Thursday, April 11, 2013


According to Greek mythology, Hercules, the greatest of the Greek heroes, was compelled to complete twelve tasks as a series of penance.  One of those tasks, or 'labors' required that Hercules travel to Augean and clean the king's stables in a single day.  This was supposed to be an impossible task because the Augean king was said to have more cattle than any man in Greece.  Not only did his stables house thousands of cattle, sheep, goats, and horses, producing an unimaginable amount of dung, the stables had not been cleaned in 30 years!  Imagine the extent of the filth, the dung and the smell!

When Hercules showed up and offered to clean the stables in a single day for 1/10th of the the Augean king's entire herd of cattle, the Augean king was so sure it could not happen that he agreed to the terms offered provided Hercules could do it in one day.  Hercules did the job by using unconventional methods, he diverted two rivers flowing near the stables off their course, to flow into the stable yards and out through the rear, before rejoining the river course, while taking all the filth and dung along with it.

From this Greek tale, the phrase 'cleaning the Augean stable' emerged to mean performing a large, unpleasant and seemingly impossible task that has long called for attention.  When the incumbent Chief Justice of Nigeria Hon. Justice Miriam Aloma Mukhtar was sworn into the office in July last year, there were many calls upon her to restore the judiciary to its pride of place in the body polity by investigating the rumors of corruption that were rife, and acting on the many complaints about judicial behavior.  As she has only two years in office as Chief Justice of Nigeria, this is her Augean stable.

It was widely reported in the newspapers that at her Senate confirmation hearings Justice Mukhtar acknowledged the problems of corruption in the judiciary and told the Senate that she was determined to flush out corrupt judges from the system, saying that as Chairman of the National Judicial Council [NJC], she would initiate internal cleansing to flush out corrupt judges.  The NJC is chaired by the incumbent Chief Justice of Nigeria and exercises control and authority over the appointment, promotion and discipline of judges at both the Federal and State level.

Tales of corruption and declining performance in the judiciary are not new.  We must not forget that exactly 20 years ago, in 1993, Nigeria grappled with the monster of judicial reform when the military government of the time set up the Justice Kayode Eso Panel.  Although the Justice Eso Panel's recommendations included the removal of 47 judicial officers which it indicted for delinquency, it also recommended comprehensive structural reforms in the judiciary and in the administration of justice, including the establishing of a unified structure to discipline of judicial officers.  The structure proposed by the Eso panel was established under the 1999 Constitution as the NJC.  After the Eso panel was the Justice Bola Babalakin Review Committee, which substantially confirmed the findings and recommendations of the Eso panel.  So, why 20 years later, are we still grappling with efforts to reform and upgrade judicial standards?  Why has it become our Augean stable? Is there something endemic in our judicial set up or structure that make these issues a recurring decimal?

Nigeria is not alone in battling with perceptions of judicial corruption and incompetence.  In Kenya, the previous Chief Justice who was appointed in 2003 was given the mandate of reforming the Kenyan Judiciary.  he appointed an Integrity and Anti-Corruption Committee which when it released its report revealed specific malfeasance at all levels of the judiciary, with a total of 105 judicial offiers accused of corruption.  As the country's President moved to establish tribunals to investigate allegations contained in the committee's report, 15 of the 23 accused judges resigned.  10 years later and with a new Constitution in place, Kenya is still re-vamping its judicial system, sacking judges on grounds of corruption and ineptitude and hiring new ones.  Less than six months ago, 28 new Kenyan High Court Judges were appointed under its new constitutional appointment structure which substantially mirrors our system of Judicial Service Commissions.

In Uganda, the state of affairs is not different.  Ugandan newspapers reported in December 2012 that at the launch of the report 'The right to fair trial in Uganda' by Foundation for Human Rights Initiative [FHRI] in Kampala a former Ugandan Supreme Court Judge advised his government to investigate judges suspected of corruption and remove those found guilty instead of protecting them.

Back home in Nigeria, the recent announcement by the National Judicial Council that two Judges had been recommended for retirement, while a third is being investigated is a sign that the Chief Justice of Nigeria meant what she said when she promised to tackle corruption in the judiciary.  Is this re-awakening of the NJC enough though?  Is it a flash in the pan,k or can more be done to restore faith in the judiciary?  Two rivers were used to clean the Augean stables.  Should this job be left to the NJC alone or does the Nigerian Bar Association have a role to play?

