Metro Society Top Story

Who is Justice Doris Okuwobi, Chairperson of #EndSARS Judicial Panel?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu named Retired Justice Doris Okuwobi as the Chairperson of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS-related Abuses in Lagos State, he described her as ‘unblemished’.

At 10:30am on Monday, members of the panel to investigate cases of brutality and human rights violations committed by operatives of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) took the oath at the State House, Marina.

Justice Doris Okuwobi (Rtd.)

Then, the panel members led by their chairman, Justice Doris Okuwobi Rtd., immediately moved to LASWA Building located at Falomo Roundabout in Ikoyi for the inaugural proceeding.

The swiftness with which the panel swung into action speaks to the nature and character of its chairperson and the intensity of attention she may give the assignment over the next few weeks.

So, who really is Justice Doris Okuwobi and what does she bring to the table over the next few weeks?

Justice Doris Okuwobi started her legal career in 1978 in the chambers of the late Kehinde Sofola (SAN) before she joined the Lagos State Government as State Counsel.

She rose to become Solicitor-General and Permanent-Secretary in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice.

Justice Okuwobi was appointed Judge of the High Court of Lagos State on 17th September 1998.

She was in the same graduating class with the likes of O.C.J. Okocha SAN, Olisa Agbakoba SAN, Seyi Sowemimo SAN, Chief Bayo Ojo SAN, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu SAN, Chief Awomolo SAN, Kola Awodein SAN.

Also read  Africa is imperfect solution to Europe’s gas woes

Her brilliance as a State Counsel was celebrated following her handling of ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF LAGOS STATE v. THE HON. JUSTICE L.J DOSUNMU (1989) up to Supreme Court level which she won on behalf of the Lagos State Government facing the likes of Chief F.R.A. Williams (SAN) and Ebun Sofunde (SAN) who were counsels for the respondent.

As Judge of the Lagos State High Court, Justice Okuwobi dealt with many cases in which she is said to have given sound rulings and judgements.

One of the recent rulings she gave, was in the ongoing N5 billion libel case of Ibrahim Magu, former Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) versus The Publishers of Sun Newspapers in April 2019.

The defendants had relied on a copy of a report which emanated from the Department of State Security (DSS) against Mr. Magu.

Ibrahim Magu was said to have rejected the copy of the report because it was not a certified true copy.

In her ruling, Justice Doris Okuwobi said, “I hereby accept the submission of the claimant’s (Magu) counsel to the effect that it is only a certified true copy of a public document properly issued by a public officer that is admissible under Section 104(1) of the Evidence Act. There is no provision in the Act making ordinary photocopies of public documents without certification as admissible. I find the document not admissible as it is not in admissible form. The document is hereby rejected and marked as exhibit rejected number one.”

While she has been applauded by many of her peers for her professional adroitness, a seeming reservation about her decisions, however, comes from the naming by Media Rights Agenda (MRA), a Lagos-based NGO, of Justice Doris Okuwobi in its “FOI Hall of Shame.”

Also read  Grooming Centre launches inspiring photobook on 30 tenacious women

Justice Okuwobi had refused a motion by MRA seeking leave of the Lagos State High court to sue the Ojodu Local Council Development Area in Lagos State over its failure to disclose records requested by the organization under the Freedom of Information Act.

In her ruling delivered on June 19, 2017, Justice Okuwobi held that since the Council had not given MRA any written notice in accordance with Section 4(b) of the Freedom of Information Act that it would not grant access to the information requested by the organization since November 4, 2016 nor given any reason for denying access to the information, the application for leave was “premature”.

MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, described the ruling as “ridiculous”, saying the degree of “deliberate ignorance” betrayed by the decision could bring the Judiciary into disrepute.

Justice Doris Okuwobi retired from the bench in January 2020.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.