‘IT’S PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT TO PRACTICE IN NAME NOT ON SUPREME COURT ROLL,’ SAYS OKUTEPA SAN
* ‘WHEN YOU USE A NAME NOT ON THE ROLL, YOU’RE NOT A LAWYER’
Prominent Bar Leader and longstanding former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Prosecutor at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) of the Body of Benchers, Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN has weighed in on the controversy trailing the need for lawyers to ensure that they only practise with the name with which they are enrolled at the Supreme Court.
Speaking on the controversy that has trailed a recent Supreme Court statement on the subject, Okutepa said that practicing in a name other than the name on the lawyers’ roll “itself is professional misconduct.”
He described the debate on whether it was the “name” or the “person” that was called to the Bar as “splitting hair in arguments over substance,” adding that “when you use the name not on the roll then you are not a lawyer.”
His words: “Splitting hair in arguments over substance is the bane of lawyering in Nigeria. We as Nigerian lawyers appear to be too technical in legal arguments and reasoning so much that the substance of matters is hardly examined.
“Lawyers enrolled to practice in the names they enrolled. Once a lawyer starts practicing in a name other than the name on the roll then that itself is professional misconduct.”
On whether a person whose name is not on the lawyers’ roll could be considered a lawyer, notwithstanding that he may have been called to the Bar, the fiery senior lawyer and good governance advocate said: “You may be a lawyer but when you use the name not on the roll then you are not a lawyer. The professional issues being mixed with hybrid legal technicality is what has gradually destroyed the purity of legal practice in Nigeria.”
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