Although, the Nigerian Bar Association has five of its members as part of the NJC, the regulations which set up the NJC provide that they shall sit in the Council only for the purposes of considering the names of persons for appointment to the superior courts of records; they are not involved in matters of discipline of Judges.

Before Kenya undertook the above mentioned structural reforms in its judicial system, the joke in the corridors of justice in Kenya was, "why hire a  lawyer when you can buy a judge?"  In any country the end result of the public's loss of confidence in the judiciary is a disincentive to use the services of the lawyers.  Apart from a shift in public perception as to whom to pay, the users of the legal system will look for solutions elsewhere, except when access to the courts is the only option.  Nigeria is no different, as seen by the increasing popularity of television and radio based peoples' mediation and intervention programmes.  Again, within the profession at least, there open gossip about the role of lawyers in corrupting Judges.  So, our NBA has a direct stake in ensuring that the Judiciary lives up to expectations.

Whether by coincidence or by design, about the same time, the National Judicial Council was announcing the retirement of some Judges, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee announced that a Senior Advocate had been suspended from the rank while disciplinary proceedings were pending against him with regard to a complaint from a client.  I must make it clear that there is no allegation that the matter is connected with any judicial impropriety.  The decision has been subject to comment within the profession, not because of any belief that the Senior Advocate is guilty [the matter is still under investigation] but because it sends a signal that the profession is prepared to discipline itself, if the need arises, at the highest levels.  But apart from maintaining ethical standards and enforcing internal discipline, what else can the legal profession do, to support the NJC in its efforts to cleanse its Augean stable?

Funke Adekoya, SAN

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


From whatever angle one looks at the concept of nation building, it must be borne in mind that there is an unassailable truism that nation building can only be properly and truly carried out by the people and institutions of the country concerned.  Any hope that outsiders or foreigners would be the drivers of the vehicle of nation building is no more than a political illusion.

Constitutional Framework
The courts in Nigeria are creations of statutes.  The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on its part provides in its Section 6(1) and (2) specifically as follows:

It is submitted that the judicial implication of the foregoing provisions is that the Constitution in the exercise of its judicial powers and as such, it is the Constitution that the Courts must look up to and not any of the other two arms of government in playing its role in nation building.

Constitutional Role
The role of the Courts in nation building is traceable to the Constitution.  Thus Section 6(6)(b) of the Constitution.

It is clear from the foregoing provision that the role of the courts in nation building can only be "interventionist" and not "origination" in nature.  it is interventionist because according to the language of the Constitution, there has to be a matter between persons or between government or authority and persons before the courts can begin to play any role by exercising their judicial powers.  "Persons" here include natural and non-natural persons.

Although the role of the Courts has been encapsulated in forty-two words in the provision quoted above, it is nonetheless, as wide as Nigeria itself.  In this regard, it has been held by the Courts themselves that it is their duty to expound but not to expand their role in interpreting this provision.

It is submitted that, in exercising their judicial powers under the Constitution, the courts in Nigeria must constantly bear in mind the expectation of the peoples in Nigeria that they wish to enjoy a feeling of happiness for being an intrinsic part of the country a failure of justice.  Can it be open to debate that the dong of justice is the primary role of the Courts in nation building?  What our Courts need to do therefore is to adopt a pragmatic approach, in the dispensation of justice, in a manner that would assure the citizenry of its efforts at nation building.  Our courts would seem to have, over the years, strive to accomplish this objective.

Judicial Precedent
The concept of nation building involves the use of state power such as the judicial power of the courts to promote and propagate autonomous things.  These, of course, include decisions of local courts.  It would seem that the Supreme Court of Nigeria is in agreement with this view although there has not been a consistent demonstration of this tendency on its part.  In ATTORNEY-GENERAL BENDEL STATE v ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION, ESO, J.S.C. aptly explained the attitude of nation building and expressed his judicial disgust for the continued promotion and propagation of foreign judicial decisions in our courts.

