Leading human rights activist, MR. EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA SAN reviews the case of activist-lawyer Emperor Ogbonna and notes that his plight “highlights what the ordinary citizen goes through in the hands of agents of the State”

“Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law.”
                                                                  – Section 35 (1) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

After the right to life, the right to personal liberty is taken to be the most important of the all the rights granted under Chapter 4 of the Constitution. Without any shadow of doubt, the right to personal liberty is the one that is most abused, by those who are in power. Many suspects are languishing in various detention centres across the nation, without any hope for justice. It has been established that the majority of inmates in the various Correctional Centres in Nigeria are awaiting trial. It has become so easy for the law enforcement agencies, especially the police, to arrest and detain citizens at random, upon one alleged crime or the other. In some cases, they go beyond crime as the basis for arrest; cases involving civil financial obligations by the tenant are taken to the police by the landlord, and turned into a criminal complaint. Disputes over ownership of land also end up in the police station. In a particular case which I handled, the police officers were demanding for the survey plan of the land in order to determine the true owner thereof!

Gabriel Emperor Ogbonna is a Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist who has been in custody of the police and the DSS for months, despite court orders directing his release. He is based in Aba, Abia State. He has been in detention since March 24, 2020, having been arrested in his office by operatives of the Department of State Security, DSS and armed policemen. He was initially taken to the Abia State Police Command headquarters, where he was confronted with a petition written against him that he published falsehood against the Governor of Abia State to the effect that the latter swore an oath at the Ancient Harashima. He was eventually arraigned before the Magistrate’s Court and remanded in custody. The activist was later charged before the Federal High Court, Umuahia and was admitted to bail by the said court. Mr. Ogbonna perfected the conditions of his bail and was released from the Correctional Centre on April 28, 2020, but he was immediately arrested by the Abia State Director of DSS and thereafter transferred to Abuja. The story line is that the Abia State Government is allegedly behind his travails.

Mr Ogbonna was eventually tried at the Federal High Court, Umuahia in Abia State, wherein the said Court directed the production of Mr. Ogbonna but the order was flouted by the police and DSS, in Suit No. FHC/UM/CR/17/2020. Consequently, the Court, coram D.E. Osiagor, J., dismissed the charge against him and he was accordingly discharged, on June 26, 2020. Notwithstanding the said order, Mr. Ogbonna was not released. Mr. Ogbonna himself filed a civil suit, for the enforcement of his fundamental rights, in Suit No. FHC/UM/CS/40/2020, against the DSS. On June 29, 2020, the Court made the following orders, after taking arguments from counsel to the parties:

“1. That the 1st to 3rd Respondents are hereby ordered to immediately release the Applicant unconditionally or charge him only to a court of competent jurisdiction.
2. That the 1st-3rd Respondents are hereby restrained by themselves or through their agents, servants and privies from further harassing, re-arresting and detaining the Applicant over the facts of this matter.
3. That the 1st-3rd Respondents are hereby ordered to pay the sum of One Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira Only (N1,500,000:00) as damages for the two months detention of the Applicant without trial.”

From June 29, 2020 when this order was made by the Court, it is well over a month and Emperor Ogbonna is still in the unlawful custody of the DSS. We cannot continue to carry on in this fashion, as if the country has no laws governing its affairs. Government officials, especially members of the Executive arm of government, cannot become so lawless as to totally disregard the orders of a competent court of law, as that will be promoting anarchy and chaos. Section 287 (3) of the Constitution is so very clear on this matter:

“287 (3). The decisions of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, a High Court and of all other Courts established by this Constitution shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by other Courts of law with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, a High Court and those other Courts, respectively.”

There should be no further assurance required by the DSS for the release of Emperor Ogbonna other than the orders of the Federal High Court, Umuahia, reproduced above. Whereas it is proper and desirable for law enforcement agencies to do their best to investigate, detect and prosecute crimes, for the good of society, once the court has intervened however, by way of granting an order for the release of a citizen, then such an order must be respected and must not be subverted through devious means or by subterfuge. There is no other way to describe the conduct of the DSS in keeping Emperor Ogbonna in its custody after the Court has ordered his unconditional release other than plain dictatorship and executive brigandage. When we get to the stage whereby citizens beg the government to obey court orders and to respect the rule of law, then you know that lawlessness has taken its ugly root.

