By Henry Ojelu
In 1987, Mr. Lawal Mohammed Alade Pedro, SAN, was just an ordinary State Counsel (Level 8 Civil Servant) in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice. Fresh from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello
University, Zaria with a 2nd Class Upper Degree in Law and the Nigerian Law School, his initial plan was to spend just two years in the Ministry and move back to private practice.
That plan was however put on a pause button as the young hardworking Lagos boy applied his heart to the job and rose to become the Solicitor-General of Lagos State and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice in 2008.
In the same year he was conferred with the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. He thereby became the first State Counsel in the Public or Civil Service of Lagos and any State in the Federation of Nigeria to be conferred with the rank of SAN.
Today September 13, 2023, His Excellency Babajide Sanwo-Olu the Governor of Lagos State appointed him as the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice. Again the first of his kind to rise from State Counsel to become Commissioner in the same Ministry.
Pedro’s rise is indeed a story of hard work, perseverance and dedication to duty. No doubt, he deserves an award or honour for this feat.
Born on October 6, 1961 in the Brazilian Quarters Area of Lagos Island to the families of Libento Momo Pedro and Ojutiku-Ewunmi-Oshodi and Ambose
Branch of Akinsemoyin Royal Family of Lagos, Pedro attended the Christ Church Cathedral Primary School, Broad Street, Lagos from 1966 to 1972.
He proceeded to Anwar-Ul-Islam College formerly (Ahmadiyya College) Agege Lagos (1973 -1979) and Methodist Boys High School, Lagos (1980 -1981) where he obtained his West African School Certificate and Higher School Certificate respectively.
First Taste of Law Practice
Upon graduation from the Ahmadu Bello University in 1985, Pedro attended the Nigerian Law School and was called to Bar in 1986. He had his mandatory National Youth Service, NYSC, from 1986
– 1987 as a Legal Officer in the Ibadan Western Regional Office of First Bank of Nigeria Plc.
Thereafter he cut his teeth as a Barrister in the famous Chambers of Dele Akinmusuti & Co. which had offices in Ibadan and Lagos.
Passion for Service
When Pedro joined the Lagos State Ministry of Justice in December 1987, one of his major goals was to master the law and its application in upholding justice and equity.
While some of his privileged contemporaries settled for less tasking roles, Pedro crisscrossed virtually all the directorates in the Lagos Ministry of Justice where he acquired knowledge and experience.
As a young State Counsel, Pedro was always among the first to resume duty and the last to leave office. He never rejected any file or posting or saw any extra task as too demanding. Within a few years of joining the Ministry, the files of his many successful litigations in court on behalf of the Lagos State Government was already attracting the attention of his bosses.
Aside from his personal case records, Pedro also made very huge contributions to the successful litigation of many landmark cases by successive Attorneys-General that headed the Ministry. These efforts earned him well deserved promotions culminating in him being appointed as Head of Civil Litigation Department in 2001.
Pedro also led the team that successfully prosecuted the alleged killer of Mrs Kudirat Abiola, wife of the acclaimed winner of the 1993 Presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola.
As Director of Civil Litigation for many years, Pedro handled many cases that involved the State Government including land matters and administration which formed bulk of the cases litigated upon, resolved and settled in collaboration with the Lands Bureau. He was also a member of the State Land Excision Committee.
Floods of Recognitions
In recognition of his exceptional hard work and dedication to duty, Pedro was elevated ahead of his seniors at the Bar and Service in the Justice Ministry to the position of Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice in 2008.
As a further validation of him deserving more than just a promotion in the Ministry, Pedro was awarded the prestigious rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in December 2008.
Outstanding Service Under Three Attorneys-General
Pedro had the rare privilege to have served under three Attorneys- General of Lagos State. When former Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN was Attorney-General of the State, Pedro was his Director of Civil Litigation and recorded many landmark victories in court on behalf of the state government.
When Mr. Olasupo Shasore, SAN, took over the office, Pedro was his Solicitor- General. As Solicitor-General to Shasore, Pedro was among the team that came up with lofty programmes in the Ministry; some of which are pathfinders for other states.
When Mr. Adela Ipaye also became an Attorney-General, Pedro was his Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary. Under Ipaye, Pedro amongst other things, fought for retention of vote of charge known as ‘State Cases and Brief’ in which cases involving the Lagos State government were expeditiously prosecuted.
Rich Resume of other Sundry Duties
Pedro served in various committees on Physical planning and urban development in the State. He was responsible for most of the litigations in courts on Physical Planning matters and policy. As Solicitor-General of the State, he was a statutory member of State/ Local Government Joint Account Committee (JAC).
As Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Justice he was responsible for processing the clearance for appointment of Obas and other Traditional Chiefs in the State for the Attorney-General before the Governor’s approval. He also served as a member of the State Business Ways and Means Committee aimed at improving service delivery and efficiency by reducing the cost and time of doing business in Lagos State.
Speaking Truth to Power
Although Pedro was working for the Lagos State Government, he was never afraid to stand his ground when he believed that the government was wrong or liable in any legal dispute. He was never afraid to speak truth to power. One instance of this rare disposition of a government officer was when Justice Habib Abiru who is now at the Court of Appeal delivered a judgment against the Lagos State Government.
Being the Director of Civil Litigation at the time, Pedro was directed to appeal the judgment but he insisted that there was no basis for appeal because that would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.
President Bola Tinubu, who then was the governor of Lagos State and an ardent respecter of the rule of law, with the support of the Attorney General at the time, accepted his decision. Pedro suggested to the state government to find another solution to the problem because there was no basis for clogging the court system with an appeal that he knew was dead on arrival.
Another instance of Pedro’s stand for justice irrespective of whose side he is on, was when the Ministry of Justice introduced the Community Service Scheme. A seminar was recommended to be held on a week-day for magistrates to understand the scheme -a situation that would have required that the entire magistrate court in the state be shut down.
Pedro vehemently kicked against the date for the conference and insisted that it was unwise to hold it on a day that would have made the Judiciary close down the whole of the Magistrate court, especially because some inmates of correctional centres could have a call over, and if the magistrates did not sit on that day, persons presumed innocent would still have to be returned to custody. Although some persons in government grumbled over his position, the then Chief Judge agreed with him, and the event was held on a Saturday.
Many other instances abound where Pedro proved himself as not just a proponent of the rule of rule for the transformation of the society but one who stands by the truth and does what is right at all times.
Mediation expert, author
Pedro is not just a regular law practitioner, he is also a fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Nigeria and was an examiner of the Institute and a Certified Mediator. He is also avid writer an author of law books, prominent amongst his publication is a book titled “Jurisdiction of Courts in Nigeria” which is currently a bestseller in Nigeria.
Active Role in Party Politics
As a member of All Progressives Conference, APC, Pedro served as the Legal Director in the Independent Campaign Group (ICG) of the party in 2019 and again in 2023 as the Legal
Director in the Independent Campaign Council (ICC) of the party in Lagos State for the election of Tinubu/Shettima and Sanwo-Olu/ Hamzat. He was the immediate past Chairman of the Appeal Panel for the Local Government Primary Election in Lagos State.
Return to Base
With Pedro’s return to the Lagos State Ministry of Justice as Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice after eight years of successful adventure to pursue the private practice dream his paused, Lagosians can be rest assured that the right man with the drive to dispense justice and equity to all, is in full charge of the very crucial department of government. As one who was among the team that laid the foundation for the many law reforms and innovations that Lagos State is witnessing today, Pedro is definitely coming to office knowing quite well what he is coming to do. He is a tested and trusted hand and will surely ensure justice for all.