In pursuance of their role in nation building, our courts particularly the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court ought to be citing, more frequently, decisions of the High Courts of Nigeria as Authorities on issues on which the Supreme Court has not made pronouncements rather than decisions of the High Court of England, which are mainly reported in the King's Bench Division and Queen's Bench Division Law Reports and other Law Reports.

Promotion of Investments
The courts in Nigeria ought to use their judicial powers to promote and encourage investments in the nation's economy.  Citizens and institutions that have invested in various sectors of the economy ought not to be made to regret their investments by reason of oppressive judicial process.  There are many areas of our judicial process that could make investors wish that they had invested in other developed economies where the judicial process would be investment friendly.

For example, a simple case of pensioner who had invested in real estate in this country in the hope that the rents accruing from his investment would be used to sustain himself in his retirement.  There have been cases of recovery of premises that have lasted more than ten years in court in some of which the tenants had stopped paying rents whilst the case remain pending in court.

Criminal Justice
As part of its contribution to the process of nation building, our courts ought to ensure a Criminal justice system in which persons accused of crimes are promptly tried and commensurate penalty imposed on those found guilty of criminal offences.  It leaves much to be desired in a nation where a poor man who is accused of stealing a goat is speedily tried and when convicted, is sentenced to a term of six months or one year imprisonment whilst a former Governor of a state who is accused of stealing over N1Billion of State funds enjoys the privilege of a criminal process that allows his trial to be prolonged for a period of over three years during which period he is able to gallivant across the globe and even when he is eventually convicted, he is sentenced to a term of imprisonment of say three or six months.

The use of the criminal justice process as a tool in nation building cannot be over-emphasized.  If the citizenry are assured of a swift criminal justice procedure that ensures a three way traffic justice system in which there is justice to the state, justice to the accused who is alleged to have committed the crime and justice to the victim of the crime, thent he courts would have succeeded in promoting a feeling of happiness on the part of the people for being an intrinsic part of the country whenever they come in contact with the criminal justice process. OPUTA J.S.C, that former "Socrates of the Supreme Court" aptly encapsulated this in the case of JOSIAH v THE STATE.

Political Process
Nigeria as a nation has chosen democracy for herself.  From time to time the courts would be called upon by politicians and institutions involved in the democratic process to intervene in disputes arising from the electoral process.  The courts must at all times stand on the side of free and fair elections bearing in mind that a free and fair election which gives birth to a democratic government does not begin and end with the act of voting.  An election is a process of beginning with the registration of voters.  The courts must therefore ensure, when called upon to intervene, that the stream of the electoral process is not polluted by acts that are contraceptive to the birth of a truly democratic government.

In this regard the courts ought to bear in mind the observations of ANIAGOLU, J.S.C that the essence of democratic elections is that they be free and fair and that in that atmosphere of freedom, fairness and impartiality, citizens will exercise their freedom of choice of who their representatives shall be by casting their votes in favor of those candidates who in their deliberate judgement, they consider possess the qualities which mark them out as preferable candidates to those others who are contesting with them.

Free and fair election which will give birth to a truly democratic government cannot theefore, tolerate inflation of the number of registered voters in a particular constituency, thuggery or violence of any kind corrupt practice, impersonation, undue influence, intimidation, disorderly conduct and any acts which may have the effect of impeding the free exercise by the voter of his franchise.

Although such governments may enjoy what one would call a synthetic political follower, they ultimately weaken the citizenry's faith in the nation on which they are foisted.  Our courts have an onerous duty of preventing their emergence.

The Courts also have a duty to ensure that there is popular participation in the political process.  This role was manifested in the decision of the Supreme Court in INEC v MUSA21a where the court upheld the right of every Nigerian to form and belong to any political party of his choice.

It was the judgement of the Supreme Court in this case that liberalized the legal regime for the registration of Political Parties and opened up the political space for popular participation.

It is generally said that corruption is a canker worm that has eaten deep into Nigeria.  One should say it is not only a canker worm but also caterpillar and locust which have ravaged our economic base and negatively affected the quality of life which the ordinary citizen would otherwise have been enjoying at the instance of the State.  It is the duty of our courts to strive to abolish corruption in their effort at nation building.