Not long ago, the President signed Executive Order No.10, wherein he granted autonomy to the judiciary. It is thus improper to claim to grant autonomy to the judiciary with one hand and then take it away with another through wilful disobedience of Court orders. I call upon the President to call the Director of DSS to order, in order to avoid another scenario of what happened in the case of Omoyele Sowore. Emperor Ogbonna’s attention is needed by his pregnant wife, he also has a precarious medical history, having suffered gunshot wounds from an attempted assassination upon his life in the past. With the health challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic, this is not the time to embark upon indiscriminate arrest and detention of citizens. Indeed, the government only recently directed that the Correctional Centres be decongested. The DSS must obey the order of court by releasing Emperor Ogbonna unconditionally and if there be any further allegations against him, he should be charged to court, in line with the requirements of the Constitution. Surely two wrongs cannot make anything right. There is no separate court established by law for the DSS and no trial can take place in the office of the Director of DSS. Thus, if the Court established by law says Emperor Ogbonna should be released, then he has to be released. This point cannot be negotiated at all.

All law enforcement agencies, including even the military, must willingly submit themselves to civilian authority, as we are not under military rule in Nigeria presently. The Courts were created under section 6 of the Constitution to adjudicate in disputes between persons and persons and between persons and the government. The criminal charge preferred against Emperor Ogbonna by the State has since been dismissed by the Court. In addition, the Court ordered that he should not be arrested or detained upon the same facts leading to his discharge. So, the question that the DSS must answer is whether whilst he has been in unlawful custody, Emperor Ogbonna has committed another offence to warrant his continued detention or even a fresh trial? The answer of course is a capital NO, which simply means that his current detention is illegal and a total disrespect to the authority and integrity of the court.

The plight of Emperor Ogbonna only highlights what the ordinary citizen goes through in the hands of agents of the State, as if a lawyer and an activist, who is well learned, conscious of his rights and privileges, is facing such persecution and hardship, then one can best imagine what the common man goes through, in all the police stations and other detention centres across Nigeria. This is why the struggle for the freedom of Emperor Ogbonna is one that must be undertaken by every lover of justice and human rights. The freedom and liberty of any individual should not be the subject of any oppressive negotiation with the State, in order to compel the citizen to abandon his avowed beliefs and principles.

Good enough that this is coming on the heels of the election of new national officers for the Nigerian Bar Association. It is a litmus test for the new NBA Exco to take the bull by the horn and mobilize lawyers and Nigerians to free Emperor Ogbonna. It will be a good baptism of fire, for the new NBA Exco to confront the DSS and insist on respect for the rule of law and obedience to the orders of the Courts in this and all other cases. It should not be possible ever again, for any lawyer or other citizen, to be kept in unlawful custody simply because he is considered to be in the opposition or has views which are intolerable to those who are in power. This has to stop.
The President cannot sit on the fence in this matter, as the DSS and indeed all other security agencies report directly to him. It is important that the President intervenes urgently to direct immediate compliance with the order of court for the release of Emperor Ogbonna. On a number of occasions the President has stated his preference for the rule of law, so this presents a good opportunity for him to put to practice, that which he preaches often. Let Ogbonna be released, immediately and unconditionally, as directed by the Court.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

ECNBA SAYS 13,000 VOTERS HAVE CAST BALLOTS

The Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) has stated that over 13,000 lawyers have voted in the ongoing NBA National Officers Election, even as the electoral umpire is worried that many eligible voters may not receive their voting links due to telecommunication challenges.

Below is the full text of the ECNBA statement:

The ECNBA can confirm that over 13,000 individuals have voted in the ongoing NBA National Officers elections so far.

The ECNBA however clarifies that, Notices observed on the live voting platform as undeliverable can be attributable to any of the following 5 reasons:

  1. Voter has an inactive Phone Number
  2. Voter has invalid Phone Number (does not exist or is too short or too long)
  3. Voter has invalid Email Address (Wrongly spelt and does not exist OR their Domain has expired)
  4. Spam Filter on Voter’s email blocking direct delivery of emails. Voter can check Spam folder.
  5. DND is active on Voter’s phone and the message has been blocked by Telecommunication company.

