Thursday, 9 July, 2020

‘SANship NO LONGER MARK OF LEGAL EXCELLENCE,’ SAYS ADEGBORUWA

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

In this article, leading human rights activist, EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA, SAN argues that while the process leading to award of SAN title is increasingly meritorious, the rank is no longer the ultimate barometer for measuring legal excellence 

On July 4, 2019, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, LPPC, rolled out the names of thirty-eight legal practitioners deserving to be conferred with the prestigious Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. How some despise the Rank! Some don’t want it ever mentioned near them at all, for several reasons. I used to be in that class, given my background, as an activist. Not long after setting up my law practice, a friend approached me for what he termed a ‘private chat’. According to him, he had followed me keenly right from my days in Gani Fawehinmi Chambers and he was convinced of my sterling qualities, experience and standing, all of which should qualify me to be admitted into the Inner Bar, as he called it. I laughed so loudly, to the point of his embarrassment. I had just moved my law office to the NIPOST building then, following the fire disaster that I and many others suffered at LAPAL House. I took him round the expansive office, showed him my library to see the books, the litigation office and other facilities. I then asked him to tell me what he thinks that SANs have that I don’t have. All his pleas to me didn’t impress me at all, as I dismissed the process as riddled with mystery and corruption. Perhaps I was right or wrong then, I can’t say exactly, the point being that I didn’t think of such ‘distraction’ for what I considered to be a successful practice. This is the view of many lawyers and indeed many Nigerians, which is why the focus of this piece is in ‘defence’ of the Rank.

Like so many other colleagues, I never read through the aspect of the Legal Practitioner’s Act dealing with the conferment of the Rank of SAN and I didn’t bother to go through the guidelines established by the LPPC, for the Rank. And that indeed should be the starting point here, the issue to resolve being the meaning and definition of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The life and power of an SAN all start and end with section 5 of the Legal Practitioner’s Act of 1974, wherein it is provided as follows:

“5. (1) Subject to subsection (2) of this section, the Legal Practitioner’s Privileges Committee established under subsection (3) of this section may by instrument confer on a legal practitioner the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
(2) A person shall not be conferred with the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria unless he has been qualified to practice as a legal practitioner in Nigeria for not less than ten years and has achieved distinction in the legal profession in such manner as the Committee may, from time to time, determine.”

It is stated further that the LPPC shall consist of the Chief Justice of Nigeria as Chairman, the Attorney-General of the Federation, one Justice of the Supreme Court, the President of the Court of Appeal, five of the Chief Judges of the States, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and five legal practitioners who are Senior Advocates of Nigeria. The LPPC is further empowered to make rules as to the privileges to be accorded to Senior Advocates of Nigeria. Two things should immediately come to mind from the foregoing provisions; first is that the Rank of SAN is conferred as a privilege and second, it is normally the privilege of the LPPC, following its own guidelines. On April 3 1974, the first set of SANs were duly conferred, being Chief F.R.A. Williams, SAN and Dr. N.B. Graham-Douglas, SAN. The conferment has proceeded yearly, since then. The point of this background information is to buttress the fact that the Rank of SAN is established by law. The LPPC has over the years, developed its own structure, by amending its guidelines for the conferment of the Rank, based upon the robust engagements of its own members, stakeholders within the legal profession and indeed members of the public.

As at the time that I applied for the Rank, the guidelines set for the award of the Rank by the LPPC expressed the threesome purpose of the award as a privilege awarded as a mark of excellence to members of the legal profession who are in full time legal practice, who have distinguished themselves as advocates and who have made significant contribution to the development of the legal profession in Nigeria. The process of the award is largely independent, self-financing and strictly confidential. The LPPC is required to fix the number of persons to be conferred with the Rank in order to maintain the highest standard of excellence and prestige of the Rank, to adopt transparency and a feedback mechanism for the assessment of candidates. The award has since been extended to legal practitioners in the academic community. Whereas there may have been some challenges with this process in times past, a lot of efforts have been put in place presently, to ensure that those who qualify for the award of the Rank meet certain minimum conditions, such that in the past five years or more, you could hardly point to anyone awarded the Rank that has not distinguished himself or herself in the legal profession. One of the things that excited me in the course of my own journey is the fact that the LPPC has now adopted a gender-friendly process to encourage female applicants, such that virtually every year, female legal practitioners have been screened successfully.

