In this interview with KAYODE ADEOTI, the Kwara State Attorney-General, Kamaldeen Ajibade who was recently confirmed a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) speaks on the need for parents to be proactive in their roles, among other germane issues: Excerpts:
Joining the league of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, how do you feel about this?
I feel joyous and fulfilled. It is the dream of every professional, particularly those of us at the advocacy to get to the peak of career in our legal profession, which is an elevation to the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). The journey started a while ago but the end justified every effort one has put into it. I’m grateful to God.
How true is it that a first applicant cannot be considered by the LPPC and how many times have you applied?
I had my first application in 2015; this last one that confirmed me was the fourth, and on if a first applicant cannot be considered, it depends on where you come from, if you apply the first time and you’re able to cross the hurdles, you move to the final and if there is no other person from where you come from, you could be considered. Again, one can get to the last stage and get disqualified. A lot of things are put into consideration.
Can you give us insight into the criteria?
The qualifications are being guarded by Legal Practitioner Act, certainly one needs to fulfil the criteria by Legal Practitioner Privilege Committee (LPPC), they are the one in charge of the process and the rules are amended from time to time. What were obtainable when we applied last year were improved upon in 2017. In 2016, we were requested to have less of High Court cases, minimum of 8, in the Court of Appeal 6, Supreme Court was also 6 last year but in 2017, the number of High Court cases one must have was increased to 20. They were trying to send lawyers back to the High Court; they believe they run to Appeal, jumping guns. I ensured I abided by these rules.
What is your take on some lawyers’ views that the appointment is political?
I don’t agree with that, it’s still based on merit and it’s a privilege. For those that were not picked, particularly the short-listed ones from Kwara State, they should not be disappointed, they should know it is a process and at the appointed time that is controlled by nobody but God, as long they do not give up, they will get it. Also, It’s an higher challenge for me, although as an Attorney-General of the state, I have been sitting over a very large chamber, in which if you rate it, you can hardly have a private office in this country that has the number of lawyers I control in the Ministry of Justice. I have above 80 lawyers in my chamber. The challenges are there for me already.
Taking a detour sir, legal practitioners in the state have continued to complain about the poor state of court rooms and welfare; is any plan in the pipeline by government to improve on this?
When the personnel are growing and the infrastructure are not growing along with it, this is what will likely occur but unfortunately, the personnel are growing at a time we have economic challenge, we have to take more magistrates but the economy has made it impossible for the government to upgrade the infrastructure. We are aware of the challenges faced in some states in which salary payment is an issue, today salary takes precedence over every other thing in Kwara State, we cannot say because we want to build new structure then stop salary payment of the judiciary staff, it’s unthinkable. I know the court rooms are not enough, for now, government have found Ipata, Offa and Omu-Aran court rooms to be in terrible state and they have been awarded for rehabilitation and it is in this year’s budget, very soon, something will be done about them. I can assure you, the governor has that in mind, and to build more courts to accommodate the magistrates in particular. We have magistrates sharing court rooms, very soon; this will be a thing of the past.
On the issue of cultism, their dastard acts seem renewed again recently, and some legal bodies have argued that Kwara State law for this offence is not stiff enough, how best do you think this can be addressed?
Their practises have nothing to do with the law, the law is very stiff; sometimes last year, we amended the law to bring the minimum cultism punishment to 10 years, except you are telling us we should make it death sentence, why would that be? The issue is not the number of years offenders bagged but the society. Their activities are mirroring what the society has turned into. Many of us, in our days in the Universities, not that we don’t have cultism but they were not violent, nobody carried gun, it was ran like a club, but a lot of things have changed these days, the civilisation and the access to internet have contributed to the change, also, lots of parents have neglected their roles, the religious bodies too. They all have roles to play in the lives of the youth; they are not properly engaged because if they are, they will not have time for cultism. I personally handled cases bordering on cultism between last year and this year and we secured convictions, the one caught with gun was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, but that hasn’t stop them from being cultists. To me, it is not about punishment, but what the society has become. Blaming the law, no; parents should bring up their children to fear God; if you don’t do that government can’t too.
Is our prisons still performing its reform roles?
The prison has failed in its roles, it is meant to be a reform centre. Today, people are just locked there, and an idle hand is the devil’s workshop. People are being locked up together in the prison not minding their level of offences. Ilorin maximum prison was built in the 1930s. They have different types of workshops there, none of these is functioning again. So, when they come out, they cannot be incorporated easily into the society, so they tend to go back to the kind of life they were exposed to in the prison. Federal Government runs the prisons and that makes it worse. They sit in Abuja and they oversee what is going on here. There is no proper monitoring and until the constitution is amended, it is not possible to transfer the prison to the state’s control.