‘NBA working to address rot in legal profession’
Chukwu Machukwu-Ume is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. In this interview, he speaks on the conduct of lawyers, criteria for SAN among others. Excerpts:
There have been recent concerns over the conduct of lawyers. What is your view?
Yes, some members of the NBA are in way running against expectation. The legal profession must remain a noble one. We are expected to be above board as that is the only way when we will be able to command the respect and confidence of the public. A learned gentleman is to be like the Caesar’s wife. Today, certainly we are.
Of course, in every 12 there must be a Judas anyway and he was there 2000 years ago. It is not worth losing sleep for. Even that Judas is in every other calling. The same rot has crept into the medical profession, the Police, and the political class. The politicians who are supposed to be statesmen to mould Nigeria into a nation-state, are they really statesmen? Votes are now sold and bought while election results are manipulated in the hidden tiny rooms. Parents now buy exam marks for their children. Buildings are collapsing burying many alive. The loose Nigerian mentality, the short-cut approach, the half-bake order is fast becoming the norms and the society generally is suffering.
It is cheering to note that the NBA is working round the clock to ensure that all the noted lapses in the noble profession are addressed and punished. Recently a SAN was punished. So what is important is that every lawyer that is found wanting is brought to book. Is the NBA living up to expectation? Yes.
The criteria for appointment as SAN has been criticised by some people. What is your opinion on it?
No one goes to exam expecting to fail. When it is selection everybody expects to be selected. Elevation to the status of Learned Silk is such wonderful phenomena that candidates devote a lot of energy to attain it. Normally when you struggle very hard to write an exam and could not make it, no one expects you to sing Halleluiahs. All the same, adopting the spirit of sportsmanship is better.
Certainly, there is no way all the 300 applicants in a year will be elevated. It’s not possible. Otherwise the aura will be gone and there will be nothing to struggle for and work hard to become it. And the fact you didn’t make it this year is not the same thing that your door is closed. Fighting or criticising the system, I am not sure that will be the best way out. I know what I went through, but each time I did not make it, I blamed myself, adjust myself and worked extra mile.
What is your take on the on-going constitutional amendment in the National Assembly especially, the dropping of devolution of power bill has attracted much outcry?
The outcome so far is as unfortunate as it is cosmetic but not most unexpected. Devolution is not there but where are we going without it. Ola Rotimi put it this way: “Our husband has gone mad again.”
Anyway, the most important thing is 2019 is coming. It will define real statesmen and separate them from parochial and selfish politicians. If the Nigerians want devolution of power, they go for parties cum candidates that are for it. There is need for us to sit up now. There is pressing need to hold parties and candidates accountable to their stands and pledges during electioneering.
The Senate removed the powers of the president to assent to the constitution, how will these amendments pass through legally?
What will guide the ongoing amendment by the 8th National Assembly is law as at today. But do not forget all do not stop at presidential veto.
Professor Mohammed Taofik Ladan