7th May 2013

The Guardian

Pinheiro: A Conscientious Lawyer of All Times

Pinheiro believes that success comes from hardwork and he decided not to substitute it for anything, no wonder he learned to grind his arguments in court.

OLUWAKEMI Adekunle Uthman Pinheiro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is a legal practitioner with an uncommon passion for advocacy.

The revered lawyer has by dint of hard work created a niche for himself as one of the nation's conscientious lawyers.Incidentally, Pinheiro's love for the legal profession was inspired by his desire to put smile on his clients' faces.Pinheiro was not the first lawyer from his family but he has, however, remained resolute in resolving several complex legal problems using the instrumentality of law.

His personal conviction that law will give him satisfaction and place him in a position of leadership in the society was the main motivation in studying law. Fortunately, Pinheiro, as a young man, was opportune to see lawyers neatly dressed in their wigs and gowns at Igbosere and fell in love with the profession. His love for law was further enhanced by his findings that majority of American and British leaders were or are lawyers. Today, he is better for it. Kemi, as admirers fondly call him, has risen from oblivion to become one of the nation's finest lawyers.

This is how he captured the moment: ' Immediately I finished my school certificate examinations; I knew I was going to be a lawyer. I also came to the conclusion that to discover myself, I was going to read law. So, mine was never an accident, it was being focused and knowing what I wanted in life and knowing what would give me satisfaction not going into a profession, which I didn't have passion for. So, I discovered at the early stage that I would be discovering myself if I was doing law. I am happy that I am quite passionate about law and lawyering, and I enjoy it. It is not even about the money. It is about the feeling of satisfaction'.

Born on March 21, 1965, to the Pinheiro family of Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria, Pinheiro started his educational career in 1969 when he enrolled at the Adrao International School, Victoria Island, and Lagos for his primary education. He concluded this successfully and graduated in 1976 with a firm foundation. Thereafter, in September 1976, he proceeded to the prestigious Baptist Academy, Shepherd Hill, Ikorodu Road, Lagos, for his secondary education and graduated in July 1981.

During this period, he obtained the WASC 'O' Levels Certificate with distinctions. Between September 1981 and July 1983, he schooled at the Federal School of Arts & Science, Victoria Island, Lagos, for his GCE 'A' Levels.In October 1983, he proceeded to the University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State, to study law. He graduated from this prestigious university in July 1986 as one of the best students in his set. Immediately after this, he enrolled at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, in September 1986.Upon his completion of the Bachelor of Law programme at the Law School, he was called to the Nigerian Bar in October 1987.Pinheiro's professional background commenced in 1987 in Rivers State, Southern Nigeria.

During his compulsory one year National Service Youth Service Corps programme, he was a state counsel in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and also the office of Director, Civil Litigation. During this period, he developed a great passion for advocacy and successfully secured the conviction of some felons. Pinheiro's first time in court was marked with a funny experience in Bori High Court in River State. The director of civil litigation had tossed a file to him and told him, you are in court tomorrow. The fearless lawyer had gone to court and when the case was called, he did not know where the plaintiffs were seated. Out of anxiety and the fact that he was very jittery, Pinheiro jumped up without even announcing his appearance, told the court to strike out the case in view of the plaintiffs' absence. His application was greeted with laughter and the judge called on him, 'young man who are these people standing beyond you'. That experience was to be Pinheiro's solid foundation as he rose up from it to become a notable figure in advocacy. He said of that experience: 'I learnt from that episode in 1987 to 88 to always be prepared and to know what to say at anytime, as well as to say the correct thing'.Pinheiro rose from that experience to be a notable lawyer in advocacy by doing criminal, civil and even election petition cases as a Youth Corps member.

Between October and December 1988, he was a counsel in the firm of Rhodes & Rhodes, Lagos, where he was paid N500 monthly. He, however, made a significant career decision by leaving the job for a lesser paid job where he was paid N300 because of his desire for intellectual development. In January 1989, he joined the firm of Abiola Oshodi & Company, Lagos State, as a senior counsel.

In November 1995, he co-founded the firm, Pinheiro & Oguntade, where he was a partner till 2001 when he established Pinheiro & Company, as a senior partner till date. The revered lawyer has been in active legal practice ever since and his practice cuts across a wide horizon, covering legal consultancy, advocacy, commercial and corporate practice, maritime, arbitration, debt recovery, election petition, matrimonial causes, industrial dispute, aviation, intellectual property, real estate, banking and finance, probate and administration of estates, environmental law and land use and criminal prosecution.

