Seven two legal practitioners, Monday took oath as Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). This as the Supreme Court flagged off 2020/2021 legal year.
The swearing in ceremony which is part of activities marking the commencement of the 2020/21 new legal year, was performed by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vuvour, on behalf of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad who was absent from the ceremony.
Rhodes-Vivour, who noted that the new SANs emerged successful from a total of 172 earlier shortlisted for the rank, urged them to be more committed to their work and the legal profession, an attitude he said earned them the rank in the first place.
He said: “It is the fervent desire of every legal practitioner in Nigeria to be a Senior Advocate, but it doesn’t come that way, as hardwork, perseverance, endurance and courage are required to touch the finish line. You must roll up your sleeves and get down to work with unrestrained enthusiasm and dexterity; then you can begin to coast home to victory.
“Legal practice is not for the mentally docile or those averse to breaking new grounds, even in the face of daunting challenges”.
Rhodes-Vivour, who described the outgoing legal year as “an unusual year in the history of mankind that many wished it never existed, noted that the Judiciary inspite of the enormous challenge was able to hear 697 civil, 168 criminal and 35 political totalling 700 out of 908 cases filed in 2019/2020 legal year.
“In the same vein, the court considered a total number of 208 appeals, being 134 civil, 52 criminal and 22 political. In all, a total number of 189 judgments were given within the legal year under review”, he said.
Meanwhile, the CJN ceased the occasion to warn against certain behaviours of some lawyers which has become a source of serious concern, adding that severe sanctions will henceforth be meted out to any unprofessional conduct exhibited by such persons.
Among the new SANs are the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenc toes Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Akwa Ibom State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Uwemedimo Nwoko, Delta State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Peter Mrakpo and Uzoma Azikiwe.
In a remark, National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olumide Akpata, urged for improved welfare for judicial officers at all levels, adding that it is high time true autonomy is instated for the Judiciary which according to him is often the neglected arm of government.
Akpata, who noted that the “fight against corruption is best fought by tackling the incentives for corruption such as the the extremely inadequate compensation packages for our Judicial and public officers generally”.
Meanwhile the NBA President charged the National Judicial Council (NJC) not to relent in its efforts to rid the bench of corrupt and to continually tackle the issue of discipline of judicial officers.
In his contribution, the Attorney General of the Federal and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN),admonished the newly sworn in SANs to uphold justices at all times and work for smooth course of justices.
“As a leader of the bar and defender of the law, a senior advocate is expected to bring to bear on the profession high standard of deligence an honour and preparation of his cases”, the minister said.
Malami, who was represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata, also reminded them that their new status, “confers no immunity on the disciplinary processes of our noble profession.”
He noted that judges, not been wholly free to defend themselves, are peculiarly entitled to receive the support of the bar against unjust criticism and clamour.
In a vote of thanks, Obafemi Adewale (SAN), who spoke on behalf of the 72 new SANs, while thanking the CJN and the Supreme Court for their conferment, however called for increase in the number of legal practitioners receiving the award yearly.