MATTERS OF THE BAR 6 - RAISON DETRE (2) - By S. O. K. Shillings Esq.(The Pen Master)


This part relates to the duties of the Bar to the society as they say that the lawyer exists for the good of society.

Pro bono  activities should increase albeit, there is need for a legal framework for the lawyers involved to benefit, especially when it ends with gains like award of damages. And government should be tasked to cushion the cost.

Law is the codification of the values of society and is society at work. It is the highest level of philosophy and the outward form of the inward search of mankind for peaceful coexistence with other elements of nature and his kind.

The lawyer is therefore a philosopher and politician by calling and his association must reflect those values.

The core societal responsibility of NBA is gleaned from the motto: 'promoting the rule of law'. From Socrates to A. V. Dicey to Horatio (IBA President) and an unknown quantity in Ikorodu (my humble self), the Rule of Law is the bedrock of civilized coexistence.

It is about the sovereignty of law as opposed to arbitrariness with the corollaries, to wit: sustenance of fundamental human rights, equality before the law, doctrine of separation of power, democracy, impartiality of the judex, independence of judiciary, accountability, etc.

All these are meant to curb the natural tendenciousness of mankind and take him to civilization.

To achieve those lofty doctrines and principles, there must be strong institutions checking the excesses of the democratic apparatuses. The best of such institution is perhaps the only addition the black African continent has made to the growth of democratic values and institutions, the Ombudsman.

The Nigerian, nay African democracy, is bedeviled with tendencies and gross abuses. There must be an Ombudsman. In the absence of that in the collapsing Nigerian system, the NBA must step up to take the space.

At the level of decadence, the word 'promoting' in the motto is jejune and inane. It must be something like 'fighting for... ', 'defending... ', 'upholding... ' if not 'founding... ', even if not so written.

There must be strong and bold leadership. The modus operandi must change. For instance, the SPIDEL must transform from teaching and encouraging members to take up public interest litigation into a public interest litigation committee. There should be consumer protection committee to tackle gross abuses as experienced from DisCos. The Human Rights Committee should brace up while inputs of branches should be well monitored and guided.

There must be interfaces and faceups with government institutions. Actions must be challenged directly, like budget reading and implementation must be of concern.

There is a wide gulf in the relationship between the Nigerian people and their democratically elected rulers. The emoluments of the members of the national assembly has been a subject of outcry for a long time now. Yet, the parliamentarians pretend oblivion. Who is challenging even when they budget #1.2 billion for power supply without running a bakery?

The 20 minutes discussions of the 'State-of-the-nation' at NEC meetings has not and will not solve the problems. The Bar has the clout to organise the much needed national conference to avert the impending peril.

Wailing is not the lot of lawyers. Otherwise, India and South Africa should not be better than Nigeria.

Arise o compatriots!

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