The good news in this process for every advocate is the place of merit in the basic criteria for eligibility for the award of the Rank, which is meant to encourage core advocates. Under and by virtue of Paragraph 14 of the LPPC guidelines, an applicant must submit the following cases wherein his name is reflected as having duly conducted the said cases in court as lead counsel:

(i) 20 final judgments of the High Court or Superior Court of Records, 12 of which must be trial proceedings substantially conducted by the applicant;
(ii) 5 final judgments of the Court of Appeal; and
(iii) 4 final judgments of the Supreme Court.
(iv) These cases must have been conducted within ten years preceding the application, in order to show that the applicant is currently engaged in full time legal practice and is abreast with current developments in the field of law.
(v) Three of the cases must be pro bono cases conducted for indigent citizens who could not otherwise afford the financial cost of engaging a counsel.

Some additional requirements of these new guidelines is that the candidate must show that he or she was personally involved in the conduct of these cases by signing the originating processes, the written addresses, the notices of appeal, the briefs of argument, the charge/information sheet, no case submission, etc. In the trial proceedings, the applicant must furnish the certified true copies of the record of proceedings to show his or her personal conduct of the trial, furnish a letter of instruction from the client, the recommendation and confirmation of the Judge that handled the case and the recommendation and confirmation of the opposing counsel in the case! The point of my defence of the Rank here is that if the LPPC is able to keep to these guidelines (which it has so far done), then you would hardly see a name on the list of SANs every year that will not merit the Rank. No matter his background or experience, for a lawyer to produce 20 final judgments of the High Court is not a tea party, that is if you know what I know as a practicing lawyer, in Lagos State for instance. Anyone who has successfully conducted twelve trial proceedings up to judgment is not just qualified to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria but can also be a Judge. Believe me, it is no child’s play to secure five final judgments of the Court of Appeal or four final judgments of the Supreme Court. What the LPPC has done is to stick to these minimum standards, irrespective of your status. This is in addition to a well-equipped library, functional infrastructure in the law office, payment of tax, involvement in and recommendation by the Nigerian Bar Association, Judges, Justices, Body of Senior Advocates, Body of Benchers, the LPDC, etc. This same rigorous process is also entrenched for candidates in the academic category, who go through a very detailed regime of qualification and filtration.

The involvement of the general public in this process has guaranteed some form of transparency, whereby the names of shortlisted candidates are published to the whole world for comments and assessment. Selected members of the LPPC undertake physical inspection of the chambers of all the shortlisted candidates. The final process is the oral interview by the LPPC, comprising panels of eminent Judges and Senior Advocates of Nigeria. For me personally, any legal practitioner who has gone through these rigid procedures to be shortlisted for the oral interview of the LPPC is eminently qualified to be awarded the Rank of SAN, as a mark of distinction and excellence in the legal profession. Emphasis is placed on integrity, opinions of Justices/Judges, general knowledge of law, contribution to the development of law, leadership qualities in the profession and qualities of law office/library, for the award of the Rank. The undisputed fact that an applicant MUST meet the basic guidelines to be shortlisted at all, is a huge credit to the LPPC, headed by the Chief Justice of the Federation. My point is that you cannot buy trial proceedings or forge certified true copies of record of trial proceedings, buy the final judgment and also buy the recommendation of the Judge that delivered the judgment. These are empirical matters that have to be confirmed by the opposing counsel in the case.

I think the general challenge is what advocates do with the Rank after the award. Like never before, a huge responsibility is imposed on SANs, to show distinction, excellence, leadership and to be role models, not just for the legal profession, but also as officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, being a Rank approved by law duly published in the official gazette. I do not think the Rank confers any special advantage on any advocate who has no viable practice. On the other hand, one incurs a huge liability to be conferred with the Rank without a viable means of its propagation. The world has changed tremendously from the days of yore; legal practice has gone digital and except we deceive ourselves, the mark of excellence in legal practice is not a matter of title or Rank, but by dint of hard work, loyalty, fear of God and personal commitment to a better society, whether as Senior Advocate of Nigeria or as counsel.

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CABLE TV PROFITEERING MUST CEASE NOW – ADEGBORUWA

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

In this article, leading human rights activist, By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN argues that cable television service providers must change their billing system to a more humane model, urging the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to wake up to its regulatory duties.

It was like a movie, watching the proceedings of the Ad Hoc Committee set up by the House of Representatives, to probe the hike of subscription rates by cable television service providers. The Chairman of the said Committee, Hon Unyime Idem, took me back to my Aluta days at Obafemi Awolowo University (Great Ife), roaring like a lion and reeling out the will of the people of Nigeria with such vehemence, on these shylock entities called cable television companies. The Committee had summoned the lameduck Nigeria Broadcasting Commission, NBC, which has for years unleashed a monopoly upon Nigerians, to milk us dry, without effective statutory regulation. NBC was asked to explain why DSTV and other cable service providers have blatantly and arrogantly refused to introduce pay as you view to their customers. For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, let me restate the status quo of this broadcasting brouhaha.