 To deactivate DND take the following action:

  • 9mobile (Etisalat) numbers, Text START to 2442.
  • MTN numbers, Text ALLOW to 2442.
  • Glo numbers, Text CANCEL to 2442.
  • Airtel numbers, Text ALLOW to 2442.

Note also that the election server makes 5 attempts to deliver to each phone number/email and all those failed attempts are reflected as undeliverable. A subsequent attempt could still be successful if the challenge is resolved.

The ECNBA can confirm at the last check that at least 1,886 individuals of the Undeliverable Notices displayed on the live monitoring platform have since voted, because they got the message through one of the two channels used – Email or SMS.  The committee also confirms that messages have been sent using local networks to up to 8,000 numbers with active DND advising them to deactivate same.

Voters yet to view the election link through their email or SMS, are advised to ensure that DND is deactivated on their phones and check Spam folder in their emails.

The ECNBA continues to monitor and troubleshoot and will provide updates as necessary and required.

The ECNBA election hotline 070055552020 is still available for support to voters.

Dated this 30th day of July, 2020

Cordelia U. Eke(Mrs.)

Secretary, ECNBA

‘WE MUST PROTECT, PROJECT RULE OF LAW,’ – ALEX MUOKA

The Rule of Law is sacrosanct in any democratic Society. Consequently, it must be protected and projected at all times. The entrenchment of the Rule of Law in Nigeria is in our interest because the Law and legal practitioners can only thrive where the Rule of Law thrives.

It is instructive that the motto of the Nigerian Bar Association is “Promoting the Rule of Law”. In line with this, the very first aim and objective of our great Association is the “Maintenance and defence of the integrity and independence of the Bar and the Judiciary in Nigeria”, and many of the other objects speak to the role of the Association in promoting the efficient administration of justice, law reform, legal aid and access to courts, and respect for fundamental rights.

The NBA is widely regarded as the premier non-state actor in the constant battle for the promotion of the rule of law, and it is important in 2020 to put forward a bar leadership that will help to restore our pride of place as ‘the bastion of hope for the common man’. I propose to ensure this by working with the NBA President, national officers and other stakeholders to:

a) Ensure that the Rule of Law is upheld by State actors;

b) Champion public interest litigation to protect the rights of citizens and members from abuse;

c) Support the advocacy for implementation of fiscal independence for the Nigeria judiciary;

d) Liaise with the judiciary and offer support to facilitate the efficient administration of justice in Nigeria;

e) Sensitize lawyers and the general public by organizing workshops, conferences and summits on human rights and the rule of law;

f) Offer leadership and a focal rallying point to all Nigerians and relevant institutions in defending and expanding the frontiers of the Rule of Law;

g) Strengthen the Pro Bono and legal aid programmes of the NBA to make their impact felt (especially) by indigent members of the society; and

h) Propose a “legislative desk” for the NBA at the National Assembly which shall be saddled with the task of legislative advocacy, monitoring and liaising with the law makers in the task of enacting laws.

The NBA must live up to its name and reputation, and I will like to play my part. If you elect me as General Secretary of the NBA, I Pledge to serve with the passion, integrity and efficiency for which I am well known, and to pursue this and five (5) other Core Pursuits which I have elaborated on in MY MANIFESTO to deliver a ‘Fit For Purpose’ Bar Secretariat. My Profile and Manifesto have been uploaded by the ECNBA and can be viewed at (or downloaded from) https://nigerianbar.org.ng/node/257.

I will place my time, energy, talents, experience and resources at the disposal of the Bar for the next two years, and offer the kind of premium stewardship which the Bar definitely needs at this time. The Bar needs a great scribe. I have been tried, tested and adjudged to be one.

I seek your mandate. Let’s do this together.

Alexander Nduka MUOKA
Candidate for General Secretary of the NBA

ELECTION: BRANCHES BACK OHAGBA AS NBA SCRIBE

The political fortunes of consummate Bar-man and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Assistant General Secretary, Mr. Okey Ohagba has received a major boost with his endorsement by the eight branches in Rivers State.

Rising from a stakeholders meeting last Wednesday, the Bar Leaders unanimously declared support for the candidacy of Ohagba for the office of NBA General Secretary in the forthcoming NBA General Elections.

