Oladeji Benjami Olalekan Reflects on the Menace of Fake Lawyers
A few days ago, Justice Peter Lifu of a Federal High Court sitting in Osogbo, Osun state, sentenced a 64-year-old man, Folorunsho Olayanju, to one year jail for claiming to be lawyer. This only reduced but a number from the thousands of fake lawyers roaming the streets. Issues of impersonation, usurpation and the likes have become very common place in the profession.
In this write up, Mr. Olalekan reflects on the challenges of tackling the issue of impersonation with a law as obsolete as the LPA:
Between 1975 and 2021 is 46 years! Between 1975 to 2021 are hundreds of Folorunsho Olayanju who have fleeced and stripped legitimate lawyers of potential wealth. Between 1975 and 2021, are dead letters of law governing affairs of the living in the age of disruption of Artificial intelligence, information technology, new age crimes, of which 46 years old lawyers and their successors have zero or little significant grip of the prevailing knowledge.
Sustaining punitive sentence of a year jail sentence contained in the 46 years old Act against economic and social crime like impersonation is practically and logically unacceptable.
Many Presidents of NBA have come and gone. Body of Benchers dazzle in their regalia to our admiration season upon season. We are blessed with rhetorics and orators. Only few leaders have made deliberate and direct impacts on the lawyers and society at large, however.
My grief is that Legal Practitioners Act 1975 has outlived its stay and honour. Handling down a year jail term for 64-year-old Folorunsho Olayanju who must have reaped from the field he didn’t sow; built comforts from illegality and plagued minds of the society with false identity, and reputation he did not earn should worry elders and every member of the legal profession. For respect of the dead letter of laws, the sentence was given retroactive commencement. Thus, in the next 6 months time or thereabout, Folorunsho Olayanju will become a free man again and our “the law” is perhaps back on the street.
Everywhere you turn to, there is one dude extorting unguarded vested rights of the legal profession. Banks, firms and daring rogues alike. Economic reserved advantage expressly or impliedly attributable to lawyers are being milked out while young and old lawyers strive to make legitimate earnings.
Does NBA have a practice intelligence gathering committee to monitor rising illegal activities extorting our profession or do we only dole out “cease and desist” missives when uproar soar for concerns against rogue banks who dare more miles to mine our fields?
We are not ready for imminent globalisation of the legal practices. Or may be the usual privileged few and “4-top tier” are ready. The vultures are already here. They have salivated the open fields from distance enough. They are smart. They see themselves as folks without “boundaries”. But question of our readiness may be inconsequential. The relevant question is our survival improvisation for raining days ahead.
I am aware that my thoughts here are limited to some extent. The limitations are acknowledged. I actually didn’t seek and see an exegetical diagnosis of all raging issues by this intervention. But I am appalled that legal framework like Legal Practitioners Act, Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners and Council of Legal Education Act, among others, pertaining to the legal profession in Nigeria are not occupying priority front line Bills for legislative furnace and refining in view of some social and global realities.
Folorunsho Olayanju is just one. There are legions of him in our major cities and other parts of the country. Their existence and perpetuity is a minus to every legitimate lawyer at every place where the rogues run their trades unchecked. A system allows them. A system can also spill them out.