Pinheiro believes that success comes from hard work, and he decided not to substitute it for anything, no wonder he learned to grind his arguments in court.

According to him, when you take your work seriously you find out that God has a way of rewarding your efforts and people will start mentioning your name for referrals. He has imbibed a principle of taking every day in court as a day of destiny and so, has never taken any case as just an ordinary matter.

The learned silk has handled several matters in all cadres of Nigerian courts, which he considered equally challenging. Two of these cases that readily come to the legal mind was the case involving Town Planning and Mega Plaza. The ratio of the case is that a neighbour has no right to dictate what his neighbour will pay because he is a stranger to the contract between that neighbour and the government authority. In the matter, which was widely reported, the neighbour's remedy is at best to sue for nuisance, which will be futuristic.

In another matter, Pinheiro confronted a Supreme Court that split along the line. It was a question of 3-4, while four members of the panel did not agree with him, three of them agreed with him. It was a case that had to do with the right to appeal with respect to some decisions from the lower courts in the north. Although Pinheiro recognised that only God is infallible, he however, does not believe in losing cases. He said: 'Whenever a judge disagrees with me, subject to the instructions of the client, I take it up, if I believe very strongly about the issue. And you know that even the courts had notoriously held that they are not infallible. The Supreme Court has said that it is not infallible, but it is final, and when there is an avenue to overrule themselves when subsequently cases arise, they do. So, I don't believe that I lose a case; I rather believe that the court disagrees with my positions and that does not make my position wrong. It only means that they disagree with my position'.

Pinheiro, who was brought up by the benevolence of his generous uncle, never allowed the circumstances of his background to affect his future as he always believed in himself by being prayerful and God has been kind to him. He holds tenaciously to the fact that he never allows his past to retard his future and has distinguished himself as an astute and disciplined advocate with high level of integrity and uprightness.

In view of this, he was made a Notary Public within 11 years of his practice in 1998. Equally, between 1997 and 1998, he was appointed the Special Assistant to the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Lagos State. In 2002, he became a member of the Institute of Chartered Arbitrators of Nigeria and thereafter in 2011, he was elevated to a Fellow of the Institute. To cap it all, in recognition of his distinction in legal practice and the Nigerian Bar, he was elevated to the status of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2006.Of utmost interest to Pinheiro's professional career is the eradication of, and fight against corruption.

He also held the view that the standard of the legal practice has fallen and the level of intellectual discourse he met at the point of entry has ebbed in the last couple of years, corruption has also entered the justice sector. To him, the practice is not leveraging on the information technology like the electronic filing, e-registry and others to improve the practice as things are still done manually, which is depressing and saddening and is also affecting quicker dispensation of justice.

To this end, he is passionately committed to the eradication of corruption in Nigeria in all its facets and he is vigorously campaigning and championing the cause to rid Nigeria of this ill and instill discipline into the polity. To this end, he partnered with the anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to prosecute high-level corruption cases involving both high profile government officials and captains of industry.

He is currently leading the prosecution teams against some ministers, senators, banks' managing directors, permanent secretaries, legislators and other high ranking government officials for different infractions of law committed while holding various offices.

Pinheiro belongs to several professional bodies like the Nigeria Bar Association, where he is serving as the Chairman, Building Committee, Nigeria Bar Association, Ikeja Branch and Committee on Law Reform/Legislative Advocacy of the Lagos Branch of NBA (The Premier Branch). He is Co-Chairman, Panel B Disciplinary Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association and a member of the Finance Committee of the Nigeria Bar Association. He is equally a member of the International Bar Association; Ikoyi Club 1938; Crescent Bearers (1939); Institute of Directors, U.K; Bank Directors' Association of Nigeria; UNIBEN Alumni Association; Institute of Chartered Arbitrators; Nigerian Law Students' Association Executive Council, University of Benin (1985).

Pinheiro has won several awards in recognition of his distinction in any field of his endeavour. He relaxes by playing golf, reading and traveling. He is happily married to Yetunde Pinheiro and the marriage is blessed with three children.