State of Legal Profession: Nigerians no longer trust the bench, the bar – Awomolo, SAN


The Chairman of the Body of Benchers (BoB), Chief Adegboyega Solomon Awomolo, SAN has raised the alarm over the dwindling integrity of the nation’s legal profession.

The respected silk, in his acceptance speech after his inauguration as the new chairman, Body of Benchers, last week Thursday, said the decisions of the courts presently no longer inspire confidence.

He said there was an urgent need for stakeholders to win back public trust and confidence.

The silk took over from Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili (JSC) after a one-year stint.

Less than 72 hours after Chief Awomolo, SAN raised the concern, an erudite lawyer and respected member of the inner bar, Mr Jibrin Samuel Okutepa, SAN also expressed similar worry over the present state of the legal profession in the country owing to purported negative activities of some of its members.

The silk, in a reflection sent to BAR & BENCH WATCH, last Saturday said it was and remains regretful that the present situation in the legal profession has constantly fuelled attacks against the judiciary institution and the bar, adding that “for society to stop attacking the legal profession, the legal profession must wake up and start doing what is right and must not be seen to be in conspiracy with darkness permeating every stratum of the Nigerian society.”

Addressing the crème de la crème of the legal profession last Thursday, on the issue, Chief Awolomo, SAN said: “I see today’s ceremony as symbolic and an opportunity of a new call to service. I am not taking your love and goodwill for granted but I sincerely solicit your prayers and support for the next 12 months.

“One must be honest to admit that the current public image of the Bar and Bench in this country is not at the height that it ought to be.

“Members of the public no longer trust the Bench and the Bar for justice. Decisions of courts no longer inspire confidence and trust.

“The Body, in collaboration with other bodies in the administration of justice sector, has the duty to win back public trust and confidence.

“In the process of administration of justice, we need to strike humble and conciliatory tone in the engagement with the members of the public. Justice, it is said, is rooted in confidence.”

Awomolo further said: “Corruption in every sense is unfortunately a tag attached to the Judiciary. It is no doubt uncomplimentary and embarrassing but in public opinion, it is real.

“It then demands that everyone of us in the discharge of our judicial functions must, like Caesar’s wife, be above board.

“Another major problem before the legal profession today is the gradual erosion of discipline and non-observance of the professional ethics contained in the code of conduct of legal practitioners.

“The practice of law today has been thoroughly afflicted with the virus of ineptitude and indiscipline.

“In the last 4 years, this Body has admitted annually an average of five thousand lawyers.

“Most of these lawyers went into the practice of the law without any opportunity of tutelage.

“There is the need for a reform that will bring back the enviable status of the legal profession.

“The ongoing mentorship programme of the Body is a right initiative in this respect.

“Let me acknowledge the good works of the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee which has, in the last few years, doubled its capacity and returns. We demand for more.”

On the current move by the National Assembly to alter the Nigeria’s Constitution 1999 (as amended), he said the draft of the Legal Practitioners Act approved by this Body had been forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice for presentation to the legislature as an Executive Bill.

“This Body has a very important role to play to ensure that its views are reflected in the altered provisions of the Constitution and the Legal Practitioners Act. There was reported in the media yesterday (Wednesday, March 20, 2024) the proposed alteration of the Constitution which would make appointment, discipline and removal of Judicial officers in the States, the prerogative of the Governors.

“This move is alarming and will create a threat to the independence of the Judiciary. The Body cannot be passive or ‘siddon’ look. The danger in this move is to take the Judiciary back to pre-1999.

“I respectfully propose a Committee to put together the views of this Body for submission to the leadership of the National Assembly. I call for volunteers please,” he added.

BAR & BENCH WATCH reports that another respected silk, Okutepa, SAN, has consistently been calling attention of stakeholders to the situation in the legal profession on his X (formerly Twitter) Account.

For instance, on July 23, 2023, the erudite silk wrote: “When I see what we do as lawyers before election petitions Tribunals and how we deployed our knowledge of law in aid of electoral frauds, I laughed. Nigerians are getting fed up with the legal profession. Nigerians are angry that lawyers are Nigerian problems. It ought not to be.

On June 20, 2023, Okutepa, SAN wrote: “Practice of law in Nigeria is frustrating. It appears everything is so nauseating. Everyone seems helpless except those who may be enjoying impunity. Sad to see frustrating antics being condoned. Nothing seems to work. You go to court and some courts not sitting and no notice.”

On June 25, 2023, the silk said: “The problem of Nigeria is not about the population of the people. Our problem is about the population of thieves and connections of these thieves to those in power who closed eyes to the violations of laws. There are enough resources to develop Nigeria for Nigerians.

On March 11, 2003 “Time has come for those we gave constitutional responsibilities of adjudication to in our constitution to have a rethink and deliver justice in judgments to save us from the looming calamity in our national life. We cannot pretend that all is well,” he also wrote among several others.

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