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Legal practitioners harp on professionalism, seek improved welfare for young lawyers

Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, Hon. Justice Amina Augie (CON) delivering her address as Chairman of the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 NBA Lagos Branch Law Week held at MUSON Centre, Lagos.  

Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, Hon. Justice Amina Augie (CON) delivering her address as Chairman of the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 NBA Lagos Branch Law Week held at MUSON Centre, Lagos.

The cream of Nigeria’s legal practitioners comprising the bar and the bench last week harped on the importance of professionalism in law practice in the country. The gathering was at the instance of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lagos Branch during its Law Week held at the MUSON Centre, Lagos.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Fabian Ajogwu SAN urged the NBA to devise policies that would aid the welfare of young lawyers and better position the legal profession for the future.

Apart from Ajogwu, other speakers and participants included former Lagos State Attorney General, Mr. Ade Ipaye; Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, OON; Chief Anthony Idigbe, SAN; Prof. Chioma Agomo, former Dean of Law, University of Lagos; Mr. Osaro Eghobamien, SAN; Mrs. Titi Akinlawon, SAN; Dr. B. A. M. Ajibade, SAN; Prof. Bankole Sodipo, Dean of Law, Babcock University; Dr. Mrs. Onuobia also of Babcock University; medical practice expert, Mr. Laolu Osanyin; former NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Chijioke Okoli; Mr. Seyi Akinwunmi, NFF Vice-President; Mr. Uche Obi, President of Capital Market Solicitors Association; Dr. Dapo Olanipekun; Chief Samuel Alabi, Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Eko Hotels, Chief Emeka Ngige SAN, Mr. Kunle Ogunba SAN and Barrister (Mrs.) Vera Chinwuba of NTA Lagos among others.

Ajogwu warned that the future of the profession would depend on how well legal practitioners equip themselves, adding that the industry would be increasingly competitive.

He decried exploitation of the industry by sundry stakeholders. According to him, juicy briefs were being yielded to foreign firms especially in the petroleum industry due to non-compliance with the Local Content Act by many International Oil Companies (IOCs). He urged the NBA to wade into the matter in order to make more work available to Nigerian lawyers.

Ajogwu who spoke on the theme: “The future of the legal profession: Protection from exploitation” at the opening ceremony of the Law Week, urged ‘seniors’ and law firms to shore up their remuneration packages for their employees especially ‘junior’ lawyers, adding that it is in the interest of such ‘seniors’ and law firms, otherwise they would become mere “training ground” and targets for others who appreciate the value in those employees and ‘juniors’.

The presiding justice of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, Justice Amina Augie urged lawyers to always abide by the ethics of the profession. Justice Augie who traced her career trajectory, warned lawyers to avoid cutting corners as it would ultimately detract from their individual standing and the nobility of the profession. She also stressed the need for wayward lawyers to retrace their steps by embracing honesty and integrity, adding that the profession would be the better for it.

Former NBA President, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN decried the abandonment of the profession and the Bar by some lawyers. His words: “They are only known or remembered as lawyers through the prefix of ‘Barrister’ or ‘Lawyer’, without making any contribution whatsoever to the growth of the profession, whether contextually or tangentially.”

Speaking on “Virtue of service to the Bar” at the Elders’ Night/Awards held at Ikoyi, Lagos as part of the Law Week programme, Olanipekun warned that ‘contribution’ to the Bar must not be construed as merely financial donations “but also incorporates mentoring of young lawyers and shouldering leadership responsibilities. It also dovetails into knowledge sharing, including participation and attendance at a forum like this. Senior members of the Bar should inspire the juniors to make it in the profession and also climb to its Mount Everest.”

The programme was rounded off with a high-profile Dinner & Award Night at City Hall, Lagos to celebrate the former Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN). The Law Week Committee Chairman, Mrs. Tolani Edu-Adeola said the choice of Fashola for this year’s award was “unanimous,” adding that he was “head and shoulders above other potential honorees” for changing the face of governance in Nigeria.

This sentiment was echoed by the outgoing NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Mr. Alex Muoka in his speech. Mr. Geroge Etomi, a National Productivity Order of Merit laureate, gave the Dinner Speech titled “The legal profession in an emerging economy” while Mr. Ebun Sofunde (SAN) was chairman in an occasion witnessed by the cream of Nigeria’s legal profession.

The break-out sessions dealt with several practice areas including Labour Law, Medical Law, Media/Sport Law, Insolvency Law, Capital Market Law, Tax Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution simulation. It also included the traditionally frank and heated Bar Bench Forum.

Activities of the week included a visit to Ikoyi Prison and a football tournament.

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