…NBA have refused to get it Right – Okutepa, SAN reacts to AGM drama
Legal luminary and Senior advocate of Nigeria, JS-Okutepa, SAN has condemned the chaos that unfolded at the just concluded Annual General meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association annual conference.
Okutepa while reacting to the many issues raised at the meeting, stated that the association is not getting things right and have refused to get it right.
According to him “The theme of this year Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, for short, annual general conference, is getting it right. This theme presupposes that we have not being getting it right. Many things are just not right with Nigerians and the Legal profession. I am happy that as an association it now realized that we need to get it right. The reports from this year 2023 conference and the AGM showed that while the issue of conference bags seems to have been gotten right, many things were just not right with the Association. First there appears to be no unity within those we elected to give us leadership. Reports had it that some officers alleged that they were not allowed to perform their constitutional duties.
“To these allegations, NBA President gave his version that he did what he was alleged to have done because these officers were more interested in the money of the association for personal use than for prudent management of the resources of the association for the benefits of the vast majority of members of the association. Whatever may be the right position and whoever may be right in the whole saga, all that these boil down to is that as an association of learned men and women, we are not getting it right. Something is wrong with us and our association. The core reason for the formation of NBA, for me and as I understand it is to promote the rule of law and to ensure that professional ethical standards and code of conduct are duly observed and maintained within the legal profession.
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“It is not the aim of the founding fathers of the association for NBA to be seen dancing naked in public or hobnobbing with those who have polluted and are polluting the streams of justice as angels and then inviting them to our annual gathering or any gathering at all to be pontificating and sermonizing to learned men and women what they hardly practiced. I think as an association we are not getting it right and we have refused to get it right. We have always looked at ourselves in the mirrors and we know who we are while looking ourselves in the mirror but always forget whom we are in actions and inactions as lawyers. Many lawyers and I dare say many Judex need to be professionally examined to see if they are still fit and proper persons to remain in this profession. That is the task NBA must embarked upon if it wants us to believe that it wants to get things right in the profession.
“As I said not too long ago, and I think this what NBA needs to pursue and fight for us as lawyers if it wants things to be right. This is what I said: ‘’I think the slow pace of justice in Nigeria has made many people to lose hope in the potential good and purpose of justice in the Nigerian State. Any justice system that does not produced proportional fairness and quick justice to the vast majority of the people in the society cannot be described as justice.
“In any society where only the few enjoyed arid and colored quick justice dished out by those who are paid to give pure and undiluted justice cannot enjoy peace. There are laws in Nigeria to give pure and undiluted quick justice to Nigerians. But these laws are being administered in most cases in the most unjust manner and in the most inhuman ways that the poor and the lowly in Nigeria know that there is no justice in Nigeria.
“In our criminal justice system the poor and vulnerable are the worst victims of misapplication of laws. The system of justice has been so skewed to be used as instrument of perversion of justice. The system is too slow and has no immediate remedies against impunity and unjust application of law.
“Nigeria legal system allows those who have the responsibility to do what is right to be doing what is wrong using laws and our courts to perpetuate injustice against those who have no long legs. The congestions in our courts and political timidity infused in the judiciary by deliberate sabotage of the independent of the judiciary by the power that be have made laws in Nigeria a varitable instrument of oppression in the hands of those in power.
“And the same system allows those who have long legs and who ought to be in jail to dominate the political system to the prejudices and purity of justice. In Nigeria good laws are being administered by majorly bad people. Go to our prisons, most people there are on awaiting trials and are victims of misapplication of our laws in abuse of criminal processes.
“In all of these the victims have no immediate remedies and even no remedies at all.
“Take for instance all it takes heartless prosecutors to have a Nigerian detailed endlessly is just to frame charges that carry capital punishment. Nigerian courts in most cases order detention without qualms because of the allegations that carry Supreme penalty. This is despite the fact that Nigerian Constitution gives everyone the right of innocence or what in constitutional jurisprudence is called presumption of innocence.
“Many Nigerians have suffered incalculable damages in prisons for years only to get discharged and acquitted of such fanciful and bogus charges. Yet there are no sanctions against those who deliberately allowed themselves to be used as instrument or agents of oppression.
“I have always hold the views that as lawyers we must avoid being available to be used as instrument of and or vehicles for promotion of evils and injustice in the land. Lawyers in the ministries of justice across Nigeria need to know that it is wrong to agree to frame charges against innocent persons for political purposes. That are being done all over and nobody is held accountable.
“Criminal justice must not be polluted with partisan politics and corrupt motives. Lawyers must save Nigeria from collapsing. And the only way to do it is for us to engage in honest practice with purity of conscience. Some of my colleagues always say to me that law and morality are poles apart. That may be true. But we must be guided by our consciences and our consciences should guide us in the practice we do as lawyers. Laws must be used as instructment for justice and not instrument to pervert justice.
“Even in the kingdom of darkness, people should be able to testify of your light as a lawyer.That is my principle and I hold it dearly. Any practice that supports anything goes in the guise of doing your job is unethical and must not be encouraged by any lawyer worth the name of being addressed as lawyer’’
“I expected NBA as professional association of lawyers to demand and enforce strictly within the ambit of the rule of law the code of conduct for legal practitioners. But it seems to me that the Association is more interested in carrying out its activities in the Nigerian ways to the prejudices of the reasons the founding fathers conceived the association. As professional association even in the kingdom of darkness, people should be able to testify of our light as lawyers. Any practice that supports anything goes in the guise of doing your job is unethical and must not be encouraged by any lawyer worth the name of being addressed as lawyer.
“There is a need for NBA to get it right within its rank and file before demanding that things be done right in the society. I believe if the legal profession gets it right, the society will get it right. The desecrations of our democracy will be a thing of the past if the legal profession, which NBA represents put its acts together and not approve wrongs as rights under arid legal jargons that promote and encourage democratic dictatorship. Not too long now, NBA will be electing its national officers. How fit and proper are some of those jostling to lead the association. Are they coming to serve or to be served with the collective contributions from the finances of other members.
“The manner we Organise the activities of the association now exposes us now as the most ridiculous low moral level professional association. We no longer put premium on those things that promote discipline in the profession. Some of our colleagues dressed in the most horrible manner to NBA functions and we just close eyes to it. There is an urgent need for NBA to get it right in all its activities if it hopes to be taken serious. Things are just not right with the legal profession.”