ABUBAKAR BALARABE MAHMOUD, SAN, PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION AND THE NBA LEGAL PROFESSION REGULATION REVIEW COMMITTEE VISIT TO THE HONOURABLE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION ON 24TH JANUARY, 2017
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association led the newly inaugurated NBA Legal Profession Regulation Review Committee (LPRRC) on a visit to the Office of the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation.
The NBA team arrived at the Conference Room of the Attorney General at about 3pm.
The Attorney General and his team arrived at his Conference Room at about 3:47pm.
The National Anthem was led by the Master of Events for the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
The Opening prayer was done according to Faith.
The President of the NBA started by introducing his team especially the members of the LPRRC. He stated that he led the delegation of the NBA to the Attorney General; Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN for the following reasons:
1. Courtesy visit as part of the programs embarked upon by the current NBA administration to visit stake holders in the Legal Profession in Nigeria.
2. To introduce members of the LPRRC to the Honourable Attorney General
The President of the NBA stated clearly that the Association identifies with the fight against corruption being led by the President Muhamadu Buhari administration. The NBA is determined to continue the fight against corruption by strengthening its institutions. He made it known that the several reforms that have taken place in the Legal profession especially the passing into law of the ACJA and other reforms will be supported by this administration of the NBA. Mr Mahmoud emphatically stated that “the NBA will be the strongest defender of the Judiciary when necessary and also its greatest critcs when the judiciary is found wanting”.
Role of the Attorney General
In terms of strengthening the Legal Profession, the President feels the Attorney General has an integral role to play in reforming the legal profession which includes; creating jobs for lawyers, creating a strong independent prosecution team rather than different agencies prosecuting on behalf of the Government etc.
The President also informed the Honourable Attorney General of the different task forces (Niger Delta Task Force and North East Task Force) that had been set up by the NBA to consult with different stake holders in the regions where the task force are to work on in regards to tackling the various security challenges faced in the different regions.
The President also informed the Attorney General of the NBA delegation led by the President that went to visit the Governor of Kaduna state based on the crisis in Southern Kaduna.
Disobedience of Court Order
The President emphasized greatly on the need for the Executive to obey various Court orders by sighting an example of the failure of the government to release certain persons whom the court has ordered their release.
Confirmation of the appointment of the Acting Chief Justice of the Federation; Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen CFR
The issue of the delay in confirmation of the appointment of the Acting Chief Justice of the Federation; Hon Justice Water Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria has brought so much concern to the NBA. The President stated that the procedure for appointment of the Chief Justice has been well stated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) and has been so complied with. The suspense by the Federal Government is not healthy for the Judiciary.
INTRODUCTION OF LPRRC
The President in introducing the members of the LPRRC to the Attorney General of the Federation stated that there is a very high number of lawyers being called to Bar every year, there is a decline in the standard and discipline of lawyers in Nigeria, the poor entry requirements and several issues are part of the problems the Nigerian Legal profession is being faced with and hence the need for a reform. He further stated that this country needs a highly respected legal profession and a modern legal profession.
The President made it clear in light of the above, the NBA has constituted a strong panel to look at the regulatory issues of the Legal Profession and also look at the state of the Legal profession in other to come up with long lasting policies to revive the integrity of the profession. The NBA under his administration plan to redefine the path of the Legal Profession and if they do not do this, we stand a risk of being swept away. Part of the terms of reference of the committee is to consult with the stakeholders of the Legal profession in Nigeria on how to develop the Legal Profession.
The Chairman of the LPRRC, Dr. Anthony Idigbe, SAN in giving his remarks, spoke about the several bodies that are important to the growth of the Legal profession in Nigeria being chaired by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation. He did this to emphasize the importance of the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation in ensuring the committee delivers effectively on its terms of reference in reforming the regulation of the Legal profession. Dr. Idigbe SAN made it clear that the Committee has not taken any position on the issues facing the Legal Profession but would start making its findings on several areas that needs reforms.
The Chairman in presenting the terms of reference of the Committee to the Attorney General sighted certain areas that have posed problems to the Legal profession such as education, training, entry requirements, ethics and character of different lawyers. He further stated that he would love to get a feedback from the Attorney General on certain areas in the Nigerian Legal Profession where he feels there are issues in line with the terms of reference of the Committee.
