The long debate on whether to abolish the rank of senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is still raging and may not abate any sooner.
The more the debate the more controversial it becomes. In this interview with GODWIN DUNIA, one of the beneficiaries of the rank in Afe Babalola’s Chambers, Olu Daramola, sees nothing wrong in the process of conferring the rank to legal practitioners. He also speaks on national issues including the need for Nigerians to support the current war against corruption among others.
Most notable lawyers including late Dr. Tunji Braithwaite and some movements are still against the tittle of senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN). As a holder of the tittle, Do you think it should be sustained?
I don’t think there is any problem or anything wrong with this title. Because it is not only in the legal profession that members are elevated because of good performances, achievements or contribution. Other professions like Accountancy, banking have fellows as a way of appreciating their members and in the medical profession we have consultants.
There is nothing wrong in clamoring for reforms of modalities of appointing members into the noble rank of SAN when and where necessary. But to ask for total abolition is going too far. It is like throwing the baby away with the bathwater.
The SAN is a mark of honour to which every lawyers should aspire to attain.
You mean the processes and procedures of appointing members to the rank are okay?
There is nothing to warrant the calling for abolition of the title as far as the process and procedure of selection are concerned. Personally, the only area I will recommend for review is the way names of applicants are being advertised on the pages of newspapers. To me, I think that should be the process for only those who have been given and who had qualified to wear the silk. Once names are advertised, then such applicants ought to be given the award except on the ground of serious reasons of misconduct.
A new group under the aegis: Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), recently called on the Buhari government to fight corruption in accordance with the rule of law. Are you in support of this call?
As far as I am concerned, the present government of Buhari is waging war against corruption in accordance to and through the rule of law. It has not done wrong to warrant any form of accusation of not following the rule of law. So far the government has been using the courts to prosecute persons brought before it on corruption charges.
Justice is not a one-way traffic, it must be done not only in the interest of the accused but also for the victim and the society at large. As far as the corruption war is concern, there is no accused person that has been denied of the right of legal representation.
The greatest threat to the corporate existence of this country today is corruption. Therefore every right thinking Nigerian must support the present government in its efforts to rid the country of this cankerworm called corruption.
Given the usual delay of the criminal justice system, is there any indication that substantial number of the cases in courts now will be concluded before the lapse of four-year tenure of this administration?
I think a lot of this depends on the government and the courts. Of course, there is no doubt about the sincerity of the government to fight corruption to a logical conclusion. In the same vein, the judiciary has done well so far because some of these cases are at trial stages. The advent of the Administration of Criminal Justice Acts in also aiding the speedy dispensation of justice in handling all these matters is also welcome.
Gone are the days when lawyers used frivolous injunctions to truncate the trial of their clients.
If at the end of the day, the government eventually succeeded in sending some of these people going through trial to jail, then that will serve as a danger signals to everybody.
But the government has a lot to do for the courts to perform optimally. The government must create enabling comfortable environment as well as provision of necessary tools and other incentives that can encourage speedy dispensation of justice.
Are you in support of those urging the government to create ‘special court’ to try corruption cases?
As far as it is now, we don’t need any form of special court to try corruption cases because the present existing courts can do the job without any doubt, But that is if only the government will strengthen the court system. To create additional or special courts will only add to the expenditures of the government without meaningful change in the system.
If the government creates new courts or special court and fail in providing necessary machineries to aid optimal performance, the courts will still be handicapped in the discharge of their duties.
What I am saying so far is that the government should strengthen the present court system.
Do you agree that the judiciary is frustrating Buhari in his war against corruption?
No! The judiciary has not done anything to frustrate this government. Under our laws, an accused is presumed innocent until his guilt is established by the court. Therefore, this can only be done through proper trial in the court.
It will be unfair to blame the court at this stage. What government should do for now is to get good lawyers to prosecute the corruption cases in court. And in dispensing justice, the court is bound by the evidence presented before it and it will take the prosecutor to establish the guilt of the accused.
Are you in support of the call for the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC), to sanction fraudulent judges and lawyers?
Whether I support this or not, is not the issue. What matter is that the law allows any erring lawyers and judges to be disciplined for any act of misconduct. Complaints against lawyers are by the legal disciplinary committee and the NJC is to discipline any erring lawyer or judge.
So far, many lawyers have been de-robbed and judges dismissed or retired. Therefore the issue of discipline has nothing to do whether one is in support or not. The law permits discipline and I am in support of that.
By GODWIN DUNIA