THE SILLINESS IN NIGERIA’S PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT OF FAVORED LAWYERS EXPOSED.
Every year, over the years, some Nigerian lawyers have the practice of selecting a few favoured lawyers and declaring them Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs). The only thing obvious about this special treatment for a few is that the country of Nigeria could not cater for the wellbeing of thousands of lawyers the country churns out each year. So, they created a special class within the large pool. They are the favoured. They are the ones to enjoy the perks and pool of privileges that are standard for all lawyers in other countries.
It is not a surprise that Nigerian lawyers are about the worst in the world, in terms of contribution to national development. Most of them are poor, unemployed and increasingly poorly educated, when measured even by regional standards. On all critical indicators by which you measure the role of lawyers in the society, Nigeria is lagging behind Ghana and any other country in Africa, despite the size of the country’s economy.
The failures of the legal profession in Nigeria were made too apparent recently when the Nigerian courts were closed for more than two months at a stretch because court workers (clearly aided by the judges) went on strike.
The strike meant that for two months, Nigerian society had no means of administration of justice. There was absolutely zero adjudication in Nigeria for that period. That strike actually achieved the opposite of the goals associated with it. It showed the irrelevance of the Nigerian courts in the public and private lives of the citizens and it showed the irrelevance of the legal profession. Yet, this is a country that prides itself in special privileges for favoured lawyers through the SANship awards.
This year’s selection of the special members of the class has just become a laughing stock when somehow a list of lawyers was distributed as this year’s beneficiaries of the special award. Those whose names appeared in the viral list began to celebrate their good luck, only for someone from the Nigerian Supreme Court to come out to denounce the list in circulation.
The Supreme Court has denied the list being circulated online as names of lawyers selected for the award of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) rank for 2021.
Festus Akande, Director of Press and Information at the Supreme Court, described the list in circulation as “fake”, raising the prospects of the existence of fake SANs.
The Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC), a body chaired by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), and charged with the giving of the highly coveted award to privileged lawyers annually, has its office at the Supreme Court in Abuja.
Mr. Akande insisted that the 2021 list of SANs-awardees in circulation did not come from the LPPC. In his words, “We wish to state clearly that the above information is fake, unofficial and untrue. It’s a mere figment of the imagination of the authors, who may ostensibly be on a mission to impugn and malign the reputation and integrity of the LPPC, with a view to causing confusion and skepticism in the public space.”
Mr. Akande went on to emphasize that the LPPC traditionally announces the names of the SANship award recipients in “reputable national dailies”, while what has been in circulation is not on such dailies. But he failed to explain how the “fake” list came about and its relationship with any list that may be substituted for the “fake” one. He also failed to define what he referred to as “reputable national dailies”.
Indeed, the explanation by Mr. Akande makes the matter worse. It further exposes the ridicule behind the practice of trading in privileges. The whole thing confirmed the emptiness of the selection process. It actually affirms that there is no real difference between those lawyers that become SANs and most of their colleagues that do not. It is all a matter of appearing on the right list.
Sadly, however, the majority of Nigerian lawyers excluded from this uncompetitive pool of privileges and so harshly victimized as a result, are somehow in support of it. Otherwise, the unjust exclusion will end the moment most Nigerian lawyers realize how dangerous, offensive and backward the practice is.