Chart ways forward
By Demola Akinyemi – Ilorin
Stakeholders have been urged to do the needful by urgently arresting the prevailing dangerous drift in law practice in Nigeria before it gets too late.
Two senior legal practitioners based in Ilorin,Yusuf Ali SAN and Kehinde Eleja SAN among other speakers said this in their presentations at the one-day seminar on,”Rethinking Ethical Values in the Practice of Law: The Role of lawyers “organised by the Continuing legal education Committee, of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)Ilorin Branch.
Kehinde Eleja said,”After all as practitioners and in line with the acceptable norm of ‘physician heal thyself’ legal practitioners must do the needful to arrest the dangerous drift before it gets too late.”
Eleja listed the prevailing dangerous drift in the nation’s law practice to include,”cases of unfair dealings within the rank of lawyers; failure to observe good faith and fair dealings with fellow lawyers; failure to adhere to the prescribed scale regarding the remuneration for services; indulging in illegal collection of money; champerty; subtle advertisement; display of flamboyant or lousy signs and notices that are of an unreasonable size and that are not sober;”
Others include, “making extrajudicial statements on pending cases in court that is calculated to or is reasonably capable of prejudicing or interfering with the fair trial or court judgment thereon; indulging in any activity that is calculated to gain or that has the appearance of gaining special personal consideration of favour from the judge; failure to observe courtroom decorum and failure to keep within the bounds of law in the course of representing clients are more pronounced now than ever before.”
He also said that “A new dimension to it is that some lawyers now freely give their NBA personalized stamps (Seal) to non-lawyers to be affixed on documents (mainly agreements) prepared by the non-lawyers for a fee (usually a pittance) thereby allowing non-lawyers to carry out the practice of law.
“The practice of lawyers standing as sureties to their clients in criminal matters is another worrisome one, while there are allegations that some of our colleagues serve as a conduit pipe for delivery of gratification to investigators in criminal matters. The list is endless.”
Yusuf Ali SAN, who canvassed for sanction for erring lawyers also said, “nevertheless, we must acknowledge the sad reality that our profession has witnessed in recent years, increasing reports of professional misconduct, corruption and sharp practices with the attendant negative consequences on the administrative of justice.”
He also noted that,”the sad decline in adherence to the ethics of the legal profession by legal practitioners in Nigeria is not because of the absence of laws and regulations, but mainly as a result of inefficient enforcement.
“Therefore, the solution to the problem is not in the enactment of more laws and regulations per see, but the strengthening of the willpower of lawyers to cooperate and ensure that the rules as they exist are adhered to without exception.”
Ali added that the legal profession had since time immemorial been regarded,” as a profession of highly qualified people and therefore, desires at all times, to prove to the end-users of their services, that the members of the profession are not only professionally sound but morally upright.
“A lawyer must therefore adhere to set standards and practices that do not impair the rendering of professional services of the highest skill and quality at all times.”
Ali also said,”We must all be ready to be guardians of the legal profession, such that we should all be willing to play the role of whistleblowers on the unsavoury conducts of colleagues in the profession.
“We are all responsible for the continued existence of the respect and pride of place the noble profession has always enjoyed. It is either we do what is right or we say bye-bye to our beloved and cherished profession.
“We must all take a hint from the way policemen now treat lawyers, it wasn’t like that when some of us entered the profession close to four decades ago.”
Earlier in his address, Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Ilorin Branch, Abdulganiyu Bello said the programme was part of continue legal education aimed at building the capacity of lawyers so as to enhance their performance for efficient and effective legal practice.
Speaking on the same theme “Re-thinking Ethical Values in the practice of law: The Role of Lawyers “, he said the theme is very relevant in the light of recent happenings in Nigeria as the courts have for more than two weeks being under lock as a result of the industrial action embarked upon by members of JUSUN.
NBA Chairman stressed the need for the state Governors to show the political will to the issue of judicial autonomy and ensure immediate implementation of the policy.
He restated NBA’s commitment to continue to lend its voice to the immediate implementation of judicial autonomy with a view to promoting rule of law and administration of justice.