Poor economic state, insecurity limiting legal profession
Law firms called to give young lawyers visibility
Insecurity, brain drain and poor economic conditions have been listed as limiting factors to the legal profession.
This was disclosed at the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch, Law Week held at the Muson Centre, Lagos last week.
Speaking on Financial autonomy of the judiciary: Key to judicial independence or ruse, member, Panel of Conciliators of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment, Yakubu Maikyau, noted that by training, the legal profession is saddled with the responsibility to look at constitution provisions and determine what each party can do and not do and stick with the constitution.
“Perhaps, the reason this conversation is ongoing is because of the present economic realities. This clamour for financial autonomy is a sincere quest? What’s the motive behind it, given the fact that we know what we ought to do?” Maikyau asked.
On judicial independence, Partner, Olasupo Shonibare, Ms. Ayo Obe, noted that independence is a mental state. “That’s why I cited the judge of the customary court, whose shame was wiped off his face because the governor gave him a car gift.
“If you have the mentality that your self-worth is dependent on your material possessions, you lack the key mental independence necessary to be a judge,” she said.
Speaking on ‘Young lawyers, minimum wage, brain drain and professional development, a panellist noted that his firm has taken a standpoint of sustainability on the issue of minimum wage. “We set a wage scale on what we think is sustainable. The essence is to avoid a situation where we can’t afford to pay the wages of our staff,” he said.
According to him, the concept of minimum and living wage is subjective. He, however, suggested that the NBA should consider recommending a minimum wage for younger lawyers to have a balanced system.
“When recruiting, if a potential staff meets up with the criteria, but the distance might be a barrier. We offer housing allowance to such person so they can relocate close to the office, but if declined, we let go,”
Lead Partner, Detail Solicitors, Ayuli Jemide, explained that the issue of brain drain is not peculiar to lawyers but a national one.
He attributed the increased cost of living as a major reason for brain drain in the legal sector in Nigeria. “People are looking for respite, which is about time and alternatives,” he said.
Associate, SPA Ajibade & Co, Caleb Adebayo, stated that the fact that people are looking for greener pastures shows that there is undeniable work to be done to fix the nation.
“It is a lot more than the pay, young lawyers want to mean to what they do. They want an environment that supports them,” he said.
According to him, lawyers want to see the ability to share their interests and career goals, and be supported by the law firm, while you serve them. He called on Nigerian law firms to do better in retention.
Founder Vazi Legal, Modupe Odele, stressed the need to treat people with dignity. “Owners of law firms need entrepreneurship and business training to handle their staff properly,” she added.
Dr. Obi Ezekwesili, condemned the ban on Twitter by the Federal Government and wondered why Nigerians should be brought in to bear the hardship arising from the ban.
She said: “This ban arose from a personal squabble between the President and Twitter.”
She explained that following the ban, together with other members of the civil society groups, she filed an action in court against the Nigerian government, challenging the unlawful ban.
She, therefore, urged the NBA to take the lead and fight for the rights and liberties of the citizens.
“What are we doing in the NBA, preserving ourselves? Nigeria is in trouble. A National conversation is needed. So, let us not be cowards,” she charged.
Also, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, referred to the killings on October 20, 2020, at the Lekki tollgate, following the #Endsars protest.
He noted that in spite of the killing of innocent Nigerians by armed security agencies, the cases were almost treated with kid gloves.
He said the court remains the last hope of the common man and all hands must be on deck to protect its sanctity.
He recalled an episode when a former chairman of the NBA, Ikorodu Branch, was suspended for canvassing that the right process is adopted for lawyers to accompany magistrates to detention centres, to ensure that suspects were not illegally detained.
“Our lawyers and judges, if they are ready to save the Nigerian people from oppression, have the powers to do so, and must not allow negative powers to stop the move,” he said.
While responding to the question on how fundamental rights can be upheld, Prof. Akin Oyebode regretted that the nation was fast going down.
“No government can be so powerful to ignore the international community,” he stressed.
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