers are faced with the problems of long term hearing of cases. Also there are low patronages, as some clients believe that only certain groups of lawyers can handle their cases. This is not quite true. As well, so many of our law books are priced out of the reach of an average lawyer. Because some books and law reports are so expensive, this makes it difficult to develop a library. Patronising touts and common typists drafting legal documents is a major problem too. Touting is another major problems faced by lawyers who are deprived of their legitimate earnings by these touts. Now, how can all these be addressed? Touts must be phased out. Law books and law reports must also be made available to all. Senior lawyers must be ready to employ young lawyers and pay them well to encourage them. Speedy trial of cases is advocated to encourage lawyers to take more briefs.
Your company is focused on a particular niche; why did you choose to publish law related manuals and journals?
What prompted our vision to venture into law reporting was dearth of law report in the 80s and 90s. We junior lawyers could not afford the few available ones. You would need to be on queue for many days before you could borrow a copy from one of the few rich senior colleagues. I became concerned about the future of the legal profession in Nigeria when only few lawyers had access to judgements of superior courts of record and I decided to go into law reporting to make this as reasonable in prices as possible and affordable to every member of the legal profession, both old and young and even students. This we have successfully done over the years.
How are you coping in the law reporting business that is already choked up with many big and renowned names?
It has been very challenging. Moreso when it used to be the exclusive preserve of our men folks, not women until I came. Getting court judgements to report both from the Supreme Court in Abuja and all Courts of Appeal in many Judicial Divisions in Nigeria is not a small task. Editing, proofreading, collating are another major task. Printing, with the high cost of papers and other printing materials and still maintaining our low prices, is another. Marketing all over the country, too, is not that easy. The competition is keen as we have many of such law reports in circulation. But we have stood out by the grace of God Almighty in our report despite all the challenges.
What exactly is your company’s business model that has made you survive despite the competition?
Our company’s business model includes a well laid out system of reporting in a concise manner; error free report as much as possible; good quality print with quality printing papers and materials. We report the ultimate judgement of the Supreme Court, which are binding on all other courts and cannot go on appeal further.