By Ise-Oluwa Ige
The Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, LPPC, headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria,CJN, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, yesterday, okayed 19 senior legal practitioners, including a renowned constitutional lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, for admission into the prestigious rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Of the 19 lawyers considered for admission into the Inner Bar,Â yesterday, 17 were advocates while the two others were academics.
According to the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Alhaji Usman Musale, who announced the names, 126 lawyers applied for the conferment of the rank out of which only 19 were successful.
According to him, out of the 126 that applied, 107 were advocates while 19 were academics.
The new silks
The 19 new senior lawyers admitted into the Inner Bar include Nella Andem-Ewa, Joseph A. Nwobika, Offiong Effiong Bassey Offiong, Mike A. Ozekhome, Sylvia E. Shinaba and Dorothy Udeme Ufot.
Others are Francis Dike, Chukwuma Uchenna Ekomaru, Arthur Obi Okafor, Etigwe Owa, Jadegoke Adebanjo Badejo, Abiodun Ishola Layonu and Adekunle Babatunde Ogunba.
George M. Oguntade, C. O. Toyin Pinheiro, Olusina R. Sofola, Samuel E. Mosugu, Andrew I Chukwuemerie and Fabian Ikenna Ajogwu also made the list.
FalanaÂ not on list
The name of radical Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, was not on the list. He was said not to have applied.
The final list released, yesterday, however, laid to a final rest the controversy that trailed the process for selection of the qualified lawyers for the 2009 legal year.
In the history of the award of the title, the committee received the highest number of petitions.
Even the Nigerian Bar Associationâ€™s President, ChiefÂ Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, wrote a petition wherein he castigated the process for the award.
The letterÂ polarised the Bar as some members of the executive which he (Akeredolu) leads, wrote another letter to the then CJN, Justice Idris Kutigi, dissociating themselves from his position.
It was so bad that members of the committee awarding the title itself were divided.
For instance, the aggrieved members of the committee had alleged a violation of the Guidelines for the Conferment of the Rank of SAN.
According to them, after carrying out inspection of chambers of applicants, the LPPCâ€™s sub-committee that carried out the inspection ought to submit its report to LPPC through the Secretary after which the committee would then meet and consider the reports of chambersâ€™ inspectors and decide those who qualify and those who do not.
They, however, alleged that those who carried out chambers’ inspection merely sent the list of those they considered worthy for publication without first submitting their findings to the committee for consideration.
When the time for meeting for the ratification of the final list came, most members of the committee, refused to turn up which made Justice Kutigi, the immediate past CJN, to cancel it.
All petitions treated
But the Secretary to the Committee, Musale, said yesterday, that no petition was eventually left unattended to.
The new CJN, Justice Katsina-Alu, however, chaired the meeting that produced the final list of fresh entrants into the prestigious rank yesterday after attending to the deluge of complaints.
The SAN title is the most prestigious awarded in the legal profession.
It is awarded to legal practitioners who have distinguished themselves in practice, researches, morals and with at least 10 years post-call experience.
The title is equivalent to the British Queenâ€™s Counsel, QC, or the Irish Senior Counsel, SC.
By operation of law,Â SANs are entitled to certain privileges over other lawyers when they appear in law courts, including sitting at the first row of the Bar exclusively reserved for them and having their cases called first before other lawyers.
The 19 new SANs would be sworn in on April 12.