Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Malcom Omoirhobo who caused a stir when he wore a full traditional attire of an “Olokun priest” to attend court proceedings, has insisted that he did so well within his rights.
In an interview with The Punch, he declared his intention to still wear his ‘juju priest’ outfit to court during the next proceeding.
Read excerpts of the interview below:
Dressing in the way you did was quite novel for a lawyer. Did anyone challenge you for appearing at the Supreme Court in such an outfit?
Why would anyone do that? They have no reason to do that. I was only exercising my fundamental rights. Even though I was being satirical, I was only following the Supreme Court’s judgment. I am waiting to see who will challenge me. I don’t do things I can’t defend.
But isn’t appearing in the Supreme Court in a traditional worshipper’s attire contemptuous of the court?
I am not being disrespectful to the court. I am an African man. I am waiting to be told that I am not properly dressed. They should tell me what is proper dressing, according to the Constitution of Nigeria. Is there anything in the Legal Practitioners Act that defines the kind of dress I must wear? Whatever we wear is based on convention that we should wear black and white.
Can convention supersede the constitution? The law says one (law graduate) will be called to the Bar, and wear a wig and gown. Did the law say I should not wear a feather on my head? Did it say I must wear black and white? The law didn’t say so. So, what we are wearing is just about culture, and culture does not supersede the constitution. So, that just shows there is a lacuna in our laws. They need to look at them critically. Nobody should tell me what is decent about dressing. I will continue to dress like this. I am ready to face any panel anywhere and I go open book for dem.
Does that mean we are likely to see you wear that attire to court again?
Yes, I will go to court again in that attire. I want a judge to confront me and ask me why I am dressed that way.
Some lawyers, who were in the courtroom on Thursday said the Supreme Court Justices didn’t see you. In fact, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria said your appearance was merely to get media attention; he said you would have earned his respect if you had announced your appearance for the Justices to see you and get your message. How do you respond to that?
I had my mission and the said SAN cannot tell me what my mission was. He didn’t know what my mission was. He is not my mouthpiece. He is only conjecturing about what I should have done or what I didn’t do right. It is not his business. And it is not true that the court did not take notice of me. I passed my message and that was why when they returned from recess, they did not spend up to 10 minutes before they left.
If my message did not make sense, he (the SAN) would not have been talking about it. I don’t need his respect. He calls himself one of the oldest prosecutors of the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee, so I want to appear before him. I know the law and know what I am doing. He has no right to be talking about what I should have done and what I should not have done. I am not stupid; I am a trained mind. I would not have just gone to disrupt the court proceedings. I would not have announced appearance since I didn’t have a case for the day. If I had done that (announced appearance), I would have been in Kuje (locked up in a correctional centre) by now.