The legal profession is considered to be a noble profession all over the world.
This attaches more respect to whosever finds him or herself in the legal profession. Some even regard this profession as social engineering. Not only this, it is said that, lawyers have three fundamental relationships: a relation to their clients, to the law and to the community in which they live. This is because lawyers consider human values to be an important element of their profession and never give money a priority over the human value.
It is equally obvious that, legal practitioners often help in making a society understand the difference between right and wrong and always realize that they have duty towards the society while discharging their professional obligations.
With all the aforementioned facts, it may fairly be said that this profession deserves to be preserved and protected in its true spirit. There are so many factors threatening the significance of the legal profession which make many members of the society have a low regard for lawyers.
In a world that is growing ever more complex, it is pertinent to note that, no matter how a marble human statue is designed and dressed for, it can never be regarded as a real human being. Thus, no matter how a falsehood is painted, it can never take the place of the truth.
There are widely circulated rumors with no discernible source. These rumors are as follows:
- That during the call to bar ceremony, already qualified aspirants who are desirous of becoming Legal Practitioners will be invited to a secret room to take oaths of secrecy and at the same time be initiated to a secret cult by the Body of Benchers i.e. there are spiritual and secret practices which are unknown to the general public and these practices, ideas and polices could not be shared with no one;
- That during three compulsory dinners organized in Nigerian Law School, it is mandatory for every student to take alcoholic drinks regardless of his or her religious teachings ,and
- That the lawyers’ wigs have a cross (a symbol of religious devotion for Christians).
These rumors will be refuted one after the other but before that, it is apt to know what is meant by the Body of Benchers.
What is meant by the Body of Benchers?
The body of benchers is a statutory Body established by the Legal Practitioners Act, 1962 (as amended), Cap L11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Section 3 of this Act stipulates that the Body of Benchers is the body of legal practitioners of the highest distinction in the legal profession which shall be responsible for the formal call to the bar of persons seeking to become legal practitioners as well as disciplining of erring lawyers.
In rebutting the first rumor, let us then reflect on the laid down procedure at call to the bar ceremony to know whether to qualify for call to the Nigerian Bar requires being initiated to secret cult or not, and whether or not this procedure includes any spiritual and secret practices which are unknown to the general public, particularly those who are opportune to witness the ceremony.
Procedures At Call to the Bar Ceremony.
- 1. Before the Benchers procession:
(i) Applicants for Call to the Bar take their seats in the hall, dressed in Barristers’ robes, but shall not place wigs on their heads. (This amounts to having discipline). Regulation 16(3)
(ii) Applicants for Call to the Bar shall seat in an alphabetical order (Regulations 16(4).
(iii). Council of Legal Education Academic and Professional staff take their seats donning Barristers’ gowns.
- Benchers Procession:
Order of procession-
(i). All rise for Benchers procession and remain standing in the platform as Benchers’ Macebearer enters the hall.
(ii). Macebearer and Secretary, Body of Benchers in front, stand by the Mace stand, facing the platform.
(iii). Benchers will file in accordingly and take their seats.
- Call to Order:
(i). The secretary, Body of Benchers steps forward and says:
(a) ” By the power conferred on me as Secretary of the Honorable Body of Benchers, I call the house to order and welcome the Chairman and Honourable Benchers to this unique occasion of call to the Bar ceremony”.
(b) “May I also take the opportunity to welcome the parents, guardians, well wishers, friends and guest of applicants for the Bar at this ceremony”.
(c) “May I now with the leave of Mr. Chairman, call on the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education to step forward and report on the state of the readiness or the applicants for Call”
(ii). The Chairman of the Council of Legal Education steps forward and says:
“Mr. Chairman Sir, the students of Nigerian Law School who have successfully completed their training and passed the Bar examination (conducted by the Council of Legal Education), are ready for presentation to the Honourable Body of Benchers for Call to the Bar. May I respectfully Mr. Chairman seek leave to call on the Director General of the Nigerian Law School to present the report and to summon the Applicants for Call, to appear before the Honourable Benchers”.
(iii). Chairman responds thus:
“Honourable Benchers’ leave is hereby granted as prayed”
- Presentation of Applicants for Call to the Bar:
(i). The Director- General of the Nigerian Law School steps forward and presents his report and summons the applicants in an alphabetical order.
