FULL NAME: AGABI, Kanu Godwin
DATE OF BIRTH: July 9,1946
YEAR OF CALL TO BAR: 1972
YEAR OF CONFERMENT: 1997
CONFERMENT SERIAL NO.: 122
PRESENT POSITION: Principal Partner,
LAW FIRM: Kanu G. Agabi & Associates
- NSE House, 21, Floor, Custom Street, Lagos.
- Trinity House, Plot 943, Cadastral Zone B06, Mabushi, Abuja, FCT..
It is not common to find one man who, out of a population of over 150 million being called upon twice in the space of 5yrs and saddled with the responsibility of over-seeing the activities of one of the most critical sectors in a nation as minister.
Exuding piety and disarming humility, Kanu Godwin Agabi is indeed a man of uncommon mettle and his antecedents are indicative of a man hewn from sterner properties. Born on July 9, 1946, he had his primary education initially at St. John’s Primary School, Gboko and later St. Benedict’s Primary school, Ogoja. His secondary education was at Maryknoll secondary school Okuku, Ogoja and Methodist College, Uzuakoli, Abia State.
Young Kanu eventually proceeded to the University of Ife from where he bagged a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree and was subsequently called to the Nigeria Bar after a successful completion of his law training at the Nigeria Law School. He also holds a LLM. from the University of Lagos. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb).
His rich and wide experience in the legal profession garnered over a period of over 35yrs without doubt cast him as a repository of the kind of knowledge and managerial savvy which must be tapped for the benefit of society. Little wonder his immediate constituency, the legal profession considered him eminently qualified for elevation into the inner wells of the Bar as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN in 1997.
Apparently taking a cue from this, the government of Olusegun Obasanjo, upon the return to democratic rule in 1999 appointed Kanu Agabi as minister of justice and Attorney General of the Federation- a challenging task no doubt at a time when the pendulum of government had just swung from one extreme of dictatorship to the other extreme of liberalism amid high expectations
After only a year as Minister of Justice, he was re-assigned to the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development to make way for Chief Bola Ige SAN but was promptly recalled after the assassination of Bola Ige to once again mount the saddle as the nation’s Chief legal officer.
Kanu Agabi’s second coming as Minister of Justice coincided with the period of the controversial introduction of strict Islamic or Sharia Law by Governors of some states in Northern Nigeria. Rising firmly to the challenge, Agabi issued a letter to Nigeria state Governors stating unequivocally the unconstitutionality of the Sharia law sine some judgments passed under sharia discriminated against Muslims.
That month, Amina Lawal, a young Nigeria woman accused of giving birth to a child out of wedlock was sentenced to death by stoning, a penalty that was confirmed in August 2002 by a Shari’ah court of appeal in Funtua, Katsina State
His resoluteness in upholding the supremacy of the Nigerian Constitution in the face of the storm generated by the controversy clearly cast Kanu Agabi as a true Patriot. Asked recently to recount his achievements and contribution to the legal profession in Nigeria while in office as Attorney General of the Federation, Agabi’s response was vintage humility on display; I am unable to think in terms of my personal achievements. The government must be seen as a whole. No limb can claim to be healthy when the entire body is sick. And no sickness can be attributed to any limb when the body as a whole is healthy.
The doctrine of collective responsibility simple means that no Minister should single himself out for credit or commendation. Nor should he single himself out for condemnation. I am aware that the government in which I served has been much criticized. I concede that mistakes were made. I held office at a time when law had failed the nation and there was need to return to God.
We are like the prodigal son when the languished in the foreign land of corruption and violence and inefficiency. This is no time to talk of achievements. We have been too political with the nation. We need to be more honest with it’.
Not one to shy away from issues especially in relation to the legal profession and its practitioners, Kanu Agabi carpets those calling for the abolition of the rank of SAN.’ I do not support the view it is unfair trading whatever that means. Nor do I support the abolition of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. There are indeed advocate who can properly be described as senior. Several institutions in our country have come under justifiable suspicion. Shall we abolish them all? As human beings we do sin and offended God all the time. Shall we all hang ourselves? We criticize the national Assembly daily as disappointing our expectations. Shall we abolish that Institution? We rejected military rule. Should we proceed to abolish the army? The abolition of the rank is not a solution to whatever problems attend its conferment. There is never going to come a time when the conferment of the rank will be devoid of all problems and Suspicions. Do we not grumble against God himself when we are bereaved? After a while, we get over our loss and begin to give Him thanks. We shall eventually get over the problems which are associated with the conferment of the ranks of SAN whatever those problems are.
Kanu Godwin Agabi, after his secondary stint as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation went on to serves as Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Good Governance and Ethics from June 2003-May 2007. The former Chairman, Board of Directors of NICON and National Properties Ltd is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria.
Other honours and Preferments include: Member, Presidential Advisory Council (2010-2011); Former President Afro – Asian Legal Consultative Association (Body of Attorneys – General of Africa and Asia); Special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Good Governance (2004-2007). Minister of Justice & Attorney-General of the Federation (1999-2000/ 2002- 2003); Minister of Solid Minerals Development (2000 -2002) Chairman, Cross River State Vision 2010 Committee, Commissioner for Finance, Cross River State (1979), Former Chairman, Calabar Branch, Nigerian Bar Association Commander of the Order of Niger, CON. (We acknowledge that this profile was partially culled from The Radiance of Silk, a publication of Goodways Publications Limited) and other sources.