Indeed Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution provides that "the State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power."  Thus the concept of nation building and corruption are antithetical to each other.  The objective of corruption is to steal, kill and destroy, so it is evil.  But nation building is aimed at fostering a harmonious relationship between the State and the citizenry with a view to promoting a feeling of happiness and belonging to the end that loyalty to the nation shall over ride other primordial loyalties.  Our Courts must therefore at all times stand against corruption in all its ramifications.  But a judiciary can only fight corruption if it is peopled by incorruptible personnel.

This means that the role of the courts in fighting corruption in its efforts at nation building mus begin with the appointment of incorruptible people to the Bench.  A corrupt judge is more dangerous than an armed robber.  His activity strikes at the very root of the fountain of justice.  Thus justice is rooted in confidence and confidence is shattered and destroyed when the dispenser of justice is revealed to have been motivated by considerations other than law.

Mr. Oyetibo, SAN

Thursday, February 7, 2013


  • FUSS AND HER BOTTLE! Now, we all know that lawyers incline towards Minority Protection [This may be because the majority largely ignores them].  It may also have its root in a certain Company Law case - Foss v Harbottle.  The Presidency also toes this line.  Copy: Huge security details around a select tiny group of persons and places whenever the country heats up.  Also, when a disenchanted minority agitates and becomes too much of a threat; they are immediately compensated beyond what is available to the majority.  Now you may notice, that a result, a new attitude is developing towards the State: Create a big Fuss, and Her Bottle [of goodies] will be availed you.  Sadly, the majority remains timid, and the more militant minority groups earn the negotiated attentions of the State.
  • THERE IS FACT AND THERE IS TRUTH: Ask the lawyer; Fact is different from Truth.  However, they co-exist in a complex relationship that is complementary and at the same time self contradictory; a bit like those two hilarious creations of Lewis Carroll-Tweedledee and Tweedledum.  Yes, truth is reality.  But fact is proven reality. [The 'proving' process of course is won by the party who makes the louder noise].  A few handy illustrations: A full year after the Fuel Subsidy crisis, SURE-P has failed to materialize [truth].  The Government has not relented in its concerted efforts to provide succor from the stings of the Subsidy removal [Fact].  There is no security for the common man [Truth].  The Presidency has developed partnerships strategically positioned to arrest insecurity [Fact].  Good arguments create facts.  Bring in a number of witnesses [read: propaganda]; and you have a water-tight case.  Truth, therefore, fails to mature to fact when it is not presented in a visible medium of argument.  Thus, if the holders of the truth are voiceless; sorry, they lose!
  • ACTION MEANS 'WORDS': To the lay man, Legal 'action' sounds like an affirmative activity; for example, punching a defaulter in the eye.  But it actually means a battle of words, complete with opposing counsel and a public gallery.  Presidential action is the same; a plethora of words.  Copy: "The Presidency shall take urgent action on the Benin-Ore Road." This translates as - we have instituted a committee to chair a public hearing to discuss the initial report on the issue.  In the law courts, during legal action, counsel debate and adjourn to make further findings.  And this may last forever;  Presidential action functions in no less a manner - the committees adjourn and retreat to some cosy island to work out forward looking modalities.  Afterwards, members of the opposition are invited to a press conference to continue the debate.  The decision is summarized in a report and another retreat is organized for a follow up summit to develop a viable Action plan.
