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By Innocent Anaba,
Dele Adesina, SAN, is one of the contenders for the office of President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA. In this interview, he speaks on sundry issues in the justice sector and his plan for the Bar. Excerpts:
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic will bring and has actually brought a lot of challenges to the practice of law in Nigeria. It is public knowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world order and the world of legal practice is no exception.
However, as an incurable optimist, who always sees opportunities in any difficulty, I believe that coronavirus pandemic has offered an opportunity to speedily deploy technology to the administration of justice in Nigeria. I also see this as an opportunity to use technology to confront the cankerworm of delay and congestion in our administration of justice.
In post-COVID 19, the old order will pass away and most things will become new. It beholds us as stakeholders to apply ourselves and our attitude to this new way that we have no choice than to embrace.
What is your vision for the new order?
My vision, therefore, is that as we enter into this inevitable era of digitalisation of legal practice, every stakeholder will accept responsibility to do the needful. These include but are not limited to the provision of adequate funding of the judiciary, provision of infrastructures, including reconstruction of some of the existing facilities to achieve the specialised purpose of digitalised hearing, training of personnel and above all a positive change of attitude on the part of the practitioners of Law, both on the Bench and at the Bar.
Delay in justice administration has remained a big challenge for the country. How can we overcome this?
We can overcome the challenge by the federalisation of the Judiciary: It is my proposition that the present structure of the Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court should co-exist with the high courts of the states, the Court of Appeal of the states, and the Supreme Court of the state to deal with matters on concurrent and residual legislative lists.
The federal court structure will limit itself to the items on the exclusive legislative list in the constitution. I have no doubt that if this is done, there will be a serious transformation in our justice system and this will address the issue of delay and congestion in a most pragmatic manner.
You served the NBA as General Secretary between 2002 and 2004. Looking back, how do you feel about the state of the Bar today?
Yes, I was the General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association between 2002 and 2004 under the Presidency of Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN). It was a very progressive and purposeful administration and we left many legacies behind.
These legacies include but certainly are not limited to the establishment of the Section of Legal Practice (SLP) and Section of Business Law (SBL), the implementation of a Group Life Insurance Policy, and Mandatory Continuing Legal Education for members of the Nigerian Bar Association.
I will also add that, that was the first executive in the history of the NBA that put in place a remuneration/reward system package for young lawyers. So, also it was the same administration that put in place the Stamp and Seal policy to chase incidences of fake lawyers which I must say was very rampant at that time.
You have been cleared to contest for the Presidency of the NBA in the forthcoming elections, what is your package for Nigerian Lawyers, especially the young lawyers?
With regard to our young lawyers, I recognise that for some, the hope of success in the Profession is remote. To others, there is even no hope at all. My leadership will undertake innovative programmes to empower them for a sustainable and successful future.
I shall frontally tackle the challenge facing the young and junior members of the Bar with a view for them to develop hope in the Profession, build confidence in their chosen career and make them realise their career dreams.
Knowing as I do that the duty of leadership is to create opportunities for the followership, we shall establish a Professional Practice Support Trust Fund, to create opportunities for young and junior members of the Bar to set-up their own practice on the basis of partnership. We will set-up a National Strategic Mentorship Scheme.
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The scheme will be replicated at all the branches of the association. In this profession, the impact of mentorship cannot be over-emphasised because if you have no role model, you can hardly play your role well.
The leadership will undertake strategic engagement with the Nigerian Police in order to address in practical terms the complaints of our junior members against Police brutalization and other forms of abuse of legal practitioners in the pursuit of their profession. Of course, we would take calculated and pro-active steps to stop the encroachment of legal practice by non-legal practitioners.
Your campaign mantra is to secure the future of the Legal Profession, how do you intend to achieve this?
I came up with this mantra, first, after a careful study of the current situation of our Profession. Second, when I recalled the glorious past days of honour and dignity of the Lawyer and came to the conclusion that if nothing is done to address the problems by looking for solutions, the questions seeking for answers and challenges begging for resolutions, the future of the Profession is uncertain. Let me paint a few picture of these problems and challenges.
First and foremost, the rate of unemployment of our young members compared with the thousands that we churn out every year from the Law School without any tangible and pragmatic step to address how they will be gainfully employed is a bad omen.
It is not an overstatement to say that our junior members have become victims of an economic situation they did not create and yet these are the future of the Profession and the leaders of tomorrow.
Two, the negative perception of the Nigerian society that the Legal Profession has become one of the problems of society is a cause for serious concern. Third, the belief in many circles that the Judiciary is corrupt and that the Judgments of our courts are sold to the highest bidder, without any concerted effort to address this fallacy of generalisation despite the great and present danger of losing trust and confidence in our court.
Four, the state of the Rule of Law and obedience of court orders and judgments and, of course, the imperative need to defend, preserve and promote the independence of the Legal Profession in general and in particular the independence of lawyers and judges in the practice of their profession.
My view is that if we fail to address these problems and many others, the future of the young and junior members of the Bar and the profession itself is not secure.
Your administration under the Presidency of Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) inaugurated the pioneer Governing Councils of the NBA Section on Business Law (SBL) and the Section on Legal Practice (SLP), how do you feel looking at those sections now?
Naturally, I feel happy and fulfilled. I also believe the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at the time, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, and other members of that executive will feel proud to have been part of that initiative. Having said that, permit me to use this opportunity to correct some misinformation that some individuals are spreading on social media about the establishment of the Section of Business Law.
I have heard it said either out of total ignorance of the association’s institutional history or out of mischief denying the very obvious achievement of that administration. The truth about the Section on Business Law is that it was established by our Executive of 2002 – 2004. At the NBA National Executive Committee meeting of January 30 and 31 2003 held at the Cultural Centre, Abeokuta, the Committee on Sections within the NBA was set-up. Mrs. Modupe Akintola, who at that time was the Vice Chairman of IBA Section on Legal Practice, was made the Chairman of the Committee while Obi Okusogwu, past General Secretary, was nominated as the Secretary.
So, what happened next?
At the NBA NEC meeting on July 24-25, 2003 which held at the Leadership Institute Hall, Jos, Mrs. Modupe Akintola presented her report, which was adopted at the meeting. At the pre-conference NEC Meeting held on August 24, 2003, at Banquet Hall, Enugu, the President reported the outcome of Mrs. Modupe Akintola’s Committee on Sections within the NBA to NEC. The Meeting discussed the Report and the Bye-laws presented by the President and approved the same.
At the Annual General Meeting of the association held on August 29, 2003, the President of the association stated inter alia: “This committee under the chairmanship of Mrs. Modupe Akintola went about their historic assignments with maximum zeal and commitment. It has not only recommended to the national executive the establishment of two sections that is to say Section on Business Law and Section on Legal Practice modeled as near as possible after the sections within the International Bar Association but it has most importantly gone ahead to submit a draft bye-law for each of these Sections…”
The councils of the two Sections were constituted at the Ilorin NEC of July 8 and 9, 2004 with Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN) as chairman of the council, SLP, and Mr. George Etomi as pioneer chairman, SBL.
I have gone this far to put the records straight. It is important for people to know that putting off another man’s candle will not necessarily make your own candle to shine brighter. The truth is that we had the grace to create that opportunity and we are happy to have done so for our association.
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