*Wait till next year LPPC consoles them
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, may have inadvertently inflicted everlasting injury on 32 senior members of the legal profession, who prior to last Thursday, basked in the euphoria of rising to the revered rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN.
For these set of lawyers, NBA could best be described as kill- joy, considering that most of them had already received congratulatory messages from friends and even their village heads. They were among the 62 people short-listed for SANship which was earlier published by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, LPPC, on March 16.
Statutorily, only LPPC has the powers to confer SAN on worthy legal practitioners who satisfy all the requisite conditions for the title, just as it equally has the mandate to discipline any of them found professionally wanting. As a SAN, one is not only accorded maximum respect by other lawyers, even the judges themselves ensure that a SAN’s case is called first. Little wonder, why they sit at the front row of any court and wear robes similar to that of judges.
In the instant case, however, NBA which is the umbrella body of all practising legal practitioners in the country, played spoiler for the short listed SANs when it cried blue murder over the action of LPPC, insisting that the list containing their names, was smuggled in through the backdoor of the law.
To show its seriousness, NBA dragged the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, who by virtue of his position superintends over LPPC, as well as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello, SAN, before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
NBA urged the High Court to void the 62-man list, contending that it was constituted in contravention to the provisions of Section 7 of the Legal Practitioners Act.
It specifically prayed the court to determine among other things, “whether the defendants, particularly the LPPC, complied with the mandatory provision of paragraph 12-(1) of the Guidelines for the appointment of Legal Practitioners to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria made pursuant to Section 7 of the Legal Practitioners Act, in the appointment exercise to the rank of SAN for the year 2010-2011″.
Meanwhile, in their bid to avoid a legal showdown capable of exposing the judiciary to public opprobrium, the CJN and the AGF, opted for an out-of-court settlement of the issue, a decision that culminated to a drastic reduction of the SANs list to only 30 names.
While unveiling the names of the ”survivors” in Abuja last Thursday, the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Mr. Sunday Olorundahunsi, said the new SANs were okayed after a holistic appraisal of their personal and official conducts by the legal body.
He said an embargo was placed on confirmation of new SANs till next year, implying that the 32 persons who were affected by the actions of NBA have no option than to embark on a one year praying and fasting session.
Some of them have already started questioning the yardstick that was employed by the legal bodies in pruning down the list.