  • GROWTH IS MEASURED BY NUMBER OF JUNIORS: As a lawyer, if you run a scanty office, you have gone nowhere at all.  Nobody cares about how efficiently your small establishment operates.  On the day of reckoning, you would not smell the juicy plums of SAN.  Therefore, the more juniors you have milling about your office, the more visibly effective your Firm is.  Let them swarm around, even if they just help carry your briefcase and dust your files.  The ideal Law office should be an unending buzz of motion.  Hemmingway failed this one when he said - never mistake motion for action.  He did not recall that motions are the fulcrum of legal action.  Now the Presidency's operations are a perfect clone of this scenario: Once you are elected [?], employ an unprecedented number of ministers [Make sure to double the figure of the last regime].  Carve out more commissions, agencies and department.  More juniors!  Of course, each department should have a Special Adviser who has a P A.  A typical chain of command should run: The Chief Assistant to the Personal Assistant to the Special Adviser to the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on blah blah blah...
  • NEVER MISS THE RIGHT 'PARTY': The fearful warning issues to every aspiring lawyer: You will never be called to the bar if you ever miss dinner, or any like designated social gathering of the Legal Council!  Yes, even if you make a First Class grade, missing one Dinner is enough to mar you.  Yes, the Council does not give two forks, literally.  The Presidency has the same orientation.  You can achieve all you will in professional service, business, or politics, but if you miss out on the right party, forget it.  Awards and medals will always flow, but do not ever stop to imagine that you will make the Honors list.  Merit and positions go to those who are present and registered in the designated Parties. Otherwise; you are not fit and proper...
  • ALWAYS ANNOUNCE YOUR APPEARANCE, FEARFULLY: Boldness is the mark of the good lawyer.  thus, when they appear in court, they do not timidly mumble their names.  No, they stand up with all the majesty they can muster.  They sweep their flowing robes in a swish of flamboyance [maybe knocking up the heads of a few poor counsel sitting nearby] and pronounce their names in that slow and deliberate manner that jars a sense of their fear into the minds of the litigants huddled at the public gallery.  The Presidency announces his appearance no less vigorously   The wiling sirens are usually not enough and must be accompanied by menacing soldiers with furiously contorted features, wielding clubs and SMGs.  Did the good Machiavelli not say that it is better to be respected than to be loved?  the masses can borrow a leaf:  To feel the sweetness of power you need to inspire fear...not love.
  • NEVER ACCEPT A DE-BRIEFING: It is mortal sin for a lawyer to have a record of debriefing.  No, you must follow a client to the bitter end.  At some point in your relationship, the client's willingness or otherwise, no longer matters.  The Lawyer thus becomes a necessary aspect of his life, and upon expiration, his Brief is renewed for another tenure till death do them part [Yes; death; because judicial decisions can always be appealed against, again and again].  If the client proves unduly troublesome, the lawyer simply inserts the necessary 'claws' that ensure a carry over of pending issues to a compulsory next term.  Now, need we illustrate how this applies to the Presidency?  One Term is never enough.  And who gives a damn what the voters think?
  • AND FINALLY...: The Presidency is at liberty to experiment with the nation's economy as it pleases.  After all, Lawyers assure that - the worst possible scenario for capital offences is...debt.  I rest.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Telecommunications has brought unprecedented change to the way we live.  This is particularly true in developing economies where mobile phone penetration and ubiquity has brought about transformation and created an economic boost. One of the important changes has been within the financial services sector.  Mobile money, defined as money stored in a mobile phone using the SIM as identifier as opposed to an account number in conventional banking, is predicted to overtake other forms of payment instruments with the next few years. One of the greatest attractions of mobile money is its ability to facilitate financial inclusion for the unbanked.  This is confirmed by the huge success of mobile money in various jurisdictions worldwide.

