A call has gone to the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to immediately begin to sanction lawyers fond of making prejudicial comments on-air on matter in court to safeguard both professionalism and the integrity of the judiciary.
A senior member of the bar, Hakeem Afolabi, SAN, flayed lawyers who were in the habit which he described as gross professional misconduct, subjudice and capable of eroding the credibility of the bench.
The Senior Advocate and Partner in Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, and Co. (Temitope Chambers) spoke on Sunday in Ibadan, where royalty, friends and colleagues gathered to celebrate the elevation of Mr. Gbenga Seun Ajayi and his wife, Mary-Ann, to the prestigious ranks of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Professor respectively.
Ajayi is the Ibadan Head of Chamber of Lateef Fagbemi law firm, while his wife teaches African Law at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan.
The ball held at the International Lillies Event Centre, Apata GRA, Ibadan, where Dignitaries poured encomiums on the distinguished couple.
Making remarks as his colleague-in-chamber, Mr. Afolabi described the new Silk as “a man of erudition of brilliance, whose promotion to the highest rank in the legal profession, he said, was not surprising at all, given his pedigree of excellence, hardworking and dedication.
He, however, advised him to see his new status as a challenge and call to be even more exemplary with regard to his practice and conduct, reminding him that he was now watched by both his junior colleagues and the public.
“Your mentees are looking up to you – to be a model in carriage, integrity, etc,” Afolabi said, as he specifically warned him not to join in the craze whereby lawyers took to television screen to discuss yet-to-be-decided court cases and citing law reports.
The Frontline lawyer said apart from being an embarrassment, the fad was harmful both to judiciary and the society.
His words: “The rule of professional conduct in the legal profession actually gave room for situations where you can comment on matters that affect the public, but it’s disheartening to find that it has become the practice nowadays for so many lawyers to be on television stations very early in the morning discussing matters that are subjudice, matters that are pending in court and on which the court has yet to decide, misleading members of the public. What is so annoying is that you see people making comments on issues for which they knew nothing about the facts of the case, such that you would have structured the mind of the public in a particular way or mode that at the end of the day when the court now renders a decision which, maybe, is not in conformity with the thinking of the people, they start making unnecessary and baseless insinuations and allegations that maybe they have been compromised or not!”
According to Afolabi, the court as an institution, only rendered decisions based on the facts before the court and not on sentiments.
“So when a case is pending in court, it is not the best to discuss such matter. Perhaps, after the court has pronounced judgment, you can analyze their verdict without casting aspersions on the personality and integrity of the judex that made the decision. It’s your right to analyze the decision of a court, what we’re against is for you to go before a panel of television anchors very early in the morning to discuss matters on which decisions are yet to be rendered,” he said.
He blamed ambition and the craving for fame as probable motivation for the trend. “What has become the norm nowadays is that a lot of people crave attention. They want to create awareness about themselves. They believe that if they are so visible on the television set people will get to know them.
But, that’s not right. If you want to record success in the profession, go and argue your case in court and let us see the outcome. Not that you will go to a television station in the morning and be doing what you know is professionally wrong!
The senior lawyer said it might be quite difficult or impracticable for the judiciary to deal with every case of such infractions, as it was even likely to arouse insinuations “where a judge somewhere says: “oya go and summon somebody in respect of a comment he made in respect of a matter before me.”
Rather, he said the NBA was better placed to whip erring lawyers into line, applying the rules and regulations guiding legal practice.
“The NBA, as a body, should call this people to order and enforce the rules and regulations governing the professional conduct of members of the bar, Afolabi stressed.
Chairman of the occasion and Third Republic Speaker of the Oyo State Assembly, Dr. Akin Onigbinde, SAN, said the soiree was a fitting celebration of an outstanding professional feat.
His words: “We know how challenging and sometimes very convoluting our job could be whether in the courtroom, classroom or as corporate lawyers.
“So, it’s exceedingly remarkable when one of us is able to make the mark and attain such exalted recognition.
He paid tribute to elders and seniors in the legal profession who laid the foundation of excellence for lawyers in the Ibadan bar, citing Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, and the Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister Fagbemi under whom the honoree, Ajayi served.
Former Oyo State Justice Commissioner Asiwaju Adebayo Ojo, SAN, who chaired the organizing committee for the event in his brief welcome speech thanked guests for being part of what he called “a celebration of excellence.”
The traditional ruler of the honoree, the Onijagbo of Ijagbo, Kwara State, Oba Sarafadeen Adeniyi, Babalola I,
appreciated dignitaries for their love and support for Ajayi, whom, he described as one of the promising legal stars in his domain.
He lauded his humility, fortitude and dedication.
His counterpart in Aiyedun Ekiti, Oba Solomon Ajibade, who had conferred chieftaincies on the couple, said their elevation was part of positive outcomes and fulfillment of prophecy at their installation last year.
He urged Ajayi to always seek divine counsel in taking actions.
At the well-attended event were: Justice Bayo Taiwo, Justice Boyede Akintola, Chief Babatunde Aiku, SAN; Oluwasina Ogungbade, Ogun State Attorney General; Mr. Ranti Ajileti. Prof Oladele of Bowen University; a former member, Oyo State Assembly; Dr. Kazeem;
High Chief Musibau Ajiboye, Olora of Ijagbo; Balogun of Ijagbo, Chief Imam of Ijagbo and Elder Oloyede, Ijagbo Christian Association of Nigeria’s Secretary; among others.