- It’s time to reassess the standards for conferring SAN
The stripping of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), presumably reserved for exemplary scholarship and distinction in the legal profession, from Mr. Kunle Ogunba, by the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC), is a metaphor of sorts, for the state of our judiciary. There is no gainsaying that our judicial system is in a sorry state, particularly the criminal justice system, no thanks to some members of that privileged class, who use their privilege as a pedestal to abuse the rule of law.
According to a statement credited to the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court and secretary of LPPC, Mrs Hadizatu Mustapha, the decision to strip Mr. Kunle Ogunba of the privilege stems from a petition filed by Honeywell Group. The group accused Mr Ogunba of professional misconduct, for filing multiplicity of cases before different courts, on the same subject matter, with the aim of abusing the due process of court. After examining the allegation, the committee found it meritorious and accordingly stripped Ogunba of the rank of SAN.
The fate of Mr Ogunba should serve as a warning to other SANs and lawyers generally. While there are principled and decent SANs, quite a number of them appear to have joined forces with the corrupt elements that have foresworn to bring the country to its knees. That ignominious group sees legal practice as an opportunity to ride roughshod over the legal system, such that once they gain a brief to defend a criminal matter, they do whatever comes to their fancy, to circumvent a proper trial.
These SANs see their briefs as an end in itself, forgetting that once called to the bar, a lawyer is first and foremost an officer of the court, who should ensure the integrity of the legal system. The ignominious roles of such SANS make many wonder whether in conferring that privilege, a beneficiary should not be worthy in character and learning. Many of this class of SANs support election riggers and corrupt politicians, using the courts, and they give the impression that the LPPC, in choosing beneficiaries, did not do a thorough job.
Again, because of the poor performance of this class of misfits conferred with the rank of SAN, many have begun to question the criteria for gaining that privilege. Indeed, not long ago, there was a battle amongst members of the legal profession over the fairness of the LPPC in making their choices. Many view the rank as a club for children of the top members of the profession, while some impute corrupt practices and unfair standards in the selection process. These accusations are not without merit, considering the performance of some children of the big names in the profession conferred with the rank, apparently because of their forbearers.
The statement from the registrar also withdrew the nomination of Oluwatoyin Ajoke Bashorun for the conferment of the rank of SAN, for conducting herself in a manner prejudicial to some provisions of the guidelines for the conferment of the rank. While the committee is entitled to stop the process as it did, we wonder whether the apparent lack of detailed investigation, that allowed the nomination in the first place, is a confirmation of the absence of rigorous standard in choosing those who gain that special privilege.
There is also the complaint, that many lawyers in their determination to gain the number of appearances at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, file frivolous applications, all the way. Perhaps it is time for the LPPC to reassess the standards, to ensure that beneficiaries are persons found worthy in character and learning.