Regulators have, generally, adopted different approaches to mobile commerce regulation.  Whilst some have maintained a flexible role in order to allow the market to develop, others have been more prescriptive.  It seems that mobile money has flourished in jurisdictions which have adopted a flexible and cautious approach to regulation.  This allowed the market to evolve and accelerate, which would have been otherwise has the regulation been more prescriptive, therefore, a proportionate and effective regulatory framework is an essential part of stable mobile commerce.  Nevertheless, historic regulation, which many developing jurisdictions currently rely on, clearly, has little relevance in the payment systems virtual world, therefore some initial regulatory amendment is usually required.

Mobile commerce has led to the convergence of the financial and telecommunications, two heavily regulated, sectors.  This has raised the question of who regulates mobile money.  It is widely agreed that mobile money falls under financial services and should be regulated as such.  Jurisdictions which allow Mobile Network Operators [MNOs] to provide payment services tend to share regulatory oversight with the telecommunications regulator who oversees the telecoms functions whilst the financial services regulator has oversight of the financial services.  What is important is that regulators recognize that mobile money is not a turf war and work together to create harmonized and synchronized regulation which provides clarity for all stakeholders in the payments ecosystem and ensures efficiency, stability, innovation and growth.

One of the major issues faced by regulators is determining the eligibility for, and scope of, licensing.  Many regulators generally tend to favor the bank-led model where the financial institution is the main license holder with the MNO as partner as opposed to the non-bank led model.  The reasoning seems to lie, firstly, in the fact that financial institutions possess greater understanding of the stringent requirements of the sector including the various global and national industry regulations and are well placed to appreciate the inherent risks.  This model seems to have worked well in countries such as Tanzania and Uganda, where license holders, Standard Bank and National Bank of Commerce have partnered with MTN and Vodacom respectively, to provide mobile money services.  Similar provisions apply within the Nigerian context, however, the role of the MNO is limited to providing infrastructural support.  The goodness or badness of this will become apparent over time.

Secondly, the belief that mobile money, being a financial service, is not the core business function of an MNO is a cause for concern for many financial regulators, as beneficiary deposits could, potentially, be diverted or invested, to support its core business function.  Some jurisdictions, in an attempt to provide some measure of protection for consumers, place requirements on MNOs wishing to provide payment services, to create separate business entities which fall under the regulatory oversight of the financial regulator.

Arguments against the bank-led model have included the deceleration of the integration of mobile money into the mainstream financial system and restrictions on consumer offerings.  Also, whether this model facilitates financial inclusion for the unbanked will depend on the level of regulatory prescriptive and investment willingness on the part of financial institutions.

Mobile money brings with it a wealth of benefits to the economy.  Regulators and policy makers have a duty to ensure that regulation is technology neutral, fosters economic growth and promotes competition and innovation.  There is, no doubt, a clear need for national strategy and policy as well as a relevant and effective regulatory framework, which takes account of global recommended best practices, customized to our local environment.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I stared out idly from the creaky taxi watching the stretch of tired cars strewn carelessly within miles of any fuel station.  I gave a reigned sign at this recurrent image in our national kaleidoscope, and reached for my headphones to escape into the therapy of the Cranberries.  The driver's angry grumbles halted me.

He was demonstrating wildly as we crawled three blocks past the junction I had told I would stop at.  "Why you no tell me say na for ICPC you go stop?  I no dey go again!  Listen Oga, after this junction, I swear I go park here and you must pay me my money!"  Ordinarily, I would flare but his reddened eyes testified to the agonizing hours he had spent waiting for the smug fuel sellers to rouse themselves for pre-dawn sales.  Eventually, when it got to his turn, he would only be able to afford halt tank, and now, the half tank is dwindling, and the day's bottom line has not been nearly met.  Plus, it is a Friday!

I calmed him and agreed to give an extra N200.00 for the excess journey.  His expression changed instantly, "haba oga no be say I wicked o, na this country dey cause am o..." and he went into an animated comparative ramble on democracy and military rule.  I tuned off.  When I alighted, I watched him struggle with more guilt ridden half apologies.  I waved them off with a smile, it was not his fault.

That was when it stuck me that the fuel crisis creates a perfect metaphor for our country and its citizens.  it demarcates us all into the typical classes we struggle in, everyday.  Here goes:

In our everyday life, there represent the Contract chasers; those half-schooled charlatans that benefit from loopholes in the system.  They are products of ill-legality and expertly navigate past every deals.  Of course, lacking the abilities to do anything with the technical contracts, they outsource them via auction type arrangements.  Once they espy another poor consultant frustrated by the dearth of due process, they swoop on him, wielding their siphons, then rush off to another victim, gloating at the huge payoff, while the consultant is tortured to merely meet the project deliverable, all hopes of possible profit having died after the 70% compulsory fee demanded by the jobbers.

These represent the junior officers in public service.  They mill around the offices idly, and their work day fritters to a regular uneventful end.  Visitors walk past them every day without he least recognition of their presence.  They could be naked, or dressed in rags, nobody notices.  They are that insignificant.  But in times of crisis, when the gates are closed on all callers and the big oga does not want to see anybody that is not on appointment; they suddenly become relevant.  you then, find their hitherto humble demeanor give way to grandiose scowls.  They take forever to produce the visitors' form; shuffle into the building and emerge hours later to inform you that oga cannot see you now.  Desperate, you beg and supplicate; you remember to line their palms with currency note which they take without thanks, casting a quick eye to measure the quantum.  Beautiful girls happily avail them their phone numbers, and smartly dressed gents obsequiously croon "mummy" "big daddy."  And they are ruthless.  You are briskly marched out by the security if you try to claim right.  They know that when they system reverses itself, they would be forced back into the ignominy of anonymity.  But, in the meantime, they rule.