The cable television service providers force their customers into a monthly regime of subscription, irrespective of the conditions of viewing, the quality of the service or even its availability. So, you pay for DSTV in your house for a whole month or a whole year, you pay for DSTV in your office, you pay for DSTV in your village, you pay for DSTV in your guest house in Abuja or anywhere else you have some presence. The cable television company keeps collecting money for dormant viewing or no viewing and keeps smiling to the bank everyday, upon the sweat and suffering of its customers. Not being God with the capacity to be omnipresent, a human being can only be at a single location at a given time. Whilst your television in the office is off at night or anytime you are not there, you keep paying for viewing nothing; when you travel outside Nigeria or you are away from your house or your office, you keep servicing the empty apartment through monthly or yearly payment. When you happen to pop in and you are ready to watch the television just may be once in a month, it would suddenly go off, due to bad weather, poor connection, thunderstorm or common rainfall, but you have paid to the company and you must keep paying. Thus, the situation with many Nigerians is that we are forced to subsidize the greed of the cable television service providers, which profit from services not rendered and they are not willing to change, taking this as some kind of windfall.

“All people of good conscience must commend the House of Representatives for this bold initiative, while we urge the Senate to join the crusade to free us from this commercial exploitation. How many more years does DSTV require to recoup capital since these many decades of extortion? This must not be another flash in the pan, or the usual noise-making gathering, that will be swept under the dirty Nigerian carpet.”

The National Broadcasting Commission Act is very clear, in terms of the powers vested upon the NBC to regulate the broadcasting industry in Nigeria, especially in section 2 thereof. The NBC is empowered to regulate and control the broadcasting industry, to investigate complaints regarding the contents of a broadcast and the conduct of broadcasting stations and upholding the principles of equity and fairness in broadcasting, etc. As you would well agree with me, the NBC has so far turned a blind eye to the exploitative tendencies of the cable television service providers, with scant regard for the onerous responsibility imposed upon it by law to ensure “strict adherence to the national laws, rules and regulations relating to the participation of foreign capital in relation to local capital in broadcasting”.Nigerians have before now protested, they have filed cases in court and they have written several complaints to the National Assembly, all to no avail, as the service providers have insisted on maximum profit, without regard for the satisfaction or plight of their customers. And the questions keep popping up all the time: why is there only one company in a country of about two hundred million people, providing cable television service? Why DSTV only? Why has NBC become so weak and dysfunctional to become totally incapable of protecting the people that it was set up to serve? When will the exploitation end? Why is it impossible to hold DSTV accountable to the same pay per view policy that the same company is implementing in its home country and indeed other African countries? So many questions indeed.

If your subscription to cable television expires, you are disconnected instantly and automatically, but when you renew it, you have to call customer service to get reconnected, going through all manner of manipulative regimes that may cause you days of inactive service despite payment which is already running. What has NBC done, to advocate for extension of viewing time to correspond to the period of inactive service after payment? How do you allow a company floated by private individuals for their own personal profit, to ride roughshod over a whole nation, rendering all of us helpless and exploited? During the initial life of GSM service providers in Nigeria, we heard all manner of stories and arguments why it was impossible to provide calls per second, until another network came on board and revolutionized GSM in Nigeria, thus freeing us from the commercial bondage. It is the same story with DSTV and other cable television service providers. Attempts have been made in the past to compete with DSTV and break its monopoly, through HITV and lately TSTV, all of which did not materialize. Why? Only NBC can answer that question successfully.

This was the scenario until June 25, 2020, when the House of Representatives through its Ad Hoc Committee gave a marching order to DSTV and other cable television service providers to begin the implementation of the pay per view policy immediately.There had been a debate on the floor of the House earlier, when Honourable Idem and other members took up this challenge. Let us go through the newsreport of the proceedings of the House:

“DSTV and other Direct-to-home service providers have deliberately refused to implement the pay as you go plan but rather charge users on a fixed monthly tariff plan, unlike what is obtained outside Nigeria.”

He also explained that Nigeria constitutes over 40% of the total subscribers of DSTV, adding that Nigerians do not get to use the monthly subscription due to one reason or another. Also speaking in support of the motion, Aminu Suleiman called for an end to the monopoly enjoyed by DSTV.

“I have attempted for over a year now to sponsor a motion on the inhuman treatment the DSTV is dishing out to TV watchers in Nigeria. I say that because it is not only in Kenya that DSTV is operating the Pay-As-You view. It is just an abuse and playing with the intelligence of Nigerians. And the monopoly they enjoy contributes to this fact. We will have to encourage NCC to unbundle the entire process and allow investors to come in. They are South African companies, and they don’t do this general viewing to the South African viewers.”

