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On Tuesday, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo appointed Bolaji Owasanoye to succeed Ekpo Nta as Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
The new ICPC chairman was Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), and has been a research professor at the National Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) for the past 25 years. But that is just one feather on the cap of the erudite legal practitioner.
GRADUATE AT 21, MASTER’S HOLD AT 24 AND PROFESSOR AT 38
Born in 1963, Owasanoye graduated with a second class upper degree in Law from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1984 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1985.
He then proceeded to the University of Lagos in 1986, beginning his career as an Assistant Lecturer. It is from UNILAG that Owasanoye bagged a master’s degree in Law in 1987, at the age of just 24.
From UNILAG, he moved over to NIALS in 1991; 10 years later, in 2001, he became a Professor of Law, aged 38.
He also had stints at various international institutions, including the Royal Institute of Public Administration in the UK and the International Law Institute, Washington, USA.
WOMEN/CHILD RIGHTS ACTIVIST
In 1997, Owasanoye co-founded the Human Development Initiative (HDI), a not-for-profit organisation with the main objectives of championing human capacity development, especially at the grassroots.
The organisation focuses more on widows, youths and teenagers – especially in-school adolescents and children in worst forms of labour. HDI’s mission statement reads: To strengthen vulnerable humans, in society by social development programmes and initiatives that promote equality, justice, solidarity and opportunities.
Owasanoye has presented many papers at United Nations events on the need for the right of children to be upheld in all the nations of the world.
At PACAC, where he served as the Executive Secretary, Owasanoye was one of the vocal and courageous members of the committee. He was an advocate of the whistle-blower and witness protection bills recently passed by the senate.
He never backed off from criticising even his own primary constituency – the Judiciary – especially when the matter has to do with incidents of corruption.
In an interview on the failure of the prison decongestion project of the federal government, Owasanoye said: “The Prison decongestion project situated in the FMOJ for a number of years gulped billions over a five-to-six-year period without impacting the prison situation.
“Systemic corruption entrenched within the FMOJ and collaborating lawyers in private practice effectively truncated the project.
“The NBA, as a major stakeholder, failed to play the role of a watchdog of the process in spite of its avowed commitment to criminal justice administration. Rather NBA leaders and former Attorneys-General of the Federation used the project as patronage for lackeys and supporters.”
Owasanoye’s NGO has successfully implemented over 50 advocacy projects on human rights, rule of law, governance and anti-corruption.
These include the ‘Stop Impunity Nigeria Campaign’, aimed at eliminating impunity in public finance management; and the ‘LG budget-watch’ designed to tackle corrupt practices at the local government level.
What many do not know about Owasanoye is that during his lecturing days at the University of Lagos, he was the Assistant Chaplain at the UNILAG Chapel of Christ our Light. He is also a member of the clergy at the Aso Villa Chapel in the State House Abuja.
Owasanoye has won several national and international awards, including the University of Lagos Scholarship Award (1986/1987), UN Institute for Training and Research Fellowship Award (1991, 1994), US Information Service International Visitors Award (1991), British Council Fellowship Award (1992) and Senior Special Fellowship, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (2001).
He has published over 100 academic and research projects in national and international journals and has authored/edited over 10 books.
From January 2007 to date, Owasanoye has been the Secretary of the National Working Group on the Review of Investment Laws in Nigeria. Through his professional and social activities, he has worked in anti-corruption circles and his appointment as ICPC Chairman should turn out the fixing of a square peg to a square hole.