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Legal profession under threat, say practitioners

…suggest radical reforms

Stakeholders in the nation’s judiciary have raised concern over the state of affairs in the legal profession in Nigeria with a suggestion that the entire system needed serious radical reforms.

According to them, such reforms would curb unethical conduct among practitioners.

The stakeholders included the Body of Benchers, Nigerian Bar Association and a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour.

The Chairman, the BoB, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), President of NBA, Tayo Akpata, and Rhodes-Vivour said there was urgent need for stakeholders to collaborate on ways to reform the practice of Law in Nigeria.

They spoke in Abuja on Thursday night during a dinner held in honour of Olanipekun and Justice Mary Odili (of the Supreme Court of Nigeria), after they were inaugurated as Chairman and Vice Chairman of the BoB respectively.

Olanipekun, 50th Chairman of the BoB, in his acceptance speech, said, “It behoves us to rejig, redefine and re-orientate our profession in order to restore its cherished nobility and glory.

“We must not lose sight of the unpleasant happenings around us, whether from the Bar or the Bench. Succinctly surmised, our profession is under aggression and attack, both from within and without.

“These are not the best of times for the legal profession in Nigeria. Therefore, it is the bounden duty of the congregation of these great men and women of distinction, constituting the Body of Benchers, to work for the greatness and renaissance of our esteemed profession. In doing so as well, we may have to crack some glass ceilings.”

Olanipekun, an ex-President of the NBA and the immediate past Vice Chairman of the BoB, hailed his predecessors in office, who he said, laid solid foundation, and assured that he would build on the foundation he inherited.

“I will try to improve on what my predecessors in the office have done. I have a focus about the legal profession. We have to do something about it. And, what we have to do about the legal profession is very urgent. And I have my ideas, which I will present at the next meeting of the body

“I will not at this stage say this is what I want to do. I will present my agenda to the body at the first meeting that I will chair. This is in July and at the time, I will roll out my programme.”

Olanipekun, who spoke glowingly about his predecessors in office and their noble achievements, touched on the many responsibilities of the BoB, which he promised to sustain.

Akpata, in his own submission, called for enhanced independence for the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, an organ of the BoB, responsible for dealing with petitions and complaints against lawyers.

The NBA President advocated for the decentralisation of the LPDC to allow for its presence in all states of the country as against the current arrangement where it only sits in Abuja.

Justice Rhodes-Vivour, who wass the immediate past Chairman of the BoB, said that efforts at sanitising the profession must include an improvement of the remuneration of young lawyers.

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