Among the Bar Leaders who attended the meeting are Branch Chairmen and Secretaries as well as past Chairmen and Secretaries of all the NBA branches in Rivers State

A statement by the Chairman of NBA Ahoada Branch, Mr. Agent Benjamin Ihua-Maduenyi on behalf of chairmen of NBA Branches in Rivers State, read: “The meeting called on all members from the eight (8) NBA branches in Rivers State to leverage on the extended verification deadline, get verified and vote en masse for Okey Leo Ohagba as the next General Secretary of NBA in the coming elections.”

Ohagba is reputed as “a passionate member of the Nigerian Bar Association and a very committed member of Port-Harcourt Branch.” He was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in November, 2007.

“With a burning passion for litigation, Okey turned down a juicy corporate employment offer from a reputable Nigerian bank and started his legal practice career in the firm of N. H. AJIE & CO. of Portharcourt in 2008 and in 2012 he established O. L. OHAGBA and Company, a commercial litigation and ADR consultancy firm, wherein he remains the principal partner till date.

“In his quest for a broadened knowledge of the law and expertise, Okey had prior to his legal practice career, obtained a certificate of proficiency in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) after an intensive professional course at the Settlement House Abuja. Thereafter he was awarded the title of Professional Negotiator and Mediator (pnm). He is also a certified member of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC) as a Chartered Mediator and Conciliator (ChMC).

“Okey Ohagba, a pioneer alumnus of Madonna University, is a quintessential Bar man, a creative thinker, always eager to achieve excellence in every assignment.

“As National Secretary of NBA Young Lawyers’ Forum, Ohagba displayed exceptional competence, capacity and professionalism in the discharge of his duties while he steered the YLF Secretariat. He developed a comprehensive database of young lawyers at the time. He reinvigorated the YLF section of the NBA website and kept it up to speed throughout his tenure. He was the Chairman of the Summit Planning Committee that organized the ‘Portharcourt 2013′ NBA-YLF National Summit; which event was widely adjudged the best Summit in the YLF history due to his organisational prowess and elegance in service delivery. Same skills he exhibited when he organized perfect YLF Sessions at both Calabar and Owerri NBA AGCs 2013 and 2014 respectively. With the joint efforts of other Council Members, he midwifed the establishment of Young Lawyers’ Forums across over 70% of NBA branches nationwide.

“His culture of service excellence and intuitive passion for innovation became more prominent when he served as NBA Representative on the Board of Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC); during which period, with the support of the board, he practically championed the drive for the implementation of the present day CAC-ONLINE (A full automation of CAC incorporation processes). His passion for innovation, aided the digitization of the Commission’s system. He reawakened the Commission’s interest in the age partnership with NBA at Annual General Conferences starting with the Calabar, Owerri and Abuja Conferences, 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively.

“As Chairman of sports subcommittee for the NBA AGC Owerri 2014, Okey, in his usual innovative thinking, saw the need to introduce some pecuniary rewards to winners of the tournament in order to subsidise branch expenses and increase participatory interest in the tournaments. His proposal was approved by the then NBA President, and for the first time in NBA history, winners of the football tournament received N500, 000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) cash prize from the NBA. 2nd and 3rd place winners also got cash prizes accordingly.

“As NBA First Assistant Secretary, 2016 to 2018, Okey Ohagba once again demonstrated capacity and service excellence when, upon the direction of the General Secretary, he delivered ‘error proof’ minutes at nearly all NBA National Executive Committee Meetings and facilitated for the first time, electronic mailing of Minutes and NEC Bundles prior to NEC Meetings, thereby affording NEC Members ample opportunity to read, digest the minutes and participate more robustly at NEC Meetings.”

 

ADEGBORUWA OKAYS ADESINA, AJIBADE, AKPATA FOR NBA PRESIDENCY

Firebrand human rights activist, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN has declared that the three presidential candidates in the race for the coveted NBA Presidency are qualified to mount the saddle.

In a statement released today titled “NBA ELECTIONS 2020,” the prominent senior lawyer therefore urged eligible voters to vote “purely in the fear of God and according to your conscience.”

The statement reads:

NBA ELECTIONS 2020

Dear learned colleagues,

As we approach the final lap of the 2020 elections of the Nigerian Bar Association, I wish to make the following statements.

