Tinubu’s Cabinet: The Top 10 Round Pegs in Round Holes – LATEEF FAGBEMI

LATEEF FAGBEMI – (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation)

Until his appointment and deployment as the 24th Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in August, Prince Lateef Olasunkanmi Fagbemi, SAN, was the Lead Counsel of the 2023 All Progressives Congress (APC)’s Presidential Election Petition Legal Team.

Those who are not familiar with his antecedents and pedigree would see his appointment as politically motivated and reward for loyalty and legal service to APC. But that is very far from the truth. His emergence is a palpable demonstration of the mantra of putting a round peg in a round hole. Like many of Tinubu’s other ministers, the appointment of the iconic prince from Ijagbo town in Kwara State is faultless, both in terms of superlative qualifications he wields and his enviable personal attributes. Fagbemi’s sheer brilliance, deep knowledge of the law, experience in jurisprudence and courage to tell the truth to power easily commended for the position of Nigeria’s number one legal officer.

He was one time the youngest Senior Advocate of Nigeria, having attained the prestigious and enviable rank at the youthful age of 37! This means he got that enviable rank of distinction before his 11th year at the bar, having been called to the Bar in August 1985. For the past four decades, Fagbemi, now 64, has handled numerous cases in diverse areas of law practice including arbitration, alternative dispute resolution, commercial law, land and border disputes, high-profile political cases, anti-corruption matters, constitutional matters and election petition cases.

He was never afraid to speak truth to power. For example, during the heat of scandals involving the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, and the ex-chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, AbdurRasheed Maina, Fagbemi said: “Truth be told, every well-meaning Nigerian must commend the effort of the present government at combating corruption in the country. That said however, the case of Maina and that of Babachir Lawal, I sincerely think, ought to have been handled differently.

“I expected the government to have come out with a definite position on its suspended SGF, having received the report of the committee purposely set up to look into the allegations against him.

“The time it took the government to take a position in Babachir Lawal’s case makes the Nigerian people to have doubt about the sincerity of the government in the fight against corruption”

“The Maina case epitomizes the problem inherent in our public administration and our system generally. Taking the matter away from the mischievous realm of politics, one cannot stop wondering how somebody who had long been declared wanted by the EFCC, the most popular crime-fighting organisation in Nigeria, would be right there within the corridors of power and nobody was able to blow the whistle on him.”

These are just a few of the reasons why Fagbemi’s appointment has been widely acclaimed, given the fact that it is the function of the Attorney-General to advise the Government on the constitutionality of policies and actions taken or embarked upon by the Government. This is in addition to providing legal services to support law enforcement agencies and every department or institution of government. A lot of issues on rule of law and constitutionality in the country also rests on the office of the AGF.

Prince Fagbemi was born on July 16, 1959 in Ijagbo, Oyun Local Government Area of Kwara State. He acquired his Bachelor of Law degree (LL.B.) from the University of Jos in 1984. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1985 and acquired his Master of Laws degree (LL.M.) from the Obafemi Awolowo University in 1987. He became a senior advocate of Nigeria in 1998.

Prince Fagbemi acquired his initial tutelage, grilling and professional maturation in the chambers of the legal guru, Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, within eleven years. He then proceeded to establish his own chambers, Lateef Fagbemi & Co, aka, Temitope Chambers. Since then, there has been no looking back. The chamber has since grown in leaps and bounds, with branches in  Ibadan Lagos, Kwara,  and Abuja.

Before serving as APC’s team’s Leading Counsel in the 2023 presidential election Tribunal, he was the counsel to the APC during Governor Oyetola versus Adeleke’s election tribunal hearing appeal. He was also the legal counsel to Former Governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, who is being prosecuted by the EFCC for financial crimes.