Adumein: Unsung Warrior Goes To The Supreme Court


By Owei Lakemfa

JUSTICE Moore Abraham Aseimo Adumein is one of the eleven new Justices of the Supreme Court sworn in on 26 February 2024. Some who knew him, in his younger days, did not believe he would move to the bench, not to talk of climbing to the apex court.

This is because he was a very intelligent science student and mainly an environmentalist working in the Niger Delta, including as a research assistant to his benefactor, Dr B. Idoniboye-Obu, taking samples of polluted waters and soils, and helping villagers to build their cases for remediation and compensation.

He was a rights activist who wanted justice for the Nigerian nationalities, in what later became known as “resource control”. In those days, he and some of us, including Chief Alex Ekiotene and Reverend Dadikumo Odondiri, learnt at the feet of the great Niger Delta leader, Pa George Weikezie, whose home in Apapa, Lagos, was open to all.

Adumein was also very close to the Grand Old Man of Minority Rights in Nigeria, Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye. When the latter founded the Association of Mineral Producing Areas of Rivers State (AMPARS) to agitate for minority rights, as he had done during the 1957 Willinks Commission, Adumein was its youngest member and research officer.

The AMPARS agitation, amongst others, led to the 25 June 1992 establishment of the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), as a special intervention agency in Nigeria. OMPADEC transformed in 2000 into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Adumein, walking in the footsteps of his mentor, Chief Dappa-Biriye, became a national delegate of the National Republican Convention (NRC), one of the two parties decreed into existence by the Babangida regime. It was here he displayed what can be described as his ‘Audacity of Hope’.

The Babangida regime had proclaimed that it wanted to hand over to “New Breed Politicians” and a young Adumein stretched this when he decided to run for the national chairmanship of the party after it was zoned to the South. Incredibly, his candidacy gained traction. The media dubbed him ‘The Eaglet National Chairmanship Candidate’.

On the eve of the party’s national convention, the then Chief of General Staff, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, addressed the NRC caucus. Adumein was told that the regime was interested in Chief Tom Ikimi, whose candidacy had been declared. He was asked to step down and that he would be compensated. He agreed to step down but said he was not interested in any compensation. Perhaps, the regime did not believe him, because early in the morning of the convention, the secret police took over his hotel room.

They had come to ‘escort’ him to the convention venue. Three of the men remained inside his room, while he took his bath and dressed. The armed men took him straight to the convention stage where shouts of “Rivers! Rivers!! Rivers!!!”, as he was known amongst delegates, rented the air. He announced that he was stepping down, and raised the hand of Chief Ikimi, who was later elected party national chairman along with other candidates on Adumein’s list.

He was part of the movement that agitated for the creation of a new state out of Rivers State. When Bayelsa State was eventually created on 1 October 1996, he was consulted to be the pioneer Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. But that was not to be.

In 2002, he was appointed a High Court Judge in Bayelsa State and, in 2010, elevated to the Court of Appeal where he served in several Divisions and became the Presiding Justice, first of Ibadan Division and, later, Yola Division.

The Court of Appeal, with Adumein presiding, and Justices Gyarazama Sanga Bitrus and Ganiyu Lateef Adebayo as Justices, on 17 November 2023, upheld the nullification of Kano State Governor Abba Yusuf’s election. The main basis was that Yusuf was not a member of the NNPP– the political party that purportedly sponsored him contrary to Section 177(c) of the Constitution. Adumein held that: “A person must be a member of a political party before he can be sponsored for an election. Sponsorship without membership is like putting something on nothing.”

The ruling turned controversial when the certified true copy was contrary, obviously the result of a mix-up. There was an instant media trial of the Justices, even without hearing from them or giving them the benefit of the doubt. Things got as ridiculous as some lawyers petitioning the United Nations! The Court’s Chief Registrar, in reaction, explained it was a mistake and that “Order 23 Rule 4 of the Court of Appeal Handbook” empowers the court to correct such errors.

The subsequent Supreme Court decision on the Kano State case raised more questions than answers. It might go the way of the controversial 1979 “Twelve Two-thirds” judgment that cannot be cited as a judicial precedent.

As if he had a premonition of what was to happen in his last days on the Court of Appeal bench, Adumein, in 2012, held in the case of Sijuade v. Oyewole that: “A tribunal or court is not a science laboratory where facts, issues and matters can be tried, tested and resolved with scientific certainty or exactitude…Courts only apply the test of ‘a reasonable man’ which is prone to human errors. Even in a scientific test, errors are not completely eliminated or ruled out…That Judges are fallible is a matter of ancient acclamation and acknowledgement… Judges will continue to acknowledge their fallibility, as only God is omniscient and infallible.”

Adumein was the best, academically, in his primary, secondary and higher schools. He was also a Senior Prefect at Awori/Ajeromi Grammar School, Agboju, Lagos, and President of the Law Society, University of Lagos. He has received many academic and non-academic awards, both in Nigeria and overseas.

Upon being called to the Bar, and after his National Youth Service, Adumein was the pioneer junior legal practitioner in the well-known law firm of E. C. Ukala & Co. (Efe Chambers), Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where he was groomed under the tutelage of Emmanuel C. Ukala (SAN). 

Some years ago, Adumein told me in an emotion-laden voice that he went from the backwaters of environmentally degraded Rivers to the rough life of Ajegunle (Jungle City) in Lagos; through the hardship he endured in Warri and Port Harcourt, he found himself under the glittering lights of Hong Kong doing post-graduate studies, he could not but marvel at God’s hand in his life.

Justice Adumein is a survivalist having been knocked down many times, but each time, like a great boxer, he rises from the canvas to continue fighting; he never gives up.

•Owei Lakemfa is the Secretary General of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU).  

Editor’s Note: The article was first published in the Vanguard Newspaper on 26 February 2024. 


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