In alphabetical order with no specific preference,

I ENDORSE

ADESINA DELE, SAN:

He has SERVED the legal profession MERITORIOUSLY, as Chairman of NBA, Ikeja Branch and as General Secretary, NBA, at the national office.

I ENDORSE

AJIBADE BABATUNDE, SAN:

He has SERVED the legal profession CREDITABLY, in seeking fundamental reforms in justice administration, through The Justice Reform Project and also in helping to raise leaders for the Bar, through the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee.

I ENDORSE

AKPATA OLUMIDE:

He has SERVED the legal profession SELFLESSLY, through the Section on Business Law and also in various other capacities, through the Conference Planning Committees.

They all have many more positive attributes, which I may not have stated. Any of these three, is qualified to lead the Bar, if voted in as President of the NBA, in any free, fair, peaceful and credible contest.

I therefore urge you to VOTE for ANY of these three candidates, purely in the fear of God and according to your conscience.

God bless Nigerian Bar Association
God bless Nigeria.

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN
Lekki, Lagos.
26/07/2020

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

ECNBA VERIFICATION VIDEO GOES VIRAL

The Electoral Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (ECNBA) has released a video to enlighten eligible voters on how to engage in the verification exercise.

The 2:22 minutes long video outlines the step-by-step procedure required to complete the verification exercise on the NBA website.

It is recalled that the electoral committee had in its latest statement on the forthcoming NBA Elections extended the deadline for verification from July 20, 2020 to July 26, 2020, apparently in a bid to ensure that eligible voters are not disenfranchised due to their inability to verify. https://nigerianbar.org.ng/ecnba-statement-n015

The statement reads:

EXTENSION OF VERIFICATION EXERCISE

The ECNBA has observed that in the wake of the publication of its Statement No.14 extending the date of verification of Voters, there has been a huge increase in the number of Lawyers seeking to carry out their verification on the NBA Portal. The ECNBA has therefore decided to give a further extension of the date for verification of Voters.

The deadline for verification of Voters is now extended to 6.00PM on Sunday 26th July 2020. Eligible Voters are advised to take advantage of this further extension to get verified. Previously verified voters are required to log in to their portals and update their information, especially their contact details to ensure they have smooth access to the portal and are able to receive important information pertaining to the Voting exercise.

The NBA Help desks are still available to provide support for the verification exercise for those who require same.

Thank you all for your continued cooperation.

Dated this 20th day of July 2020.

Cordelia U. Eke (Mrs.)
Secretary, ECNBA

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

HOW YOUNG LAWYERS CAN SURVIVE AND THRIVE, BY UDEMEZUE

In this paper presented at the FAMA FIRM virtual conference on “Contemporary issues facing the welfare of young lawyers in Nigeria and possible solutions” by fiery Law Teacher, SYLVESTER UDEMEZUE, he strives to plot a roadmap for Nigeria’s young lawyers on how to surmount the myriad of challenges besetting them in the legal services industry.

NIGERIAN YOUNG LAWYERS, THEIR MANY CHALLENGES, AND THE WAY OUT OF THE DOLDRUMS

At the FAMA FIRM’s LAW WEBINAR where the problems and welfare of the Nigerian young lawyer took the Centre stage, I (as a one of the main speakers) tried to identify some of the problems facing the young lawyer in Nigeria, and I made efforts to also advance some recommendations on the way out of the doldrums, in the best interest of young lawyers and the law profession.

For the many challenges the young lawyer faces in Nigeria, I respectfully held the following people and organizations blameful/responsible (each to a certain degree):

1. The Young Lawyer himself/Herself— Lack of proper orientation on the things that really matter within and outside the profession; obsession with inane materialism; excessive greed; acute impatience; lack of proper commitment and self-preparation; low self-development efforts; poor reading culture; obsession with negative comparison; lack of objectiveness in decision-making during Bar elections which leads, sometimes, to enthronement of wrong leaders; failure or refusal to cooperate with, or support incumbent Bar leaderships at all levels; mentality of over-dependence on others (looking for apple instead of focusing on learning how to pluck the apples yourself); improper packaging (your packaging determines the level of treatment you get from others); improper focus on money instead of work which is what would eventually yield you greater dividends; excessive desperation; lack of humility; engagement in delinquent behaviors; distorted and disjointed attitude to life and value system, selfishness and egoism, etc.

