By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, has urged 3,600 new lawyers who were called into the Nigerian Bar yesterday to learn how to discern between good and evil.
The CJN, who doubles as the Chairman of the Nigerian Body of Benchers, equally enjoined the new wigs to “stand on the side of justice by always speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.
He said: “To the new wigs, it is pertinent for me to remind you of some salient truth about the Legal Profession. The Profession is known for its sanctity, integrity, honesty, objectivity, and respect for the Rule of Law. I therefore implore you as learned friends, to exhibit the highest level of professional ethics and decorum wherever you find yourself and tenaciously guard the ethical values of the profession.
“In the course of pursuing your career, whether as a private practitioner, member of the Bench or working with government as a law officer/legal officer, you will definitely encounter some challenges, but I urge you not to give up, because when the going gets tough, only the tough get going.
”Certainly, as legal practitioners, you may be called upon to make distinctions, explanations and rationalizations relating to cases that are presented to you. You must avail yourself of the ability to think on your feet as your client expects you to restore equilibrium, to present a case clearly and if fortunate to be on the Bench, to adjudicate objectively without fear or favour.
“Always remember that every discipline, profession, job, and calling has a cutting edge, which separates the figurative wheat from chaff. Lawyers and judges, as co-ministers in the temple of justice are society’s ultimate moral barometer. You must therefore learn to discern between good and evil, and to stand on the side of justice by always speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
”This brings me to the ethical part of the Profession as embodied in the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners in Nigeria (RPC).
“It is your duty as lawyers to devote your attention, energy and expertise to the service of your client. Subject to any rule of law, you must act in a manner consistent with the best interest of the client. You must strive not to handle a matter without adequate preparation, neither should you handle a matter, which you know or ought to know that you are not competent to handle.
“Always remember that all oral or written communications made by your client in the normal course of professional employment are privileged. Therefore, you shall not commit any act for your personal benefit or gain, nor abuse or take advantage of the confidence reposed in you by your client.
“Similarly, where you receive money on behalf of your client, you are expected to promptly report and account for it. Such money should be kept separate from your own and must not be converted to personal use. To this end, you must promptly ensure that such payment is lodged into the client’s account as soon as possible. Prompt payment is indeed mandated by Rule 3 of the Legal Practitioners’ Accounts Rules 1964 and the consequence of non-compliance for any Legal Practitioner could mean liability to the discipline of his Profession, via the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee.
“Lawyers are officers of the Court; accordingly, you must not act or conduct yourself in a manner that may obstruct, delay or adversely affect the administration of justice. More importantly, you must treat the Court or Tribunal with respect, dignity and honour. This means that your relationship with Judges should not give the impression that your conduct is calculated to gain, or has the appearance of gaining, special personal consideration or favour from a Judge. When in Court, you should conduct yourself with decency, decorum and observe the conduct and codes of dressing, manners and courtesy.
“It is important to note that failure to adhere to any or all provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct would amount to an infraction that can be tried by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee”, he added.
The 3, 600 new lawyers who were admitted into the legal profession yesterday, successfully passing their Bar final examinations.
The Director General of the Nigerian Law School, Mr. Olanrewaju Onadeko, disclosed that 14 of those that partook in the call to bar ceremony yesterday were among candidates from the previous Bar final examinations.
Onadeko said the April 2015 examinations were written by resit students after two months of intensive preparation, adding that the overall performance level at the examinations vindicated the decision of the Council of Legal Education to embark on a compulsory intensive revision exercise for the students.
According to the Nigerian Law School boss, four candidates out of the total number 3, 600 that were called to Bar, came out with first class, 109 obtained the second class upper grade, 418 were classified in the second lower division and 1, 422 attained the pass grade.
Onadeko added further that a total number of passes at the examinations was 1, 953, while 815 students failed the examinations outrightly, even though he said there was a rising level of focus and deligence among the students of the Nigerian Law School.
He said the school has never had its programmes (academic or others) interrupted in its 52 years of existence, adding that it is the disruptions in the academic programmes of Universities that is posing a challenge to the school, a situation, he noted resulted in the “backlog class” the school had this year.
The curriculum of the school, he said is designed to prepare students for call to bar and purposeful career.
“I have no doubt that the candidates here present have availed themselves of skills. Knowledge, values and attributes to build upon for successful careers at the bar”, he added.