The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, University of Lagos, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), has called for the “repositioning” of the legal profession.
Babalakin said if this is done, the judiciary would be able to “guide the development of the nation in a manner consistent with the due process of law”.
The lawyer spoke on Thursday in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, while delivering the 10th Justice J.M. Adesiyun Memorial Lecture.
Expressing sadness over the current state of the legal profession and proffering solutions to the problem, Babalakin said: “The role of the legal profession in Nigeria has caused me severe heart ache and I am hopeful that we can place this profession back on the right path. We cannot afford a blame game, which will lead us nowhere. We simply have to draw a line and start again.
“The legal profession must be restructured from the start. The curriculum in the universities must place the capacity to think on the highest pedestal. The law school must become more practical than theoretical. The bar must become more efficient. The amount of time wasted at the bar makes the legal profession very unattractive to young men and women who have a lot of options.”
On incessant adjournment of cases, Babalakin said: “Cases must go on the dates and time they are slated to go on. Courts must adjudicate on matters on the dates they are slated to go on. Courts must not sit at the convenience of counsel. Counsel must make himself available on the dates chosen by the courts. Counsel cannot agree to adjourn cases without substantial financial consequences. A pleasant fall out from this is that law firms must become larger. The time of lawyers will become more valuable. It is not fair to the younger lawyers that they spend a whole day in the court and their matters are not heard because a couple of Senior Advocates had matters in court on the same day.”
On the criteria for the appointment of Senior Advocates, the lawyer said: “The criteria for appointing Senior Advocates in Nigeria must be reappraised. The current criteria has the tendency to congest the courts. Many cases are filed today not because of the seriousness of the issues between the parties, but because lawyers require a certain number of cases to qualify to apply for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.”
Calling for improved remuneration for judges, Babalakin said: “There is need to immediately enhance the status of the Judiciary and reposition it to where it was before 1975. Remuneration of judges must be enhanced. The idea of a judge not having enough resources to live comfortably anywhere in the country is simply unacceptable. The appointment of judges must be on merit. I do not subscribe to the opinion that the need to comply with Federal Character in the appointment of judges is the reason for the weak appointments made to the bench. I have had the privilege of working in all parts of Nigeria. Every part of Nigeria has very exceptional men and women who are deserving of judicial appointments and can be appointed in their zones.”
The lecture was chaired by the Chief Judge of Kwara State, Justice S.D. Kawu.
Former President, Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami (retd); Kwara State House of Assembly Speaker, Dr. Ali Ahmad; former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN); and Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN) were in attendance.
Also present were Lawal Rabana (SAN); Alhaji Aliyu Salman (SAN); and Chief Duro Adeyele (SAN), among others.