2. The Society in which the young lawyer has found himself/herself — bad and corrupt governance, gullible and docile followership, degraded society, poor economy, social dislocation, low support infrastructure, etc.

3. Successive leadership of the Bar Association over the years — failure of NBA leaderships to work hard to stop/reduce incessant encroachment into the legal practice space by non-lawyers; failure to initiate necessary legal reforms that would ensure expansion of the employment base for legal practitioners in order to create more employment and make lawyers more relevant to society (most lawyers look for work only in law firms thereby creating more pressure and are subjected to undue exploitation, harassment, and poor treatment, etc: law firms would appreciate and pay lawyers more (to discourage them from leaving) if the firms see fewer lawyers to employ); NBA has not focused on the real needs of the young lawyer (trying to fix a minimum wage for privately-owned Law firms is mere pursuit of the impossible; come off it and focus on the realizable, more beneficial things); segregation and division within the various segments of the profession lead to acrimony and lack of proper focus; NBA and its members give very little support to legal education institutions in Nigeria; failure to secure a better deal for lawyers in the society, compared to members of other professions (medical profession has a better deal because their leadership had worked for it), NBA has not created proper avenues for robust engagement and deliberations on the challenges facing the young lawyer and the profession in general (except in few instances, the periods and sessions during NBA Annual Conferences are usually entirely dissipated/wasted on discussing matters that have little or NO relevance to the welfare and promotion of lawyers, the legal profession and the young lawyers in particular; we won’t know how to solve our problems if we don’t have proper avenues of identifying and and discussing them comprehensively); etc

4. Employers of (Law) Labour — sexual and other harassment by bosses due partly to desperation and improper conduct (dressing, etc) on the part of young lawyers, and also due to the randy nature of some employers; undue exploitation by employers; improper/inadequate remuneration and welfare packages for employees; unconducive work environment; lack of proper involvement, engagement, poor employer leadership examples, poor employee-motivation etc.

5. Our Learned Senior Colleagues — incessant intimidation and bullying of young lawyers which tend to put the young lawyers off, discourage them and sometimes frustrate them out of the profession; most of our seniors don’t lead by good example, most seniors don’t provide proper support and encouragement to juniors, selfishness by seniors, etc.

6. Educational Institutions—- starting from secondary schools and universities, we need to take education of our youth much more seriously; Council of Legal Education (CLE) should tighten the noose on Law Faculties to force them to re-double their efforts at training lawyers; Guidance and Counseling should be made a necessary part of the curriculum both at the secondary and university level, and indeed all levels, etc.

7. Regulatory Institutions within the legal profession— each regulator hardly lives up to its responsibilities and the expectations of lawyers generally , inefficiency and corruptions, nepotism, little or no partnership among core regulators, etc.

8. Individual Luck: Not everyone would be rich or well-to-do; if you try to be faster than your shadow, you may crash. Hard work is a condition precedent to success; but not everyone who works hard that must succeed. Accordingly, while you work hard to be the best, try and make allowance for some failure or ill-luck because you don’t know what the future holds in store for you. Hope and work for the best, but be prepared for the worst, sometimes; life might not be a bed of roses; challenges are a part of life. Our destinies aren’t the same. Learn how to approach failure and delays. Some were born great; some have greatness foisted upon them; but some must work very hard to achieve greatness. Yet, there are others who spent an entire lifetime working for greatness, but unsuccessfully; such is life. If you lose sight of this fact, you may miss your steps.

9. Parents and Guardians: not everyone is cut out to be a lawyer; some force their children or wards on the profession; let parents subject their children and wards for proper guidance and counseling before allowing them to study law. Don’t push your child to study law; let the decision be wholly voluntary, based on proper counseling. Some lawyers HAVE NO BUSINESS coming into the profession. They just can’t cope, however anyone tries to help them. They’re square pegs in round holes; Legal Missorts!

