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‘Lawyers’ education should start with rules of discipline’

By  Bartholomew Madukwe

Mr. Dele Oye, is a former Vice Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Abuja branch, where he served the body in several committees both at branch and national levels. Oye,  graduate of the university of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, was between 2000 and 2004, president of the University of Ife Alumni Association and member of the University Governing Council, where he led the council to construct one of the largest halls of residence for the students of the university.

He was the President of Abuja Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (ABUCCIMA) for three years. Until recently, he was the NBA prosecutor at the Body of Benchers Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC). In this interview, he spoke of his experience at the Committee. He also discussed the role of Chambers of Commerce in economic development and sundry national issues.

Excerpts:

You have served the NBA in various capacities, which of these was the most challenging?

The one I cherished most was my membership of and later a prosecutor and co-ordinator of the NBA legal team at  the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee of the Body of Benchers, which I served continuously and uninterrupted for a period of 11 years.

What were the challenges you experienced while serving in that committee?

I strongly believe that every Lawyer should serve in that committee.

Why do you say this?

Because it fully exposes you to the basic tenets and norms of the profession. It exposes you  to the problems in the profession and also helps you as a lawyer,  to be careful in whatever  you do, because it is not the big things  that put people in trouble, it is little things you neglect.

Indeed,  I too have been investigated for two thousand Naira. It was that my investigation and clearance that led to my appointment into that committee by the then president of NBA, T. J. Okpoko SAN. When they were setting up the disciplinary committee, he said look, Dele Oye should go and serve there. While serving in that Committee I saw the kind of mistakes that Lawyers make. Sometimes such mistakes are  made out of ignorance of the rules of the profession and sometimes they are made deliberately.

I think that every lawyer ought to know the rules,  because it is the rule that determines your ability to practice and in dealing with your clients, but most lawyers are not aware of the rules and that is why they run foul of the rules.

What should be the role of legal education in this?

I think that legal education should start from teaching lawyers what are the rules of discipline and how they should relate with their clients, because after the duty of the lawyer to the profession, the next is the duty to our clients.

You have not talked about the challenges that you confronted while serving in that committee?

While serving in that committee, we handled a lot of cases. One of the challenges that faced the committee was the issue of the jurisdiction as it related to appellate matters. That matter came up in Okike’s case against Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC). That was the first appeal from the committee to the Supreme Court, because under the rules,  appeal goes directly from the committee to the Supreme Court.

So, what would say are the advantages and disadvantages of serving in that committee?

Initially when the committee was set up, like every new organization, they had no budget, no office and virtually nothing to work with, even as lawyers, we had to dip hands into our pockets to support the committee at that initial stage,  but I am happy now that they have court room of their own and  the Body of Benchers is paying serious attention to it.

The NBA chips in its own support but the NBA should support it more,  especially in areas where most of our colleagues refuse to submit themselves to the profession by either rushing to court or taking other steps to frustrate the efforts of the committee. There is also the need to amend the law because under the current law, the chairman is quorum.

That means that the committee cannot sit in two of three places simultaneously. Looking at Nigeria as it is today and with the volume of disciplinary matters we have,  there is need for thorough investigation and trial to be conducted within three months in order to make meaning to the complainant.

Right now, we have a load of cases, not due to any fault of the NBA or the committee trying those matters, rather, the fault of the law itself which makes quorum to be five and must include the chairman. When you do such things, what it means is that the well being of the chairman eventually determines whether the committee would sit or not.

I must commend the efforts of the current chairman of the committee, Mr. J.B Daudu, SAN  who is ready to sit every month, which is a very unique innovation,  because once our members know that the committee is working, they become very careful.

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