(ii). Each Applicants files out when summoned (called), walks towards the Chairman, bows to the Benchers, shakes the Chairman and return to his or her seat
(iii). On the last applicant taking his seat, the Director-General of the Nigerian Law School steps forward, bows to the benchers she says:
“Mr. Chairman Sir, may I respectfully and in my honour present to the Honorable Body of Benchers, the number of applicants presents here for Call to the Bar at this ceremony “.
- The call to the Bar:
(i). The Chairman rises to his feet to perform the Call to the Bar ceremony thus:
“By the power conferred on the Body of Benchers by Section 3(1)of the Legal Practitioners Act and by the powers conferred on me as Chairman of Benchers by Regulation 16 of the Body of Benchers Regulations 1983, I hereby admit each and every one of the applicants herein present severally to the Bar as Barristers and Solicitors. You may now put on your wigs”
(ii). The Secretary of Body of Benchers steps forward-facing the benchers and says:
“Mr. Chairman Sir, may I respectfully invite you to deliver
(a) Your address and
(b) Your charge to the new wigs
(iii). Chairman’s address and sanction to the new wigs – The chairman reads his address to the new wigs and ends with this charge thus:
“You may go forth in your new wigs from this day forward to serve Nigeria and serve humanity in Justice, without fear or favour, affection or ill will”.
(iv). Secretary, Body Benchers rise to her feet and announces:
(a) The end of the Call to the Bar ceremony thus:
“We have now come to an end of the call to the Bar ceremony of this morning /afternoon”.
(b) The order of recess is as follows:
- The Chairman and Honourable Benchers;
- Followed by the Academic and Professional staff of the Nigerian Law School;
iii. Parents, Guardians, well -wishers and friends next; and
- The new wigs last.
It is crystal clear from the foregoing procedures that there are no traces of initiating the new wigs into cults in the legal profession.
Let’s now consider the following facts to clear the dust of rumors and falsehood;
1– There is nothing in the above procedures that can be regarded as the ritual activities, such as taking oaths of secrecy in a secret room, and after the departure, no other secret gathering organized by the Body of Benchers.
- The procedures at call to the bar ceremony are done or carried out in the presence of parents, guardians, well-wishers and friends, unlike cults members that carry out their activities in a secret place and non- members cannot be allowed to present in their midst.
3– Unlike secret cult members, the procedure at call to the Bar ceremony are accessible to the general public because each and every new wigs is given the magazine which contains the list of members of the body of benchers, their functions, historical background of the Nigerian Law School, Admission to practice as legal practitioners in Nigeria and other related issues.
Nowadays, people are highly discouraged through a designed falsehood that so looks like the truth. Secondly, there’s also a well -circulated rumor that, during the academic session, three compulsory law dinners are arranged for students where the Body of Benchers made it compulsory for every student to take alcoholic wine. That’s never the truth of the matter. Law dinners are truly made as compulsory and attendance is mandatory for students aspiring to be called to the bar. The purpose of the law dinners is to inculcate the habits of learned gentlemen into the students and provide opportunities for them to meet members of the legal profession and the Benchers. They are to learn from them some ethics of the profession. In these dinners, foods and different type of drinks (alcoholic of low percentage, non– alcoholic wine, malt, Coca Cola, Pepsi and the likes) are provided and placed on the tables. It is left for a student to pick anyone he or she likes. Nobody is forced to take any alcoholic drink.
Thirdly, It is also a rumor that, in every wig, there is a cross (a symbol of religious devotion for Christian). This rumor has no legs on which it stands, this is because, lawyers’ wigs are what can be seen and one can buy at boutique, and it is not what is given to the aspirants to the Bar, rather, it is what you buy yourself. I have checked numerous wigs before and after my call to the bar, none of them has a cross. It is just a falsehood formed to stain that legal profession and its garment.
Finally, the falsehood which is sometimes heard needs to be disregarded and hear from the real source. I have once said that, a man stretching his neck from outside to see what is happening inside can never claim to see the true story of the matter. It is an established fact that, the secret of a peaceful and ordered society is law and those who are custodians of it, and a society without a lawyer is in darkness. The beauty of legal profession cannot be deformed and its nobility remains forever.
By: Y.A; Usman Esq (Ar-rohees), Email: [email protected] Phone:07033589425