This was the background, when the cable television companies met with the Ad Hoc Committee of the House on June 25, 2020. The Committee did not mince words at all, as it thundered and roared, very loud and clear. The Committee Chairman, Honourable Idem, stated in no uncertain terms that there will be no way for the companies to maneuver the system this time around, as a decision had been taken already, to ensure pay per view. It is for the companies to go back and fine tune the process of implementation, he said. I was moved to tears watching the proceedings of the Committee. I mean this is why we elected them in the first place, or else why should we all become so helpless to continue to tolerate the insensitivity of just one company, for these many years? When there is a power outage and your television and cable network are not powered, you are still paying for viewing nothing! Come on DSTV, this profiteering must come to an end! It is sheer wickedness and economic witchcraft, to continue to insist on the regime of monthly subscription; indeed it is ungodly, especially when this is not the practice in the home country of your company, South Africa. How do we allow a foreign investor, in the name of recouping capital, to invade our land with a shylock policy that it would dare not implement in its own country? How do people take us for granted in this way, if not for the active collusion of our citizens who have been entrusted with power to regulate but have surrendered themselves to be regulated instead?

All people of good conscience must commend the House of Representatives for this bold initiative, while we urge the Senate to join the crusade to free us from this commercial exploitation. How many more years does DSTV require to recoup capital since these many decades of extortion? This must not be another flash in the pan, or the usual noise-making gathering, that will be swept under the dirty Nigerian carpet. No, we must follow up with this to ensure it is implemented to the letter. The NBC must wake up and assert its authority on behalf of the people of Nigeria, to implement the pay per view policy, by all means necessary. Our representatives in the National Assembly have spoken our minds and there is no further assurance than the words spoken at the proceedings of the Ad Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives. Enough is enough. Do I hear your loud voice in support, roaring like thunder!

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

JUNE 12: ADEGBORUWA, FAGBOHUNLU, BALLASON HONOUR ODINKALU WITH HUMAN RIGHTS PARLEY

Leading human rights activists will on Friday hold a webinar in honour of foremost civil rights advocate and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu. The webinar is in commemoration of Odinkalu’s birthday anniversary.
Among those who are billed to speak at the webinar are fiery human rights activist, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN); leading woman activist, Gloria Ballason; outspoken human rights campaigner, Mr. Inibehe Effiong; former Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Young Lawyers’ Forum, Mr. Issa Adedokun and Cynthia Mbamalu of the ‘Not too young to run’ fame.

With Mr. Babatunde Fagbohunlu SAN, Partner and Head of the Litigation, Arbitration and ADR Practice Group at Aluko & Oyebode as Chairman, the webinar has “The Future of Human Rights In Nigeria” as its theme.

With Mr. Orji Ama Chinedu as the arrow-head, Odinkalu said of the conveners: “A bunch of young people whom I have mentored are setting this up as annual event on 12 June. They had wanted to start in 2018 but I told them my mum was in terminal condition. Last year, I told them I was still in mourning. It begins next (this) week. Please feel free to join if you can.”

The webinar is scheduled to hold on Friday, June 12, 2020 at 11:00 am. Prospective participants can register at the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAuf-ypqDIjHtXjmd6dk-__2B3FSxxrhf5A. After registration, a confirmation email would be sent notifying the registrant on hot to join the conference.

Odinkalu is a Senior Team Manager at Open Society Foundations, a global charity that works with local communities to support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.

He received his PhD in law from the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science. Prior to joining Open Society Foundations, Odinkalu was Senior Legal Officer responsible for Africa and Middle East at the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights in London; Human Rights Advisor to the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone, and Brandeis International Fellow at the Centre for Ethics, Justice and Public Life of the Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA.

Odinkalu has extensive networks across Africa built up over several years of working for human rights and social justice on the continent. He is associated with several non-governmental and academic institutions within and outside Africa. He is frequently called upon to advise multilateral and bilateral institutions on Africa-related policy, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and the World Economic Forum.
As well as acting as the Chair of IRRI’s Board, Odinkalu also serves on the Board of the Fund for Global Human Rights. In 2017 he was appointed Steering Committee Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section of Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) by the NBA President, leading to the resuscitation of the comatose entity.

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2018 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

ADEGBORUWA BECOMES NBA PATRON FEB. 1

Fire-brand human rights lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa has been appointed patron of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Okitipupa Branch. The investiture ceremony will take place during the Annual Law Week of the branch on February 1, 2019. Continue Reading

VERIFICATION: Odinkalu, Adegboruwa, Ubani, Candidates Shut Out

• Hiccups Mar Exercise
• Lawyers Seek Extension
• Fake Website Casts Pall on Process

The long-awaited verification exercise for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Election got off to a faulty start last night with many lawyers yet to be verified as at press time. Investigations by CITY LAWYER indicated that many lawyers are having sundry challenges in an attempt to verify their details. Continue Reading