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GANI'S WILL READ, PROVISIONS MADE FOR THE POOR, BEGGARS

By NBF NEWS
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This photograph obtained by THE PUNCH shows the late Gani Fawehinmi signing his Will in the presence of his lawyer, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), on December 19, 2008.

Even in death, the late legal icon, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), remained true to the principles that guided his life. Fawehinmi, who died in September 5, 2009, made provisions for the poor and beggars in his last Will.

The Will was read on Thursday by the Probate Registrar of the Magistrate Court 2 of an Ikeja High Court who read the late senior advocate's Will and testament to his widows, children and relatives.

The details of the Will were, however, shrouded in secrecy as journalists who were earlier allowed to cover the proceedings were asked to leave when it was about to be read.

But a family source, who witnessed the reading of the Will, told our correspondent on Thursday that the late lawyer, besides making provisions for his widows, children and relatives, also left part of his vast estate to the poor, instructing that they must be fed annually in his homes in Lagos and Ondo.

The legal luminary also made provisions for his law chambers and insisted that the publication of the Nigerian Weekly Law Reports must be sustained.

Fawehinmi was said to have instructed that he was passionate about the NWLR and stated that they should outlive him.

The development came just as our correspondents authoritatively learnt that First Trustees, a subsidiary of First Bank Plc; had been appointed as the executor/trustee of the vast estate of the late legal icon.

A source close to the family said, 'I can confirm to you that the First Trustees had been appointed as the executor to the Will. Please note that the late Fawehinmi was very thorough in his life and that was why First Trustees, with a reputation, had been appointed to execute the Will.'

Some of the 15 children of the deceased, including his two wives, arrived the venue a few minutes before 10am.

But Fawehinmi's first son, Mohammed, who had a blue towel hung on his shoulder to mop sweat, was brought in on a wheelchair at exactly 10.04am.

The Deputy Chief Registrar in the Probate Registry of the state High Court, Mr. E. Safari, who gave the preliminary briefing before the Will was read, asked journalists to leave the venue, on the grounds that the exercise was entirely a private matter of the Fawehinmi family.

He also stated that any of the family members, whose name was not included in the Will, would have to leave as well.

When asked by journalists if his position represented the stand of the law on the matter or if it was the wish of the family, he said, 'It is the position of the law and as well as what the family wanted. Anybody who wants to get details of the Will should apply for it.'

After a closed door opening and reading of the last Will of the celebrated lawyer, which lasted for about 40 minutes, members of the family came out of the hall in a procession-like manner.

In his interaction with journalists shortly after the exercise, Mohammed revealed that the Will was favourable and fair to all concerned.

He said, 'The Will is favourable and took care of everybody. Gani did everything in such a way that we felt he knew what each of us was thinking. I have applied for a certified true copy of the Will for each member of the family, so that everybody can have a personal copy to read.'

When asked why some of his siblings were not present at the venue, he said they were stranded in Europe as a result of the volcanic ash that shut the airspace of many European nations for some days.

Mohammed's mother, who is also the first wife, Ganiat, stood beside him throughout his interaction with journalists.

Meanwhile, about 40 indigent students drawn from polytechnics, universities and colleges of education across the country were also awarded scholarships in this year's Gani Fawehinmi Annual Scholarship Award at the late lawyer's chambers in Lagos on Thursday.

In his address, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, congratulated members of the foundation for sustaining the scholarship thus far since its inception in 1973.

He also stated that the beneficiaries deserved the scholarship awards having been painstakingly chosen by the ''tested and credible panel members of the foundation.'

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress and special guest, Mr. Abdulwaheed Omar, described Fawehinmi as a matchless advocate of quality education, saying that Nigerians should endeavour to expand the things he had put right before his death.

In his lecture titled, 'Education without Illusion,' Emeritus Prof. Eskor Toyo, said that Gani was dedicated to Nigeria's underprivileged groups, many of whom had been reduced to nothingness by those he called 'a class of vultures.'

He said, 'Gani was dedicated to justice, probity and what he saw as the truth. There is absolutely no doubt that he also had immense courage.'

Delivering his speech, Chairman of the Gani Fawehinmi Scholarship Board, Dr. Dipo Fashina, revealed that members of the panel had a tough time screening the applicants, to determine the truly indigent ones among them, suitable for the award.

Those who attended the event included Mr. Adebolu Arowolo, who represented the Chairman of Punch Nigeria Limited, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola; Chairman of Lagos chapter of the National Conscience Party, Mr. Afolabi Gbajumo; the party's National President, Mr.Femi Falana; Mr. Femi Aborisade; and Mr. Segun Sango.