Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, OON, SAN, FCIArb (UK) President, Nigerian Bar Association

By Anthony S. Aladekomo

The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), has again re-stated his controversial call for the barring of law graduates of Nigerian universities who had third class and ordinary pass from admission into the Nigerian Law School.

This is the second time in about a year that he would be making the controversial call. He also added that the present practice wherein Law School graduands having 40% cut-off point are called to the Nigerian bar is unhealthy for the profession, thereby calling for a stop to it. If this call is heeded, it means that thousands of students in the Law School and our universities whose cumulative grade point average (CGPA) is currently abysmally low will have their hope of becoming lawyers dashed.

Mr. Mahmoud spoke on Tuesday, July 3, 2018, during the ongoing 51st Annual Conference of the Nigerian Association of Law Teachers (NALT) Conference taking place at the Nigerian Law School Headquarters Campus, Bwari, Abuja. He had been invited by NALT to contribute to the discussion of a session of the programme titled, “Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility: The Foundation of a Good Lawyer” presided over by Professor Epiphany Azinge (SAN). Other invitees who spoke during the session included Mrs Miannaya A. Essien (SAN), the Chairman of the NBA Section on Legal Practice; Mr. Seun Abimbola, the Oyo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice and Vice Chairman of the NBA Section on Legal Practice; Mr. Yemi Candide-Johnson (SAN), the President of Lagos Court of Arbitration; and Mrs. Boma Alabi, a former President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association. The general theme of the conference is Justice, Law and Society, with the July 3 morning sessions majoring on legal education and ethics. Earlier in the day, a somewhat related topic, “Reimagining Legal Education: A Clinical Legal Education Workshop for Law Teachers” had been discussed, during which eminent law teachers like Professor Ayo Atsenuwa, the Dean of Law of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), and Professor Ernest Ojukwu (SAN), a top contender for presidency in the upcoming NBA elections, made some important contributions. Another contestant (for the office of the General Secretary) in the upcoming NBA elections, Mr. Jonathan Gunu Taidi, was also sighted at the sidelines of the event.

Demonstrating his determination and commitment to his stand, Mr. Mahnoud even disclosed that he had written to the Director-General (D-G) of the Nigerian Law School on the need to begin to implement his said recommendation barring such a category of university law graduates. He stated that the D-G has however replied that the Law School coul not do that, because there is no enabling law to that effect. But the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said he strongly disagreed with the D-G because, according to him, the Law School could set its own standards. Apparently referring to some jurisdictions where only graduates can pursue a degree in law, he said it was time for Nigeria to upgrade its legal education like some other countries. He further said that an NBA committee on the reform of the legal profession in Nigeria has not only started working but gone to the UK, where it has met many legal profession regulatory bodies. He disclosed that their trip abroad showed that it is not only the Nigerian legal profession that has of recent times faced some challenges of misconduct. He nonetheless decried the high rate of alleged misconduct of lawyers in Nigeria as he disclosed that 1,800 disciplinary cases are on hand now. According to the NBA President, 120 of them are being treated while 81 have been referred to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC).

While most of the conferees believe that not just legal education but the legal profession and even the entire educational system in the country need urgent reform and sanitization, Mr. Mahmoud’s somewhat extreme call was probably a shocker to many of them, as many of them shouted “Aha! Aha!” when he threw the bombshell. Indeed, most of the conferees who spoke advocated the inclusion of professional ethics in legal education in Nigeria right from the university level. It was also agreed that not just the Law School and the university law faculties but the National Universities Commission (NUC) must collaborate in the current efforts to sanitize the general educational challenges in the country. Time will tell whether the extreme call of Mr. Mahmoud will be sustained by his successors or be implemented by the Council of Legal Education.

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  1. Examination is not the true test of knowledge. He should understand that he is not who he is today because how brilliance he was in school it is just by God grace.

    • Sometimes one will wonder if there is hope for this country.We employ lawyers with 2’1 from the university and even law school lacking the act of advocacy. Do one now call such lawyers inept?When they rise to the top,they busy themselves with needless discuss because of the gap between the haves and the haves not.When I went to law school,to lay school fees was by grace of God and a brother who had to make a loan from an esusu person.You need not ask questions as to how food came throughout the period,I practically lived on a relative who send token nearly every week from Lagos bide Ekeledilichukwu transport to Abuja.Been asmathic and the Abuja whether hazy during January through March was catastrophic. I was not a dull student at all but I almost failed the bar exams because I was in and out of hospital when it was time to prepare for bar exams.Against the doctors advice, a friend would sneak notes into the hospital for me to enable me do some reading preparatory to the bar exams.Opelope annoiting alagbara would have fallen yakata and so when I read or hear people speaking as reported above,I just laugh and imagine the error in judgment.Gani lived well but I dare anyone to mention any lawyer close to his achievement and legacies.Till tomorrow, NWLR is the first among its equals.Rather than bring innovations that will better the lots of law graduates and lawyers alike the man is busy campaigning a view so distorted that one is left wondering why the best students in school don’t make the best employee. A parochial view it is to canvass outright ban for a class of graduates based on making a grade that is adjudged as pass mark.When your children eat and vomit out of abundance,others are unable to feed well yet striving to be divorced from poverty.The only lesson to learn from such hard stance is that men forests that we are all a product of grace,pass can disgrace distinctions and humble those whose quality is overrated. Little wonder some of the so called respected lawyers are acting funny even to the point of bringing policemen to harass a junior demanding for his wage. I had a similar experience with a female lawyer years back when for demanding for my wage after 5 weeks of work without pay she started calling Policemen from lion building to come to her aid.I did nothing wrong but relying on native inteligence,I engaged in the hare’s race and left lest I be battered.She still has the money till date.It was in her office that I saw a Secretary eating her launch in the toilet because madam must not perceive aroma of food.Years later her story became ubiqutous as she was denied a life long dream by the legal practitioner ethics committee for God knows what.The already made lawyers in Nigeria need to sit down and ask the question as to what they need to bring to the table to improve the profession not to keep dancing to the music of deceit.We all know how we got to where we are today, some by divine help others by the opposite.If you apply for job in some law firms,you are confronted with the question who is your father?Many asked me if my father is one Professor Ogunyemi from Ekiti!
      Laugh in French because my was indeed more than a professor,he was my hero who lived a humble life and invested his entire life savings on giving others a chance. My father died a farmer so if I never met Harriman J.(Mrs) now of the Delta Judiciary by divine arrangement,I would have never been taken by the Senior advocate who nurtured me and gave me my best opportunity in life.An Ibo man from Amichi from Anambra State gave me hope that my Yoruba kinsmen denied me.If it was grade he looked out for,he would never have given me a chance. I was so so much in love with his disposition when he said it is what you can offer and nothing else that I spoke to him thus “If I work with you for 6 months and you don’t make more money than you made in the last 3 years of your practise, fire me”.If you see MI ask him about my season with him.The rich wants to eat the poor for dinner forgetting that many big names in time past are today forgotten because apart from making a name for themselves, they diminished others. Arthur Obi Okafor should react to this lest we vote for someone who will deliver lectures that only reckons with one side view. The farmer in my village knows Gani Fawehinmi, he was not the best student but he is still teaching the best of students Ben from his grave.Let no man make boast that he knows!Time and chance is the name of life.

  2. GOD will save NBA from having unreasonable men in leadership of the body. This is the most unreasonable, unethical and unconstitutional statement ever made by any lawyer. Is he to protect lawyers or INSULT them as a leader? Arrogance is not a virtue. People like this should know that rules and regulations are set to be followed in the regulation of any professional body, not the whims and captives of an arrogant few.