By Sylvester Udemezue
Premium Times Newspaper of September 09, 2021 reports: “The Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC) has released a shortlist of 130 lawyers qualified for the award of the highly coveted Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) rank for 2021. Hajo Bello, the Acting Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, who doubles as the secretary of the LPPC, issued the notice on Wednesday. She said the list comprising 95 lawyers in the advocate category and 35 in the academy category was drawn after the first stage of the appointment process”. The statement adds that the final list of the successful ones among the shortlisted candidates will be announced in October 2021 (SEE: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/483906-lppc-releases-shortlist-of-130-lawyers-for-san-rank-full-list.html).
This shortlist is unique for the Nigerian Law School in many ways. Indeed it is a HISTORY-MADE for the Law School. For the first time in history (to the best of my knowledge and honest belief), SERVING LAW SCHOOL LECTURERS (beside a Law School DG) are being optimistically shortlisted for the award of the rank SAN. Before now, with exception of the head of the Law School (the DG) only serving Law Lecturers in universities and other institutions of higher legal learning (NIALS, etc) were awarded the rank of SAN. Aside the DG position, no serving Law Lecturer in the Nigerian Law School has ever been appointed SAN. It has as if serving Law School Lecturers have made (or had) NO contributions, worthy of acknowledgement and recognition, to legal education, the legal profession and law practice in Nigeria. Serving Law School Lecturers were completely ignored, neglected and omitted just as serving Law School Lecturers are still being ignored, neglected and abandoned when it comes to the award of “professorship” or professorial chairs, leading to a brain-drain scenario; sadly, it’s indeed sad, that currently, any law school lecturer wishing to become a Law Professor in Nigeria would have to quit teaching in the Law School in search of professorial chairs elsewhere. With due respect, this is improper, discouraging and disheartening. It is against the practice in much of the Commonwealth and in the 21st century. Why is Nigeria’s case different; why do we do somethings different, negatively? (a story for another day).
Why are serving Law School Lecturers being sidelined/oppressed in this way — by Nigeria and by their own profession?
Why for example, should every serving or retired Law School DG not be made an Hon Life Bencher? Imagine that Dr. J.K. Jegede, SAN, and Dr Kole Abayomi, SAN (both quintessential DG’s of the Nigerian Law School) remained non-Life Benchers until they departed for their creator’s abode to join their ancestors! How do you think they feel looking back at such a monumental denial suffered in the hands of their own profession? In 2019, Mr. Olanrewaju ONADEKO, Ph.D., SAN (now a professor of law) was in attendance at a Law School Dinner at NLS Lagos Campus.
Imagine Mr. ONADEKO sitting on the same side/segment as an ordinary lecturer udems. Prof ONADEKO who had begun teaching in the Law School just about 2 or 3 years after udems’ birth! Prof ONADEKO, ex-Solicitor-General of the Gambia; a great-grand law teacher who had held all (academic) positions in the Law School — from assistant lecturer, Lecturer 2, Lecturer 1, Senior Lecturer, Deputy Durector (Academics), Director (academics)?Secretary to the Council of Legal Education, Director of Administration, Deputy Director-General and Head of Lagos Campus through the Director-General of the Nigerian Law School. He could not sit among the Benchers because, so I heard, he’s not a Bencher let alone a Life Bencher! What a shock! Why the denial! Is this not the mother of all denials? Even the current DG of the NLS is not a Life Bencher. Why not? Then there’s Prof Tahir Mamman who served 8 years as the DG of the Law School! Why has the Body of Benchers not deemed it necessary to elevate these great men to the highest seat of honour in the legal profession in Nigeria? Disappointing, in my opinion! But why?
Why should Prof ONADEKO sit on the same side with udems during the Law School Dinner at Lagos Campus in 2019, instead of at the Benchers’ side? How did the Hon Benchers who partook in that Law Dinner feel? Of course, they felt bad; hence the presiding Bencher quickly invited him to come and sit at the Benchers’ side. One had expected that the Body of Benchers (BOB) would follow this up with an immediate appointment thereafter, of Prof ONADEKO and all living former and serving Law School DG’s into the office of Hon Life Bencher! But this has not come to pass. I wonder whether such an idea is even being considered, thus raising the question, why not? Who could be more deserving of occupation of the office of a Life Bencher than a serving or retired DG of the Nigerian Law School, considering the prominent and indispensable role the institution plays for legal training and the legal profession in Nigeria?
Is this not unfortunate, appalling?
