AWOMOLO LETTER: WHAT SANs, BAR LEADERS, OTHERS ARE SAYING

Many Bar Leaders and lawyers have been weighing in on the recommendation by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN that the next president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should be sourced from the rank of senior advocates.

Aside from the presidential aspirants, many lawyers have also joined the fray in reacting to the controversial letter.

Awomolo had in a letter to former NBA President, Chief Onomigbo Okpoko SAN stated that “It will be a great failure of leadership for the senior advocates to surrender leadership to the outer bar when there are willing and able senior advocates,” urging him to convene a meeting of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) to deliberate on the matter. Okpoko is yet to respond to the leaked letter.

Below are some of the views of Bar leaders, senior advocates and other lawyers on the letter.

KEMI PINHEIRO, SAN
Awomolo SAN expressed his personal opinion and conviction. That is a right guaranteed to everyone one. The NBA has had non SAN presidents before. So it is not going to be news if we have another pls. HEAVEN WILL NOT FALL. However those calling for a revolution should be reminded about what became of the movement to abolish the rank of SAN or the Revolution Now movement in the larger political space!!! A child who wants to become the head of the house while his father is still alive must first find out and understand how the house was built!!! More particularly those who say their candidate is opposed to parochialism must remember that the entire NBA constitution is anchored on parochialism by the zoning of offices to sections of the country and that by paying your branch dues you have subscribed to that constitution albeit parochialism!!

JIBRIN OKUTEPA, SAN
I do not think that anyone should be castigated for his or her views on an issue that the person feels too strong about. Prior to the views expressed in the letter of Chief A S Awomolo SAN on whether the position of the President of the Bar be reserved for SAN, many had expressed the views that the position should not be for only SAN. I think one of the hallmarks of democracy is the freedom of expression. There is no need for anybody to castigate Chief Awomolo SAN or those who hold contrary views. Chief Awomolo SAN has been playing leading role in bringing the members of the Bar together. As lawyers we are not bound to see things the same.

PROF. CHIDI ODINKALU
I have known and respected Asiwaju Gboyega Awomolo, SAN for long. This letter by him concerning #NBADecides2020 is at best ill-advised. The mind-set here inhabits a world of unearned privilege & entitlement with no sense of responsibility. I hope it no one takes it seriously. Any system in which a minority claim entitlement to rule over the majority has only 1 name: Apartheid.

OSAS ERHABOR
That statement by the learned Chief Awomolo is uncalled for both in terms of poor timing and context. It is very divisive and certainly not needed in the heat of campaign for the Presidency of the Bar. This also is my personal opinion.

TUNDE FAGBOHUNLU, SAN
A candidate’s qualification to lead the Bar should be a function of his/her competence and integrity. It is entirely immaterial whether he/she is or IS NOT a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

DAME CAROL AJIE
The position of Chief Awomolo SAN that the office of the President of NBA should be the exclusive reserve of SAN is impolite and disrespects the majority. As INEC counsel defending some democratic institutions Asiwaju ought to know that majority be respected. The duties and privileges of a SAN are clearly spelt out and restricted to the courts. Period! You have a distinct group known as Body of SANs? Only SANs should lead there not in NBA. I had thought you would deal with NBA constitutional issues of rotation within the sub-region. Why do you have such disdain for the NBA Constitution? It does not restrict the office of the President to SAN?

AHMED T. UWAIS
For me this is a game changer, some years ago my dear friend Afam was disqualified simply because he was not an SAN. Its not a provision in the NBA Constitution that in order to contest and be elected the NBA President you have to be an SAN. Though it has been long since any non SAN was elected the president of NBA, in my humble view this election is not about electing an SAN or not as the right person to lead our dear profession which has been declining in terms of integrity, respect and influence in our society.

CHUKWUKA IKWUAZOM
The decision to vote a candidate as President of the Bar should not be based on the titles that the candidates bear. It should be based on an objective assessment of the character, ability, track record and programmes of each candidate. In the same manner, I disapprove of any campaign to vote for a candidate because he/she is not a senior advocate, I disapprove of the statement allegedly issued by the very respected Silk, Chief Awomolo.

