The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), says there is a need to interrogate the criteria by which students are graded at the Nigerian Law School.
Speaking last week at the NBA town hall meeting held at the Lagos campus of the Nigerian Law School, Mahmoud said he was shocked to learn that the law school was now presenting for call to Bar, students who scored only 40 per cent in the Bar examinations.
“This must be the lowest in Africa. I don’t see why we should be admitting people with such a low cut-off point. We admit nearly 8,000 lawyers annually, that must probably be more than what the entire African continent admits every year,” Mahmoud said.
He added, “The Law Society of Kenya has a membership of less than 20,000 and they admit about a 1,000 lawyers every year. I am not suggesting, in any way, that we must go one way or the other but these are the kinds of issues we must interrogate.
“What is the capacity to absorb the number lawyers that we are churning out every year? And how does that impact on the quality of legal services that are being given?”
Mahmoud said this is one of the issues that would be looked into by the Legal Profession Regulation Review Committee, which the NBA inaugurated on January 24, 2017.
The committee is chaired by Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN) and has Dr. Aminu Gamawa as its secretary.
Among the members of the committee are the Director General of the Nigerian Law School, Mr. Olanrewaju Onadeko (SAN), and Prof. Kayinsola Ajayi (SAN).
Addressing lawyers at the town hall meeting, Mahmoud said the NBA had an urgent need to review its regulatory framework.
He stressed that it was time for the association to decide whether it wanted to continue to self-regulate its members or to outsource the responsibility to external forces.
“A strong legal profession cannot be built on the current framework that we have.
“The Nigerian legal profession is no longer competitive, it is no longer effective in regulation of service delivery, it’s no longer effective in maintaining standard, it’s no longer effective in the promotion of the rule of law, which is called our mantra.
“With respect to the legal profession, it appears clear that the regulatory architecture is out of date and out of sync with the modern day Nigerian realities and indeed the size and complexity of the legal profession,” Mahmoud said.
He disclosed that the NBA, under his leadership, had begun to engage with various stakeholders, including the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Senate President, and was also considering engagements beyond the shores of Nigeria, with the United Kingdom Bar Council and the Law Society of the UK and also the Law Society in Kenya and probably South Africa.
Speaking at the meeting, activist lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said some members of the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee deserved to be punished themselves.
He said it was time to take away the job of disciplining erring lawyers from fellow lawyers and to give it to trustworthy retired judges.
Falana also said the SAN rank should either be abolished or all lawyers that were qualified should be immediately admitted to the rank.
Also speaking, Mr. Dele Adesina (SAN), said there was a need to rein in lawyers who had formed the habit of raising unnecessary objections in court just to frustrate cases.
The chairman of the LPRRC, Idigbe, said the committee had hit the ground running by setting up two sub-committees.
He said, “We are dispassionately examining the regulatory architecture with the view to commending a review and reform of the system in order to achieve the lofty ideals of our terms of reference. To achieve this end, the committee set up two sub-committees, namely: Current State Sub-Committee and Future State Sub-Committee.”