These are the VIPs.  No, they are not the politicians.  They are the private sector rich.  They do not have time to queue for due process; time is money.  In fact, they appear to enjoy a crisis, because it is only in such deteriorated situations that the fine line that distinguishes them from the proletariat is made evident.  Willingly, they pay more for less, and emerge, looking busy and snorting at these other fools who do not understand the value of time.  Their wealth isolates them from the ugliness of the country, and they lead merry, cheery lives in the midst of the rot.  A unique breed of ostriches, they bury their heads in gold.  They are the biggest suckers, because they have the means to drive change but do not see it.

This is the ordinary Nigerian.  Pummeled on all sides by bad policy; he suffers all the consequent impact, and bears the highest stress levels.  They shove and snap at themselves, irritated by unsavory mirror images they represent for each other.  they stare wistfully at the VIPs and dream of rising to a level where they can pay their way past 'minor inconveniences.'  They despise other members of their large community and yell: "if body dey pain you; why you no go pay N500 to avoid queue!"  They foster a sense of abject powerlessness, and offer their willing backs to the buffets of the big system.

Perennially faceless.  You hear of them their actions generate a harsh domino effect on the rest of society, but they are never caught.  They run the system...they are the government.

Chijioke Okafor  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Although public perception of lawyers, fueled by media stereotypes, is broadly negative, but there are positive steps the profession can take to rehabilitate its public image.  Indeed, if life is just a popularity contest, lawyers seem to be losing.  One survey carried out by the Legal Services Consumer Panel revealed that only 43% of the public trust lawyers.  This is down from 47% in 2011.

Media stereotypes propagate an image of lawyers as either Dickensian figures, out of touch with reality, profit hungry or port sodden Rum-pole of the bailey type characters.  The rise of the compensation culture can also be linked to a decline in the image of lawyers.  Another survey recently found that the profession topped the list of people respondents would least like to sit next to at a dinner party, in front of Big Brother reality television contestants and Victoria Beckham.  And, with reports of some 30 million jokes a day about lawyers on the internet, there seems to be a real issue around how lawyers are perceived on the public stage.

But, according to Davies, it is not a question of better publicity.  "When was the last time you saw a news story about something good happening in a hospital?"  She said, referring to the widespread popularity of the medical profession.  "The media is a red herring that can really lead to complacency.  There are tangible actions that are within the control of the profession and the regulators that will change public perception."

Among tips offered to build public confidence in lawyers was to embrace regulation which is independent of the profession and operates transparently.  Making efforts to welcome competition and abandon protectionism was another suggestion.  Other tips were to provide excellent customer service, deal effectively and properly with complains and improve the diversity of workforce.  Davies also suggested modernizing education and training regimes, writing codes of conduct in a language which consumers can understand and involving the public more in the development of regulations.

According to Olasupo Shasore of Ajumobobia & Okeke Barristers & Solicitors in Nigeria, the consequences of poor perception of lawyers in society can be dire, if the profession has a bad reputation, enrolment in the law as a profession will diminish.  "The consequences of this are not just the trivia of our profession, they are the soul and fabric of our society", added the Nigerian lawyer.

When the patronage of a profession is low and perception is poor, the result is that people have very low trust in institutions that are associated with the profession, said Shasore, listing the courts and law enforcement mechanism as examples.  This could result in a low level of trust in the rule of law, which itself could lead to the breakdown of law and order and social upheaval.

Adapted from IBA Daily News.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


A new wig has just been called to the bar.  CVs are sent out and phone calls made.  Suddenly, one morning an unknown number rings persistently.  It is a call from a very sexy city law firm they are wondering if you can attend an interview at their office the next day.  However, the euphoria of being called for an interview by this A-list soon fizzles out as questions flood your mind.  What to wear?  How do you get to their office early in the morning?  What kind of test you will write?  You are now quite apprehensive because you are not ready for that all important interview.  The essence of this write up is to help new and not so new wigs to face that all important interview with gusto.