OLUKAYODE ENITAN, SAN
The forthcoming NBA elections should be made a revolution that we all should ensure succeeds in bringing forth the best of us in content of character, abundance of capacity and excellent antecedents devoid of parochial and pecuniary sentiments!

ANTHONY MALIK, SAN
Mr. Gboyega Awomolo, SAN is, by any parameter, a doyen of the Bar. I respect him and appreciate his overall contributions to the Bar and the enrichment of our body of laws. Regrettably, I am unable to navigate my way through the contents of his letter. In clear terms, his letter does not enjoy my endorsement in the least. We have a Constitution which has just been amended and it serves no good importing into it what is not contained therein. If it was the desire of the Association to make the Presidency of NBA the exclusive preserve of SANs, a provision along this line would have been inserted in the Constitution.

ADEMOLA ADEWALE
This statement credited to Highly respected member of BOSAN Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN, is not only unfortunate but capable of boomeranging and destroying the chances of the very able and competent SANs who are in the race to become the next President of the NBA!!!!! To start with it comes across as arrogant and condescending!!!! Particularly when it is considered that most of the voting electorate is overwhelmingly non SAN!!!! So as we all await the NBA election that will lead to the emergence of the next President of the NBA, let our focus be on competence and vision of service to our great Association!!!! Not rank or status!!!!!

AFAM OSIGWE
I subscribe to the view that to attain leadership at the Bar, you do not have to be a Senior Advocate. If you are a Senior Advocate, that’s fine, if you are not, that’s also fine. If the NBA thought it was important for you to take the top job, you must be a senior Advocate, It would have put it in the NBA constitution. Since there’s no stipulation that one must be a Senior Advocate, then it’s a non-issue. To the question, “Is it imperative that one be a senior advocate to aspire to be president”, one must note that Dr Mudiaga Odjeh, Alao Aka Bashorun, Prince Bola Ajibola, Charles Idehen to name a few were NBA Presidents without taking Silk at the time of their election. And that tradition has continued to be maintained in our constitution.

GODWIN OMOAKA, SAN
I read with utter shock the letter by eminent Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo in which he argued that the office of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association should be reserved only for Senior Advocates of Nigeria. As a member of the inner bar, I strongly disagree with the views expressed by my respected leader and learned brother silk who appears to have lost touch with the current trend in the profession. The letter is, at the very least, discriminatory (it offends section 8 of the NBA Constitution), ill-thought out and clearly divisive. I see it as an attempt to pitch SANs against the majority of our colleagues in the outer bar.

AYULI JEMIDE
“It is a great failure of leadership for the Senior Advocates to surrender leadership to outer bar when there are willing and able senior advocates,” says Adegobyega Awomolo SAN. I consider this ‘inner vs outer’ notion as discriminatory.

SANNI ABBAS
The learned senior advocate has not written a letter as to the issue of welfare of lawyers, he has also not proffered an opinion on the minimum wage to be paid by senior advocates even when it is in public domain how much many senior lawyers pay lawyers (peanuts). It’s an open secret that some Silk do not even pay close to what non senior advocates are paying i.e he pays take home that is not even enough to take you home.

SILAS ONU
I was not surprised by the content, especially coming from Awomolo SAN. I must state for the sake of clarity, that I know as a fact, that so many Senior Advocates, properly so called, are not in support of the letter from Awomolo SAN and will never share his view on the NBA leadership. In the nearest future, the activism record of individual, public interest litigations and penchant for defending the right of person should be the core criteria for Bar leadership. Legal practice is different from leading the Bar. The Bar leadership requires a person who can jump in the mud with the masses to protest against abuse of human rights and unconstitutional actions of government.

NBA PRESIDENCY: 31 SANs BACK AJIBADE TO WIN

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

The political fortunes of Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN in the forthcoming Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Elections received a major boost at the weekend with over 30 senior advocates throwing their illustrious weights behind his quest to lead Africa’s largest Bar. The NBA National Elections is scheduled to hold on 24th and 25th July, 2020 via electronic voting.