10. Poor Justice Administration System: corrupting, ineptitude and especially chronic delays in justice dispensation in Nigeria are a great source of frustration and discouragement for the young lawyers.
➖➖➖➖

I proffered a number of solutions, which are contained in my paper (to be shared shortly). I then concluded: the solution to the young lawyer’s problems must begin (but not end) with the young lawyer himself/herself: an altogether new mode of thinking; improved reading culture; hard work; more commitment to the profession and work; patience; selflessness; radical reorientation; eschew materialism and negative comparative analysis; the dependence-mentality; focus all your energy on work, not money, and money will come; proper self-packaging (you don’t need much money to properly package/market yourself; but you need proper packaging to get the money you need, and to make it in the profession); develop the attitude of selfless service (how you serve others determines how far you can go in the profession); personal development; networking; flee from all forms of evil because KARMA and RETRIBUTION are REAL; stay away from money politics during bar elections so you can get the right leadership,; support every incumbent NBA leadership (even if your candidate during elections lost/loses the election (it a civic responsibility), etc.

As I have said, I will make my paper available for public consumption and to continue the discussion.

Respectfully,
Sylvester Udemezue (udems)

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag 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.

 

 

IBA YOUNG LAWYER SURVEY KICKS OFF

The International Bar Association (IBA) is conducting a survey to gauge the interests of lawyers globally.

Endorsing the survey, IBA President Horacio Bernardes Neto said:

“The Legal Policy and Research Unit are working with the Young Lawyers’ Committee (YLC) on a research project focusing on the interests of young lawyers around the world.

‘The survey forms part of the YLC’s ongoing work of identifying, discussing and promoting issues involving young lawyers across the global legal profession. Young lawyers are the future leaders of the legal profession, therefore it is in all of our best interests that talented individuals stay working in the law to contribute to its advancement, reform and championing of the rule of law. What young lawyers experience and how their interests are managed will undoubtedly affect their future at their workplace, the legal sector in which they work and the legal profession more generally.

“I wholeheartedly encourage your contribution to this anonymous survey.”

In an announcement heralding the survey, the global lawyers’ association said: “The survey has been created to gather data on the collective interests, priorities and concerns of young lawyers (those aged 40 and under for the purposes of this survey). We hope to use this data, and any trends that may appear, to generate dialogue between young lawyers and the current leaders of the legal profession, and encourage positive changes (where necessary). We also hope to produce a publication at the conclusion of the survey, depending on the trends that may appear.

“The survey is available to both IBA members and non-members, and can be completed in English or Spanish. If you are a lawyer aged 40 or under, your participation in our survey will be greatly appreciated.”

To participate, click here.

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‘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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‘WHY I DID NOT APPEAL MY DISQUALIFICATION BY ECNBA,’ – ASPIRANT

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

One of the aspirants for the forthcoming Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Elections has told CITY LAWYER that he did not contest his disqualification by the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) for “personal reasons.”

According to Mr. Echika Ejido, immediate past Provost of the factional NBA Abuja Branch, though he filed to contest for the post of Assistant Publicity Secretary, he did not appeal the decision of the electoral committee which cut short his political ambition.

The ECNBA had granted “provisional clearance” to 24 aspirants while disqualifying 19 others. The disqualified aspirants had till 4 pm yesterday to appeal the ECNBA decisions.

He is perhaps the second aspirant that has resigned himself to fate, even as Nigerian Bar Association, NBA Katsina Branch, Mr. Abdulgaffar Alhaji Ahmed may have also decided to tow the same line.

In an interview with CITY LAWYER, Ejido said: “I submitted form for the post of Assistant Publicity Secretary. I was disqualified on the basis that the two years at Branch EXCO is counted in days, and nominations closed on 29th May, 2020 while my two years tenure as Branch EXCO member ended 2 weeks later on June 11. So, I don’t have the required two years branch EXCO qualifying requirement.”

Arguing that his disqualification “is contestable,” Ejido said: “I won’t challenge my disqualification. I have decided not to contest same for personal reasons.”

Quite popular especially in Abuja Bar circles, Ejido sensationally left the Ezenwa Anumnu-led faction of the branch to pitch tent with the rival Abimbola Kayode faction.

Ahmed had also indicated he may have resigned himself to fate, following his disqualification. An aspirant to the post of Second Vice President, Ahmed had while reacting to his disqualification by the ECNBA said: “I thank all my supporters near and far. Thank you so much for being here. This is not the outcome we wanted or we worked for, and I’m sorry we did not make it to the election race for the values we share and the vision we hold for our beloved bar.”

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.