ATTORNEY GENERAL’S RESPONSE
The Attorney General started by showing his sincere appreciation to the NBA for constituting such a committee. He stated that it “it is a clear testimony that the NBA wants development of the Legal Profession by setting up the Legal Practitioners Regulations Review Committee”. He was in consonance with the fact that there is a need to review, change some regulations in the Legal Profession and a collaboration of stake holders to achieve the desired outcome of this committee.
The AGF made it clear that he is committed to work with the NBA and the committee to ensure positive changes in the Legal Profession. In his response to issues raised by the President of the NBA earlier he stated as follows:
On the confirmation of the appointment of the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria; Hon Justice Walters Onnoghen CFR as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria he said it is premature to raise such issues as the law ( Section 231 (5) 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended) makes provision for 3 months for a Justice to act in an acting capacity and the Federal Government still has 2 weeks until the lapse of the 3 months that Hon. Justice Walters Onnoghen has been in acting capacity. He assured that the Federal Government know their duties and are on top of the situation.
On the Legal Profession, he said there is a need for everyone to come together to shape the Nigerian Legal Profession in avoiding corruption, promoting competence with a view to ensure the confidence associated with the Legal profession is sustained. There is need for necessary regulations and review to refine the destiny of our profession. He further stated on this note that there is a great need for lawyers to stop compromising the administration of Justice.
On the LPRRC, the Attorney General stated that the objective of the committee is a good one but must consider the Body of Benchers, Council of Legal Education, NBA, Supreme Court and all other key sectors of Judicial reforms in attaining its objectives. He made it clear that lawyers must chant a cause that eliminates corruption in our society and we cannot have a system that deals with Cash and Carry of positions especially when it comes to giving judicial decisions.
On the creation of jobs for lawyers, the AG made it known that as he assumed office there was a huge debt sum before him so it will be difficult to farm out cases to external lawyers as there is no adequate money to fund it. He said, he had tried to help our colleagues by trying to set up a National Prosecution team. He also suggested that the Committee should also look into the issue of job creation for lawyers to avoid subjecting lawyers to unnecessary liabilities.
In concluding his remarks, the AG made known his commitment to the reform and review of the Legal Profession and will ensure the Executive arm of the Federal Government will support the committee to ensure the glory of the profession is restored.
The NBA President in his reply to all that has been said by the Honourable Attorney General suggested that it wll help the committee more if the AG can refer some officers in the Ministry of Justice to be Co-opted members of the LPRRC.
The General Secretary; Isiaka Abiola Olagunju Esq. on behalf of the NBA thanked the Attorney General for the warm reception of the NBA. He also thanked all the members of the LPRRC for being readily available to champion a positive change in the Nigerian Legal Profession. He prayed the Attorney General will leave long lasting legacies for his successors. He further suggested the following that can be done by the Attorney General for the job creation:
The need for all Ministries across the Nation to have a Legal adviser.
The need for all Local Governments to have a Legal Department.
The Police should not prosecute in Magistrate Courts. It should be the job of a lawyer.
The meeting was brought to an end by the Master of Ceremony of the Office of the Attorney General at about 4:35pm.
The members of the Legal Practitioners Regulation Review Committee are:
1. Dr. Anthony Idigbe, SAN – Chairman
2. Prof. Koyinsola Ajayi, SAN
3. Mrs Funke Adekoya, SAN
4. Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, SAN
5. Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN
6. Mrs Bisi Shoyebo, SAN
7. Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor, SAN
8. Yakubu Maikyau, SAN
9. Prof. C. J. Dakas SAN
10. Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, SAN
11. Mr. Olarewaju Onadeko SAN
12. Dr Mike Adeleke
13. Prof. Alwalu Yadudu
14. Patricia Igwebuike Orji (Mrs)
15. Prof. M. L. Ahmadu
16. Prof. Augustine Agom
17. Mr. Rotimi Odusola
18. Prof. Osita Ogbu
19. Mrs Sade Aladeniyi
20. Prof. Ogugua Ikpeze
21. Dr. Aminu Gamawa – Secretary
22. Prof. U.U. Chukwuemeka Eze
23. Mr. Eric Otojahi- Assistant Secretary
It is worthy of mention that we have co-opted junior lawyers as members of the Committee. These junior lawyers were picked to have their perspectives on the subject matter of regulation of the legal profession. The names of the co-opted junior lawyers are as follows:
1. Mohammed Adelodun, Esq.
2. Sa'adatu Hamu-Aliyu (Ms)
3. Chideofor Onuoha, Esq
4. Olive Akem, Esq
5. Zubaida Mahmoud (Ms)
6. Temitope Ige (Ms)