As at this weekend, no less than 31 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) have pitched their tent with Ajibade. Leading the pack of the first set of endorsements is eminent lawyer and former Attorney General of Lagos State, Prof. A. B. Kasunmu, SAN who described Ajibade as “someone who has a passion for both the law and the profession; a lawyer with integrity and a gentleman, who subtly but effectively upholds the true ethos of the profession.”

On his part, renowned lawyer, Mr. Ebun Sofunde SAN said of the NBA presidential aspirant: “In these trying times for the bar and bench, I see Dr. Ajibade as a person who will do his utmost to restore pride and dignity to the bar and bench by ensuring that such virtues as (a) integrity (b) diligence and (c) merit are enthroned at all times. I also see him as a person who will fight for the welfare of the bar and bench and promote a smooth relationship between the bar and bench.”

Said Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN, NBA former 1st Vice-President and former presidential: “I find Dr. Ajibade to be courteous and with the personal attributes that describe a gentleman. He is known in both international and domestic legal circles and is an acknowledged leader in both. Within Nigeria he is an active member of committees of both the NBA Section on Legal Practice as well as Section on Business Law. He is a past President of the Capital Markets Solicitors Association. In the international arena he is a member of the ICC’s Africa Commission, and the IBA’s African Regional Forum Advisory Board. I support his candidacy because in my opinion he is the best bridge between the younger and older members of the profession.”

Perhaps the icing on the cake was an endorsement by Ajibade’s peers comprising a group of 14 senior advocates who were his 1989 classmates at the Nigerian Law School. In a statement made available to CITY LAWYER, the senior lawyers said they have known Ajibade “for over 30 years and can confidently attest to his character, integrity, humility, experience, brilliance and hard work in the legal profession, which led him to achieve the honour of being the first person to be elevated to the rank of SAN from the 1989 NLS Class.”

According to them, aside from the fact that he has over the years “been highly involved in Continuing Legal Education and other programmes that provide mentorship for young lawyers,” his wealth of experience in leadership “will help reposition the NBA as an effective and efficient world-class Association for the benefit of the different intra professional groups of lawyers under its membership and the growth and development of our great country, Nigeria.”

Aside from Kasunmu who took silk in 1979, other lawyers who endorsed Ajibade include Mr. Ebun Sofunde SAN, Mr. Kayode Sofola SAN, Prof. Gabriel A. Olawoyin SAN, Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN, Mr. Bambo Adesanya SAN, Mr. Dolapo Akinrele SAN, Mr. Babatunde Fagbohunlu SAN, Prof. Andrew Chukwuemerie SAN, Mrs. Titi Akinlawon SAN, Mr. Folu Oguntade SAN, Mr. Oluwemimo Ogunde SAN, Mr. Abiodun Jelili Owonikoko SAN, Mr. Segun Ajibola SAN and Mr. Rotimi Jacobs SAN.

Others are Mr. Teslim Olatunde Busari SAN, Dr. Adewale Olawoyin SAN, Dr. Kayode Olatoke SAN, Mr. Olatunde Adejuyigbe SAN, Mr. Adeniyi Adegbonmire SAN, Dr. Muiz Banire SAN, Mr. Emeka Etiaba SAN, Mr. Olasheni Ibiwoye SAN, Mr. A. U. Mustapha SAN, Mr. Emeka Okpoko SAN, Mr. Adeyemi Kamaldeen Ajibade SAN, Mr. Olayode Delano SAN, Mr. Olumide Aju SAN, Mr. Olukayode Enitan SAN, Mr. Essien Andrew SAN, and Mr. Oladipo Olasope SAN.

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VIRTUAL COURTS: JUDGE, SANs KNOCK S/W ATTORNEYS-GENERAL OVER SUPREME COURT SUIT

Attorneys-General of Nigeria’s South West Zone came under searing attack today over plans by the State chief law officers to seek a constitutional interpretation of virtual court hearings.

CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report noted that there was a move by the six South West attorneys-general to approach the Supreme Court for an interpretation of section 36(3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution as it relates to virtual court hearings.

