As the year 2016 rode to a halt, members of ‘Ask a Lawyer’ group gathered at a Summit in Victoria Island, Lagos at which they critically looked into some of the salient issues affecting the legal profession and the administration of justice in Nigeria.
‘Ask a Lawyer’ is an initiative of Imran O. Shitta-Bey and is the coming together of about 40 Legal Practitioners of various backgrounds and expertise on a Whatsapp and Internet platform to share knowledge and drive professional development towards excellence in legal practice.
At its maiden Summit with the theme, “Sharing Knowledge in Building Enduring Professional Ties”, ‘Ask a Lawyer’ members explored issues of ethics in the legal profession, advocacy and legal jurisprudence.
To drive the day were Charles Ayodeji Adeogun-Phillips, former United Nations International Prosecutor, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) and Professor Bankole Sodipo,
former Dean of Law, Babcock University, who were the keynote speakers at the Summit.
Charles Adeogun-Phillips emphasised on the need for more discipline within the legal profession and the strengthening of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) disciplinary committees to handle cases of professional misconduct. He recommended the disciplinary module adopted for lawyers practicing in the International Criminal Court.
A leading prosecutor in high profile cases brought by the Federal Government of Nigeria,
Adeogun-Phillips emphasised the need to build capacity and enhance the conditions of service amongst prosecutors in the country.
At his own time to speak, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) emphasised the need to develop our case law and to avoid technicalities in the preparation and handling of briefs. The learned Silk noted with regret that many cases that go to Nigeria’s Superior Court do not touch on substantive issues but on technical matters and preliminary objections thereby stifling the development of legal jurisprudence in the country.
Onigbanjo observed that there were fewer landmark judgements in recent times due to undue attention to technicalities. He therefore urged colleagues to resist the temptation of seeking out technical loopholes and rather focus on applying the substance of the law to the disputes at hand.
Professor Bankole Sodipo represented by Femi Fajolu, Managing Partner at G.O. Sodipo & Co., reiterated the need for development of Nigerian laws. Sodipo observed that “we talk a lot but we do not act. We have seminars, workshops and so on but when it comes to implementation we are found wanting.” He shared his experience as an intellectual property practitioner in the Federal High Court and noted that there was the need for a lot of reforms, both the nation’s judicial system and in the training of Judges.
Specifically, Professor Sodipo called for the establishment of State Appeal Courts to be vested with exclusive appellate jurisdiction on matters contained within the Residual Legislative List of the nation’s Constitution.
Martin Ogunleye, Chairman of the NBA, Lagos Branch, observed that the professional body was doing a lot to address shortcomings within the profession and judicial system and that with the new national leadership of the NBA, he was certain that reforms would take place.
Members and participants then went into a question and answer session which spurred enlightening comments and discussions after which K.C. Carew Esq, Summit Chairman, summarised key points and submissions in his final remarks.
At the end, I.O. Shitta-Bey unveiled ASK A LAWYER 2.O (ask.legalpractitioner.me), which he described as an upgraded and online version of the ‘Ask a Lawyer’ Whatsapp platform.
He informed that the ‘FREE’ Online portal will be rolled-out in January 2017 to provide quick answers to legal questions from the general public and serve as a legal referral platform.