Why can’t a Law School Lecturer remain in the Law school and be made a professor therein? What sterling contributions have these set of law academics not made to the advancement of teaching and learning of law (in Nigeria and beyond), to deserve these accolades and awards (examples: Professor, SAN, etc)? How is the university teacher any superior? Why then are the serving Law School teachers so blessed with neglect and disdain by the powers-that-be in the legal profession? Are their efforts not helping enough to build, develop, and advance this profession? Ironically, it must stressed, the Nigerian Law School is the headquarters (the engine house) of the teaching and learning of PROCEDURAL LAW in Nigeria — prowess in practice and application of law (procedural law) being a fundamental criterion for the award of the rank of SAN. Anyway, the IGBO would say “OSITADINMA” (if things become good/better/positive form today, it’s not too late).
Thank you, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) and all members of that prestigious body, for finally recognizing the invaluable contributions of serving law lecturers in the Nigerian Law School. Thank you for finally giving them a sense of belonging. Thank you for finally acknowledging that teaching and learning in the Nigerian Law School is not “outdated”. Thank you for finally encouraging the Lecturers at the Law School to aspire to do more and put in more efforts for the good and advancement of legal education (which is at the root of law practice), law, practice, law reform and the legal profession in Nigeria. Thank you for finally inspiring these long-neglected pack to more greatness. Henceforth, as was never-before-seen, a Law School Lecturer can now walk into his classroom to be welcomed as a Learned silk.
Alleluia. Eureka. Sign of good things ahead because from those to whom much is given, please we should expect much more.
I know as a fact that Law School academics will not disappoint Nigeria. The Law School will not disappoint the legal profession.
Back to the main issue; then came the CHEERING BREAKING NEWS on September 08, 2021: Two Deputy Directors-General of the Nigerian Law School shortlisted for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria 2021. DAVID IGHOJOHWEGBA EFEVWERHAN, Ph.D is the immediate past Deputy Director-General and Head of Nigerian Law School, Yenagoa Campus while JAMES ATTA AGABA, Ph.D is the incumbent Deputy Director-General and Head of Nigerian Law School, Kano Campus.
Both are accomplished authors, writers, researchers, writers, Law Teachers and Legal Practitioners.
James Agaba had been moved (transferred as is the norm in the Law School) from the Abuja Campus/headquarters to the Yola Campus before his appointment as the Deputy Director-General and head of Nigerian Law School, Kano Campus.
David EFEVWERHAN on his part, had started at the Augustine Nnamani Campus, Agbani, Enugu where he was for many years before he was transferred to the Yenagoa Campus Campus, Bayelsa State where he rose to become the Deputy Director-General and head of Campus from 2016 to August 01, 2021.
Each of Mr EFEVWERHAN and Mr. Agaba has great textbooks on litigation in his name (as the author) aside many published scholarly papers to their credit. Their contributions to Legal Practice, Legal Research, and the legal profession are unquantifiable.
By virtue of section 5 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L11 LFN 2004, the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria is reserved for lawyers of not less than 10 years post call in Nigeria who have achieved distinction in the legal profession in such manner as the LPPC may, from time to time, determine. Section 2(e) of the 2018 Guidelines for the Conferment of the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria and All Matters Pertaining to the Rank, as published in (Government Notice No. 64 Volume 105 of 31 August 2018) provides, “The Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee may … approve the award of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria to members of the legal profession who have distinguished themselves as academics by making substantial contributions to the practice of Law, through teaching, research and publications that have become major source of reference by Legal Practitioners’, Judges, Law Teachers and Law Students”. Section 20 of the Guidelines provides: “The list of academics that have scaled the pre-qualification filter shall be published along with successful advocates that have scaled the first and second filters or such other date as the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee may direct”.
No doubt, each of Dr EFEVWERHAN and Dr Agaba is eminently qualified for the coveted privilege-rank, each having achieved distinction in the legal profession through his teaching, research, writing/publications (and many more), and each having distinguished himself as an academic by making substantial contributions to the practice of Law, through teaching, research and publications that have become major source of reference by Legal Practitioners’, Judges, Law Teachers and Law Students.
Finally, and this must be said, both Dr EFEVWERHAN and Dr AGABA are distinguished LPDites (members of the prestigious Legal Practice Discourse (LPD) project). LEGAL PRACTICE DISCOURSE (LPD) is a forum/project for articulation and promotion of intellectual discourse and concrete actions on developments in the Legal Profession, Law Practice & Procedures in Nigeria, reform of the Bar and Bench, advancement of Legal Education, articulation of emerging trends in law, legal profession, law practice, and education in Nigeria. LPD Members (LPDites) are drawn from across Honourable Life members of the Body of Benchers, Law Professors, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, the Academia, the top echelon of Legal Practice & Human Rights Community in Nigeria.
Congratulations to my Ogas and the pioneers. Bravo!
( September 09, 2021)