Ekiti State Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Olawale Fapohunda had informed participants at a webinar last Wednesday that the Attorneys-General resolved during a maiden virtual conference to head to the Supreme Court to seek resolution of the controversial virtual hearing provision contained in the National Judicial Council (NJC) Guidelines and sundry Practice Directions issued by heads of courts.

But no sooner had the CITY LAWYER report hit the newsstands than some senior lawyers lampoon the move by the attorneys-general.

Firing the first salvo, foremost Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs SAN wondered whether the suit would not be a mere academic exercise. He said: “Would the action not be academic?” Continuing, he asked: “Can the Supreme Court entertain academic question not based on any live issue?”

Aligning with Jacobs, Mr. Ayodeji Esan said: “My thoughts exactly. What disputes and between which parties would the court be called upon to adjudicate? Who are the defendants?”

While leading litigator, Mr. Adebayo Adenipekun SAN felt that the issue of parties may be resolved, he aligned with both jurists on the thorny issue of the dispute to be presented to the apex court for resolution. His words: “I have a feeling they will make the Attorney-General of the Federation the defendant. The question will still be ‘what is the dispute?’”

However, speaking at today’s webinar on “Engagement on the Federal High Court Practice Directions and the Protocols on Virtual Hearings 2020” organized by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch, the Administrative Judge of the Federal High Court (Lagos Division), Justice Muhammad Liman was unsparing in thumping down the move by the attorneys-general.

Describing the move as “cavalier,” the leading jurist said: “I do not think the attorneys-general need to go the Supreme Court for any interpretation,” adding that aside from the fact that the NJC did not have the power to make rules for the courts, there was a need to distinguish between the Right to Fair Hearing and public access to court hearings.

Justice Liman stated that both concepts cannot be lumped together, adding that while public hearing “is the limited opportunity the Constitution affords everyone to court hearing,” the challenge thrown up by virtual hearing “is not a serious problem that cannot be ameliorated.”

Aligning himself with Justice Liman’s distinguishing of the two concepts, former Lagos State Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Olasupo Shasore SAN said that “publicity is the soul of justice.” Citing several judicial authorities, Shasore said the intendment is “to remove the possibility of arbitrariness” and to ensure that the public “have an opportunity of judging the judges.”

Dwelling specifically on constitutional interpretation, the former Lagos State chief law officer cited NAFIU RABIU V STATE in reading the mind of the Supreme Court on constitutional interpretation. “It is an organic document and it does not provide for everything,” he said, adding however that there is a tendency for the courts to seek strict interpretation of the Constitution and statutes.

Other speakers at the NBA Lagos Branch webinar included Mr. Wale Akoni SAN, Mr. Babajide Ogundipe and Mr. Yemi Akangbe.

Speaking at an Attorneys-General Colloquium on “Remote hearing and e-filing in Nigeria: A broader perspective and practical, foolproof implementation,” Fapohunda had said that the Attorneys-General of Lagos, Ondo and Oyo States would on Thursday file a suit at the Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of remote hearings.

His words: “Since the National Judicial Council issued its Guidelines for court sittings in this COVID-19 period, we have had a national conversation particularly among justice sector stakeholders on the constitutionality or otherwise of remote court hearings.”

Continuing, the leading justice reform advocate said: “Let me however quickly use this opportunity to inform participants that following a resolution of the South West Attorneys-General, the Attorneys-General of Lagos, Ondo and Oyo States have decided to approach the Supreme Court to seek a constitutional interpretation of Section 36(3) & (4) of the 1999 Constitution, particularly as it relates to remote court hearings. We will be filing the necessary papers in the Supreme Court tomorrow.”

Fapohunda, who was the Host of the webinar organized by Ekiti State Ministry of Justice and LawPavilion, added that “We are convinced that a definite pronouncement by the Supreme Court is necessary in order to put the matter at rest once and for all.”

Since the issuance of the NJC Guidelines and several Practice Directions on virtual court hearings, some jurists have argued that virtual hearings violate Section 36(3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution on the requirement that court hearings must be held in public.

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.

BREAKING: SANs THWART EFCC’S BID TO ARREST USORO

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may have failed failed to arrest Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN today. Also, the arraignment earlier scheduled for today could not hold. Continue Reading