In truth, the butterflies generally have a field day when it comes to attending that first job interview.  However some useful tips for a successful outing at the first interview or any other one for that matter have been developed and the diligent interviewee only needs to acquaint himself with them in order to increase the chances of coming out of an interview successfully.
  • Preparation: One of the most important of tips in my view is preparation.  Preparation is the foundation for any successful interview.  Preparation entails a number of things;
  • Dress Appropriately:  An interviewee must take his appearance at the interview seriously, whilst your appearance alone is most unlikely to get you the job it would do you well to note that putting off the interviewer[s] even slightly must cost you the job.  Generally, the dress code at interviews must be smart, coordinated, tidy and understated.  Keep in mind that the objective of attending the interview is to get the job and not make a fashion statement.  Avoid too much make up or jewelry.
  • Punctuality: Make sure you know where the location of the office is.  It is quite important to know how long it will take to travel down to the venue of the interview, take into consideration unexpected delays.  It is most unimpressive to arrive late.  Arrive the venue of the interview at least 15 minutes before the scheduled commencement time.  Arriving early give you time to take in your surroundings and calm your nerves.
  • Rehearse and be prepared to answer questions form the interviewer[s].  Remember what you have stated in your CV and be prepared to answer questions about what you have stated therein.
  • Prepare to answer questions that would be put to you by the interviewers.
  • Research the firm, doing good relevant research cannot be overemphasized because it is regarded as the single most important thing you can do to improve your chances of getting the job.  Yes it is important.  Your research should ideally start from the website of the firm [if any], their newsletters, publications and press cuttings.  A good quality research covering the firm's history; recent transactions; challenges, competitors; opportunities; etc would help in convincing the interviewers[s] that you are the candidate more than anyone else who wants and deserves the job.  However where there is no website, talk to people who work or have worked in the firm or who simply know the firm;
  • Be prepared to also ask the interviewers questions.  Take full advantage of opportunities to ask questions.  Asking good well prepared and researched questions is the candidate's chance to demonstrate that he is better than other candidates.  Ask questions that will make the interviewer[s] think to themselves, "wow what a good question - this is the sort of thoughtful candidate we need."
  • Be aware of your environment.  This means no more than being abreast of current affairs, it would be a disaster if a candidate is not aware and cannot discuss current affairs.  So, read newspapers and listen to the news.  If a topic that has dominated the headlines is brought up, it looks a lot better if you can contribute to the discussions.
  • During the Interview: When you meet the interviewer[s], shake hands firmly and directly, maintain eye contact throughout the duration of the interview, remember names of the interviewer[s].  Endeavor to be confident, believing in your abilities.  Nothing puts the mind of any employer to rest as much as a confident employee.  Confidence entails self assurance and a can-do ambiance, virtues relished by every employer.  Sit in an appropriate posture and relax.  Do not slouch or cross your arms as this looks defensive.  Listen to questions well before answering.  You may politely request for a question to be repeated if you did not hear it properly when it was asked.  Do not be afraid to ask for clarification on any question you do not understand.  Speak clearly when answering questions and sound enthusiastic and confident all through.  Keep answers positive but do not guess answers to questions you do not know or are unsure of, simply admit that you do not know it.  You can however where appropriate, state how you would go about finding the answer.  Maintain a positive attitude, expressing yourself clearly and with exactitude while also ensuring you do not deviate from the point.  Curb all urges or tendencies to fidget or gesticulate when answering questions.  Talk about yourself to the interviewer with the best examples you have.  Have spare copies of your CV and credentials at hand.
  • Discuss yourself Positively: Be prepared to tell the interviewer about yourself for about five minutes.  Discuss only issues of interest and those that my bear a positive impact on the job.  Examples include any achievement, award, charitable work, involvement in any academic or developmental projects, membership of any reputable association, personal skills, experience [if any], aspirations, targets and goals.  At the end of the interview, close with a positive statement and thank the interviewer[s] for their time.
  • After the Interview: It is essential that after the interview you conduct a review of your performance, note what you did well and what you think could be improved.  Congratulations to you if you get the job.  In your excitement however do not forget that the best time to negotiate your salary is after receiving the job offer, and importantly before you accept the offer.  The chances of renegotiating your salary after you accept the offer are virtually nil.